We are helping “over there”

People often write me that we’re helping OVER THERE, whereas we should be helping RIGHT HERE. My answer is–yes, probably.
Aid is needed by various people in various places. But it so happened that we’re helping the people of the Donbass. To be honest, I never was involved in helping anyone before the war, except myself. I was never a volunteer anywhere, did not participate in any initiatives. I empathized from afar, sometimes gave money to street musicians, and did reposts on social media. Though that’s been rare in recent times.
It was the war made me, at one point, drop everything, collect a carload of food, and take it into the hell of war. That was Pervomaysk. What’s there to say? It just so happened, I didn’t choose, didn’t decide. It was a spontaneous action which I will never be able to explain.
My first orphanage, dorm, retirement home, hospice, were all on the Donbass.
Where I saw another extreme of life, under wartime conditions. I saw abandoned disabled children, elderly, paralyzed. I encountered lies, deception for the first time. In the midst of war. I don’t know what I found more shocking, military operations or the squalor of human nature.
Years later, this is now a huge part of my life. But here’s what I want to say.
Back then, in 2014, we helped everyone who was there. As years passed, our aid became more selective. We have a very serious filter. Yes, there is an aid filter.

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Oh that Seryozha of ours!

I’m not angry at him, but how can I not put him in the corner and chew him out? A grown dude, acting like a little kid!
The partisan is quiet, and the who matter is a delicate one for him. He’s awkward, embarrassed. Problems began a long time ago, with urology. He kept quiet about it. “Awkward”. “Embarrassing”.
It got to the point that our friends took him to a urologist for an evaluation. It turned out to be serious. They’ll have to cut. But the dumbest thing is that they lost a year at least because of “awkward” and “embarrassing”.
Seryoga, you are such a dummy!



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Optimist

Exactly five years ago I returned from Pervomaysk, LPR.
I was still shivering, but I understood the consequences only years later. Already then, on New Year’s Eve, I sensed the approach of PTSD which has never entirely left me.
I was recently invited to appear on the Zvezda TV channel, about which I wrote sharply and emotionally. Incidentally, my appearance was no less sharp and emotional. The anchor incredulously asked me how I’ve managed to stay positive, having been to war and seen hell.
I’ve always been “Hirosimka”, a positive thinker, but I became a genuine optimist only recently.
Back then, in December 2014, I saw how we don’t know how to take joy in simple things–Mandarin oranges, the vegetable salad for New Year, decorated trees–except in the midst of war. We eternally grumble, things are always bad for us, we’re always lacking something. I remember how back then in LPR trees were being put up and decorated. Even though fighting was still very intense. People had genuine joy. Everyone was asking me whether I had a tree back home, as if that was the most important thing. Turns out it was. Of course, people were asking for peace, were hoping the war would end. But at the same time they were joyful. I returned home to Moscow where all of my friends and acquaintances were complaining from dawn to dusk. I wanted to kill them. I wanted to shake them and slap their faces.
It’s probably then that I became a total and unfounded optimist.
There were many trips to the Donbass after that. So much human suffering that I don’t know whether my fragile human body can withstand it.
It probably cannot. On its own.
But I am not alone. You have been with me all these five years. I would have episodes of hysteria, desperation. I wanted to abandon it all many times, but a single thought that you were with me always helped.
And now it’s a New year and we are still receiving donations for aid. Dear Lord, we are receiving donations for our single grannies, for multi-child families, for cancer patients, children. I don’t know how people find the time, before the holidays and all the craziness nevertheless remember. And today I received many messages from people asking how to donate. Miracles!
So how am I not be happy and certain that all will not simply be well, but better than anything!

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From Novosvetlovka

I remember Raisa Yakovlevna from back in 2015, when we visited her at home in Novosvetlovka.
Zhenya brought her aid from other volunteers. I was then doing a report on the village. Tens of destroyed houses, burned out tanks and APCs on every street. Pillboxes at every turn, and shrapnel damage to everything. It was very cold, and while snow was trying to cover the shattered houses, the bare trees laid everything open to the bones. The village was absolutely stripped.
I remember the empty house and the crying woman who told us what happened. I stood in the open door, waiting until Zhenya talked to her. We were getting ready to leave when she started to ask us to stay and have tea with her. “You’ve been on the road, you must be tired.” It’s true we were tired but we also had to go. She had almost nothing but she could just let us go. That’s how people there, on the Donbass, are. After that we kept running into her. Whenever we brought her aid, we had to fight off her “presents”–a packet of nuts, a can of pickled tomatoes. Always wanted to feed us.
I remember well what she told us. We haven’t seen each other since. Many volunteers from various institutions were helping her. I never saw a photo of her.

