My book about the Donbass was written during the 2015-16 winter. At that time we were busy taking Vika from Lugansk to Moscow to try to save her sight.
Vika was taken in by one of the best opthalmological wards in Moscow. The hospital at FMBA.
While Zhenya and I were driving around Moscow, Vika was smiling from ear to ear and listened to our descriptions of what we saw. We drove through the center, and Our Bellflower kept listening to the street noise. It was her first time in Moscow so she wanted to know every detail.
So I’ve been writing about families whom we’ve been helping. Here’s Katya, and here’s Ulyana, Taisiya, Serhozha. They are like a cartoon flicking in front of one’s eyes, making these texts a monotonous routine for you, and a similar routine for me when it comes to writing them.
There are already over 700 texts on the blog with the “donbass” tag, and there aren’t many reports or thoughts about the war among them. The majority are people stories. Reports. Dear Lord, what word can one use in this context. But they are reports. About aid, but they are also at the same time people stories. Stories of lives of those who are over there. In the midst of war.
I’m literally a typewriter, mechanically cataloguing what I overhear. It’s not pleasant to write these reports. One has to say why we are helping. What happened to the family. Fit it all into simple phrases, without waxing eloquent. Which means it’s very repetitive: “shelling began”, “they escaped only with clothes on their back”, “lived in a cellar”, “husband left”, “a stroke after 2014”, “heart attack”, “the house was destroyed.” And how many stories where children saw their parents die? How many abandoned women? Elderly?
Over 400 (and perhaps more?) on this blog alone.
Not for the typewriter.
She only catalogues. And you read.
That’s just a statement of fact.
This is Lyosha. 14, disabled, lives in Lugansk. Lyosha is a big boy who will never become a responsible adult. Spent the whole life with his family in Lugansk. Yes, shelling, bombing, major deterioration due to the stress.
And yes, Lyosha’s life depends on strong medications he has to take every day. Which were not available in the summer of ’14. There wasn’t even food or electricity. And there is nothing more terrifying than empty pharmacies.
Katya is 13 and she has a class 2 disability. She and her mom lived in Trekhizbenka until 2014. Now it’s controlled by UAF.
When “it began”, shells came every day but they sat in the cellar to the last. And when the “breakthrough” began, they escaped to Lugansk with only their clothes on their backs.” But when they got to Lugansk, it was under fire too. Nobody could believe this would last a long time, or that it was “for real.” Everyone thought it would end any day now. But you yourselves know what it was like in Lugansk. The city was being “killed” from every available weapon. There was no phone service, electricity, the city was “closed.”
After all that, the girl didn’t speak for three months. Nearly all of her problems got worse. She has a whole range of them, including epilepsy, cognitive problems, kidney and sight issues.
When the girl said “mama, I want borshch,” mother started to cry…
Granny Tanya turned 95 so we paid her a visit.
Well, not “we”, of course, but our friends Lena and Zhenya. I’m in Moscow. And they are over there. In Lugansk.
In LPR. On the Donbass. In the middle of war.
Also in the middle of that war lives a single old lady who turned 95 who had nobody to bring her birthday wishes.
–Nobody’s given me flowers in 50 years…
You didn’t forget to take a day off work to come to my book presentation at VDNKh, did you?
I wanted to write a happy post before the event.
Thanks to you we were able to prepare 50 Donbass kids for school!!!
50 kids received notebooks, pens, rulers, paints, and much else. They are from families for whom this is an unaffordable luxury. They are not simply Donbass kids who lived through war and continue to live there. They are from families with many kids, disabled, adopted. Families who lost homes, single mothers. Kids who really need this help. And every time we do this, we end up with very happy posts. Because children are the future. Children are life.
Perhaps I’ll tell you about some heroes?
For example, Katya.
She, her two brothers, and a sister with parents are from Voluyskoye, a village currently occupied by the Ukrainian military. During the 2014 offensive their house was destroyed, they survived by a miracle and ran to Russia, to a village near Nizhnyy Novgorod. They found a place there and in general their life returned to normal. The father got a job. Children were studying. But in 2017, at night, their house caught fire due to bad wiring.
It was a miracle Katya woke up. She herself dragged everyone out of the house, they were already unconscious.
She saved five people! This girl here, too embarrassed to look into the camera and pose.
Friends and readers!
My book about the Donbass, titled People Here, is finally coming out!
You will be able to see in bookstores or order online or download an electronic version in September.
I’m inviting all of you for the official presentation which will take place on September 6 at noon at the book fair at VDNKh.
Oh, and Vika wrote. A simple, laconic note.
But when you know it’s written by someone who can no longer see, you smile from ear to ear:
“good dayevdokia today mom read article .tell feodora and aleksandr thati will see i believe inn miracles and they should believe dreams come true . in the bible it says that we recive according to our faith .how are you is daughter ready for school convay greetings to all and give a big big hug to daughter .sorry for errors kisses for everyone”
Vika’s mom Sveta sent the most recent photos of the lovely girl.
I can’t believe it. I simply can’t believe it. I showed it to friends who know Vika’s story well and they were all surprised. And I nearly cried. Because I will never forget our first meeting. I won’t forget what the war did to this girl. Illness. Brother’s death. When I saw the thin, worn out girl who couldn’t even stand up, who didn’t want to live.
You are looking at a lovely doctor from the city hospital’s Therapy Department. Our Yura, who often himself helps others, was treated there. He’s under our care too, as he’s a father of 7 kids (!), you sometimes see him mentioned in comprehensive aid reports. During the fighting he left for Russia and tried to become a citizen. But…It was difficult with so many kids, even though he quickly found work. So he had to return home to his house in Lugansk.
Then Yura started having blood pressure problems, breathing problems, and was admitted to the hospital. Once there, Zhenya noticed that the nurses had to run to get a blood pressure monitor from a different floor. He started talking to the doctors and nurses and it turned out that they have one such instrument for three departments, the lab is closed, and they forgot when they last saw test strips.
Zhenya: “What’s interesting is that people were not complaining about low wages or personal inconvenience, they were worried that they had one blood pressure gauge for three departments, the others were broken, and they were not slated to get a new one for another year. They were concerned that people were being brought on emergency visits and the lab was closed so they couldn’t measure blood sugar…”
We could not ignore this. We brought two gauges, a glucose meter, and test stripes.
Taisiya Ivanovna is once again in hospital.
She was taken there right from the neuro-pathologist’s office, where she was on a routine visit after the stroke. Her right side started to go numb. So she was taken straight from the office to the hospital ward in the midst of an episode. More medications, more tests.
She’ll be there for two weeks, then the doctors will decide. Our Zhenya persuaded the doctor who saved him and Lena in 2016 to look to Taisiya. You remember, I wrote back then the two of them found themselves at the hospital practically at the same time.
We started to help Taisiya and her grandson only recently. Sasha’s mom and Taisiya’s daughter died from a shell fragment which cut open her belly right in front of the boy. She was hit in 2014, but she suffered for two more years with mangled stomach and intestines which the surgeons had to put back together in primitive conditions at the hospital with no electricity.