When I graduated from college, I went to work for a PR agency. , I remember myself swimming in a pool, after a month of endless press releases, press clippings, and press kits, and thinking–what’s the point? What’s the outcome? The answer upset me. It’s possible I poorly chose the way to apply myself and had I chosen something other than PR I’d have found myself. But it was what it was.
Back then, under a thick layer of chlorinated water, I thought about how much I wanted to go somewhere as a volunteer, so that my efforts would be useful and lead me to believe I do not live for nought. Volunteer at an orphanage, a retirement home, a hospice. Of course, I had no idea what these places were like, and that in reality helping there is an unbelievably difficult endeavor. Although perhaps I realized what the reality was like, because I did not advance beyond thinking about it. Even today I can say I’m not quite up to it. But by paths unknown, without even wishing it, I became a leader (is there a more correct way of stating it?) of a tiny unofficial welfare fund for aiding the people of the Donbass. There are many of us and the main people in this process are our Lugansk Zhenya and Lena. It’s also my many helpers and friends here, in Moscow, other cities, and other countries. I don’t fully know the scale of work we’ve done. I only see what’s happening today and write about it. We got ourselves into various situations, sometimes got experienced disappointment, bitterness. A lot happened–some of that you’ve read about and experienced with us. But there are several people whom we help on a permanent basis, people who have become flags, markers.
Friends, I can’t not share with you the letter Vika sent. She was very embarrassed because it has many mistakes, but allowed me to publish it anyway. This is Vika’s first letter on her new computer for the blind that we and you gave her, written without mom’s help!!! Vika lost her sight recently, and for her the internet was simply texts read to her by her mom. Now a whole new world is open to her.
“Hello, this is Vika writing, Im not used to writing and usng the soc networks but Im getting better at responding to messages fro friends evdkkya tahnk you and to everyone who gave me the ability how are you doing hows the daughter saed her my big greetings”
When people call me a philanthropist, I get angry.
I also don’t like terms “humanitarian worker” and “volunteer”.
These worlds are absolutely alien to me, even though by and large they do refer to me.
But today I was able to figure out what makes me angry.
I wanted to become a writer during the last 10 years of my life. My father wrote, grandmother wrote, and I never planned it or saw myself in it.
My school compositions are horrible, to say the least. I wrote poorly and my writing is still bereft of talent. My phrases are awkward, and my texts full of repetition and endless inversions. When I reread my posts after a while, I want to destroy or rewrite them. But I give up and write something new.
Yesterday, after the post on presents for Pervomaysk children, a received a letter. I ready it about 10 times. Lisichansk is that part of Lugansk Region which remained under Ukraine. The city is in the line of fire, but it’s quiet there right now.
I recently received a package from the United States. I was not expecting one, and was puzzled when I found the claim slip in my mailbox. At the post office, I was handed a hefty package from, as it turned out, one of my English-language readers. He’s had my address, because he’s been sending stuff earmarked for the Donbass for a long time. The package contained books, journals, and letters translated from English to Russian using Google Translate. Chris, like I said, has been reading this blog using electronic translations, although there is an English-language site. However, the site only contains posts on the Donbass, while Chris reads the whole thing. We correspond in English, but he competently translates his letters into Russian.
A few days earlier, he donated $100 for the little Nikita in Lugansk who needs a glucose meter. And a few weeks before that, Chris donated money to help Zhenya and Lena.
There were several letters in the packet. Here’s one:
For your 22nd birthday, I decided to send you a book about the history of Moscow. It’s not your Moscow, but the Moscow of your grandmother, the one who hauled water out of a bomb shelter, and whose friends failed to return from the front. It’s the Moscow of your mom and dad. Perhaps this book will be useful to your daughter in a few years. A year ago, Tatzhit (a friend who reposts translations at Fort Russ) wrote me that he didn’t know what to get you for your birthday. That’s because he’s a Communist! I’m not, and therefore I can think of something good to get you. Unfortunately, I forgot about your Che Guevara t-shirt, well, perhaps another year.
[The translation does not quite capture the Google Translate orthography which is sufficiently baffling to make one wonder what the original letter actually said!]
“Evdokia, are you really a private individual who got up and went there? What made you do that? Everyone felt pity, so why did you shift from tear-wiping to action?”
This was immediately followed by:
“One more thing: do you have the capabilities to make full-scale video interviews? Quality is not that important.”
I answered almost immediately:
“Am I really a private person? That’s an existential question. Perhaps I am just an illusion, one can’t wholly rule that out.”
About a year ago, I received a money transfer with an English-language memo addressed to “Professor Yevdokia Andreevna,” which led me to think one of my Malaysian students decided to participate in humanitarian aid. I never wrote in English that I was an instructor, hence the conclusion.
The sender later replied to my message and it turned out he read one of my translated posts on Fort Russ and followed the link to livejournal. He’s not a student, nor is he from Malaysia. That’s how he started to read LittleHirosima. Yes, indeed. He doesn’t know a word of Russian, but he reads this journal.
After that, I started to receive sums of money via paypal at varying intervals.
I recently saw a friend on the Donbass post an announcement on his facebook page.
I hope this information won’t come handy to anyone.
I never had to face shells exploding around me. I heard them many times. I even saw Grad volleys and didn’t know what they were shooting at, which meant it felt as if our car was the target. But their target was elsewhere.
We arrived in Pervomaysk right on that day.
The city has bloomed.
Half destroyed, showered by shells, it was nevertheless basking in the Sun.
And it was made beautiful by its girls and women.
We arrived, as promised, with gifts.
Olga Ishchenko, the wife of killed Zhenya, is continuing the work of this great Man. She’s now the acting mayor.
We caught her at the executive committee with a kid. Her eyes expressed extreme exhaustion and indescribable pain.
Pain which cannot be understood or explained. Her lover, friend, comrade, husband, father of her children, was taken from her.
Can you imagine this fragile beauty is bearing the entire city on her shoulders?