My first visit to the Donbass was in late ’14, when there was active fighting. We were bringing food to Pervomaysk bomb shelters and we didn’t even reflect on the fact it was almost New Year. The second trip was a week later, right before the holiday–December 28. At that time people wanting to help the inhabitants of the Donbass were bringing us everything they had available–matches, clothing, noodles, canned meat. A friend came with 15 holiday boxes of chocolate. He brought them and said “give them to the kids there–it’s a holiday there too.”
“It’s a holiday there too”–that phrase sounded surreal. I didn’t get its meaning, threw the boxes into the truck and we took off down m4 in the darkness.
What kind of Grandfather Frost, what kind of a holiday can you expect? There’s nothing there! People are freezing and starving–that’s how it was in Pervomaysk in ’14. My head was full of the explosions and of the destroyed houses.
The Lugansk City Center for Social Services is assisting 13 families with foster children.
You know some of them. For example, the Testeshnikovs, whose daughter Kristina is an insulin-dependent diabetic. We’ve brought her test-strips more than once.
The Testeshnikovs actually have two foster daughters, and not only Kristina has health problems. The second girl has heart problems.
The Testeshnikovs took in the two girls when they were not very young, and at the time they were healthy. The problems appeared later. They did not give the girls back. What do you think–is it right, and incorrect, for me to view this father and mother as heroes? And incorrect when they behave otherwise? Because it’s normal for many people return foster kids when they discover these types of problems. When they discover pathologies and disabilities, even after many years of living together. How many stories like that did we hear in orphanages. Therefore I’m happy even in situations where it should be a normal thing to do.
The parents love the girls and are doing their best to take care of them.
Friends, I have an unexpected request.
Unexpected even for me.
As you know, we and our friends and readers assist the people of Donbass.
During these past years we’ve done much, including taking people to Russia for treatment.
Recently I was asked to help, as someone with ties to benevolent activities.
I was somewhat taken aback, since the matter concerned a young boy from Kiev.
Actually, I was stunned, because I have no idea how aid organizations function in Ukraine, and moreover me writing about this could hurt the boy’s family. But then I realized how absurd this situation was. Kids are beyond politics, and I hope that people from various points of view will comprehend that.
When we were in Lugansk, I really wanted to visit our lovely Ira. Listen to her guitar and singing and have tea with her. She’s a person of rare kindness, and one always wants to be around her. She has cancer and, to be honest, when we thought of bringing her to Moscow, the doctors said she was in a bad shape. But Ira never lost hope. She smiled unforcedly, genuinely, sincerely. Such smiles are becoming ever more rare.
Back during the winter she was in bed, never got out, and she was given no chances of survival when she and her husband started treatment. We were not told what kind of treatment. The husband, who is an emergency care medic, helped her a lot.
And then she started to get better. In a big way. We and Zhenya even agreed not to write about it, only mention it obliquely. We were afraid to even speak about it.
After all, she didn’t simply start to get up. She blossomed, improved in every way.
September 1 is right around the corner.
My entire news stream is full of pleas not to buy kids flowers on September 1 but rather donate the money to foundations.
Looking at the thousands of aid fund reposts, I realized I forgot about one thing.
On the Donbass, tens and hundreds of kids will also go to school. And they will also need notebooks, erasers, and pens. They’ll need everything, just like our kids.
War or no war. Kids go to school.
I forgot about this, as if it were happening in a parallel universe.
On the photo, the director of children’s regional intensive care in Lugansk.
It is he who saved Kolya Siluanov whom we sent, thanks to Liza Glinka, to Moscow for treatment.
Nearly the whole staff remained at their posts during the bombardment of Lugansk in 2014. They worked without pay for over six months. It was not simply difficult to get to work. It was life-threatening. Everyone who was in the city then knows what was going on. The city was closed, and many were not able to leave. They didn’t realize a real war just broke out and they will be targets. For aircraft, heavy artillery. People hid in cellars and were afraid to come out. The city was hit every day, with precision. Homes, schools, hospitals. People were being killed off.
No communications, no power. Nothing was working. I wrote about it a million times but I never tire of it.
These people remained and saved the kids.
The director turned to us for help.
On April 6, 2014, Vitaliy liberated the SBU building. It was a famous event, but few realize what happened with many of these first “separatists” who remained “there”–in Ukraine.
This is a story about a family from the city of Rubezhnoye, which is now on the other side of the line. Vitaliy’s wife Natasha together with other activists organized a referendum while he was in Lugansk in the spring of 2014.
After the June 22 assault on Severodonetsk and Lisichansk, Vitaliy evacuated families and children from the city, but did not manage to evacuate his own. Then hell began.
When UAF entered Rubezhnoye someone, as often happens in such cases, reported him as a “separatist.” They swept him up right away. I have friends in Rubezhnoye and Severodonets, I know from them that people are afraid to show in any way what they think about Ukraine’s government. If you ask people on the street, they won’t say anything. And then some inspired journalist from Moscow Echo writes that everyone is grateful for the “liberation”…
They and others were thrown into a cellar where they, including children, were kept for six hours sitting on the floor with their hands on their heads. Natasha was hit on the head with a rifle butt, she still has severe headaches and her broken hand still doesn’t function well. Vladislav, the boy on the photos, passes out every day.
Whenever someone knocks on the door, he falls to the floor and covers his head.
We haven’t written about Seryozha a lot lately, he usually gets a mention in the general reports.
Lena is trying to visit him as often as possible in the retirement home in Lugansk.
Seryozha is sad. He’s had problems before the war, but the amputation of his leg in ’15 broke his life.
We already wrote last year he finds it difficult to be alone and confined to a wheelchair. He’s not strong enough to roll up the ramp into the home. He has polyarthritis, after all. So he can’t traverse any obstacles without help. And yet there’s a lovely forest park right next door.
He’s very sad and asks about us and Zhenya all the time.
There is in LPR the city of Pervomaysk. It has a leader, the acting mayor Olya Ishchenko, the widow of the murdered Zhenya Ishchenko.
This is the only mayor whom I know personally and with whom I’m friends. But it seems that if all the mayors were like that, everything would have been different. Better.
Here’s what’s happening. As usual, I’ve been coming up with ideas.
Pervomaysk, like every place else, will soon have Christmas trees for the kids.
Republic authorities are providing presents for all multi-child families, disabled children, single mothers, and other socially needy.
Here’s how things stand. According to most recent info, the insulin situation in LPR is totally f*****. We hope it’s a temporary problem. But right now all the news are bad and people simply aren’t getting insulin from the clinics. People say it’s the same in DPR. Particularly when it comes to imported insulin. This is a key issue, because the quality of insulin greatly influences the diabetic’s state. Many need only specific kinds of insulin, using other kinds makes their condition worse.
With that in mind, we’re soon heading off for our next trip to the Donbass.