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.
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…
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.
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.
Eight of the people for whom we were caring and who were ill with cancer passed away during the past two years. I don’t know how to take this–is it many or a few? Probably many, considering that we did not help all that many cancer patients. We’re not a big foundation, we do not have a staff of paid workers and masses of volunteers. Nearly all the people we help are people about whom we found out by chance, through friends or through the Lugansk Aid Center.
I don’t know what the course of their illness would have looked like if it weren’t for the war. It’s possible they would not have it, or perhaps they would have. Who knows?
But I do know that the majority of them were not able to get the treatment they needed in time. There was not enough money for medications, no ability to see a doctor. Some of them became ill with cancer just when the fighting started or just before. During that initial phase the doctors may have been able to help. For example, Lilya, who had to hide in cellars with her son and worry about falling shells, when she needed to go to a cancer clinic. Ira, Inna, Lilya, Sofiya, all of them were in the terminal stage. We tried to help them as best we could, we fought together with them. Bought all the needed preparations which sometimes were hard to get, sometimes we made separate collections since they were not cheap. Paid for procedures, got them into the cancer ward even when it was nearly impossible. There are long waiting lists… We gave their medical histories to the best doctors in Moscow.
We even managed to get Sergey Balanov, a young cardiologist who saved people in Lugansk during the fighting and who himself had blood cancer, to Moscow with Irina Bednova’s help, but it did not help. Sergey died there.
We continue to help those who have no chance.
There are posts which are difficult to write because it’s hard, because no matter how you look at it, it’s pure hopelessness. So immense that it leaves you with a sense of emptiness in which one can hear only the sound of fingers hitting the keyboard. Don’t worry, this is not one of those posts.
Please open it, instead of scrolling past it. Please read it. Because this is why we and our friends got involved in all this in the first place.
It’s a post about you, about hopelessness, and about a miracle.
Sasha looks like a hero from Gaidar’s tales. Or perhaps not Gaidar’s, but there is something about him that’s positive and attractive. The pressed lips, the modest but penetrating gaze.
A beautiful boy with a terrible fate.
Sasha lives in Lugansk with his grandmother Taisiya. His mother was wounded by a shell fragment in 2014. They managed to put her entrails back together at the hospital, but she died two years later. He hasn’t seen his father for many years but he has not formally abandoned him and is not about to. Therefore Taisiya cannot obtain any child care benefits. She herself was in a hospital not too long ago following a stroke, with two days in intensive care.