A house on Raisa Yakovlevna’s street.

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Irina Aleksandrovna

Irina Aleksandrovna is from the village of Frunze, LPR. It’s in the “gray zone”. You know what that is? Briefly, a place where there’s fighting. On the “line of contact.” After yet another shell impact (which are not rare there) the woman grabbed her four grandkids, picked up the bag with documents, and drove to Lugansk. Abandoned a house where she had lived her whole life. Where are the children’s parents? They are the sort that social workers euphemistically refer to as “unfit”. The mother exists only on paper. But luckily the kids have a grandma.
Irina Aleksandrovna was born in 1963. When Lena visited them, she was not clear on who was coming with the kids. A child, a sister? Tiny, thin, “only eyes”.
The woman fled to Lugansk. Friends of friends put her up in an apartment near Kambrod. It was empty since ’14–the owner had left. But allowed them to live there.

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Grasshopper

I will arrive in Pervomaysk and you know what? The first thing I’ll do is drive down the Makushkin Street, away from the central square with the Lenin. I’ll be driving between the poplars arrayed along the road as if they were soldiers. They will stand and greet me. Poplars. Then I will turn into a tiny lane. There will be swans carved from tires, and flowers from plastic bottles. I will come to a tiny home, ascend the stairs to the second floor. Along the way everything will be strewn with five-liter bottles filled with water. Then I will hear rumbling and–it’s Lyova, our grasshopper, who opens the door and is dumbstruck:
–Dunya!
–Lyova!
And I will be interrogating our Lyova–what should we buy, what to bring? Why is his leg hurting? What about arm joints? Is he cold? Is there clothing? What about the passport? Lyova, I haven’t seen you for a hundred years, my dear!
And Lyova, getting up on his one leg, will throw off the crutches and exclaim boldly: “look, I can still do this!” And turn around on his one leg. I have seen this many times and it seems he really likes to shock me like that.
I will be in awe, and why not? Lyova lost a leg back in ’14 after a shelling. He’s been hopping along on one leg since then. He uses crutches, but can make do without.
So I’ll be bugging Lyova, and he, I guarantee it, he’ll ask for another book. About physics and the secrets of the Universe.

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Our Tanker

I wrote a piece about political rallies. And I didn’t even erase it–let it sit a little, if I don’t change my mind I’ll publish it.
But for now I’d rather tell you how Lena and Zhenya visited our Seryozha Kutsenko.
Our tanker, who lives in a retirement home in Lugansk.
He lost his home due to UAF shelling of Khryashchevatoye during the summer of ’14.
Then he lost a leg. No, he wasn’t wounded. But he has polyarthritis and he spent six months in inhumane conditions, limping on a crutch in a barrack. He fell and his leg was injured. It could not be saved. But he survived which back then was under a question mark.
On the photo, Seryozha is racing in his tank–an electric wheelchair which Natasha bought for him.
My Natasha, a young lady who somehow accidentally read a post about him. And…decided to help.
And Seryozha became “ours”. “Mine”.
To read more about him, click on the “Kutsenko” tag at the bottom of this post.

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The Power of Internet!

Many got weary of my posts.
Fed up with reading them.
How much can one take?
I myself got tired of writing them.
But it’s not simply “how much can one take?” but “how much is needed”–a lot is needed, a lot.
The war’s in its sixth year.
Those who were infants when the first bombardments began will soon go to school. In the border areas, kids no longer even react to shelling but continue to play in the trenches.
And…information continues to flow.
For yet another time, I want to say that reposts work. Even simple likes work.
Very, very much.
And thanks to all those who, in spite of fatigue, don’t stop liking and reposting.
On more than one occasion, relatives were able to locate their family members from my posts.
And today I want to tell you one of these stories.

Do you remember Irina Grigoryevna? She came from Russia before the war (she lived in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy) to visit daughter and grandson in Lugansk. Then the war started. Son in law died in a bombardment in August 2014 in Lugansk. The wife howled when she recognized the corpse. It is then that she withdrew into herself. They say “she lost her mind” and has been in a clinic ever since.
The grandmother was left alone with the grandson. She lost her documents during the shelling. Or maybe they were stolen–nobody knows.
She couldn’t return to Russia without documents, or obtain new documents.
So she couldn’t draw retirement or benefits.

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A gift for Taisiya Pavlovna

Since we’re on a streak of good news, I will, with your permission, extend it.
We have us a Taisiya Pavlovna.
Our “grandma”, raising a grandson on her own. The daughter was struck down right in front of her son during the summer of ’14. A shell fragment cut through her stomach, intestines, liver. The Lugansk hospital performed an emergency surgery as best they could, without electricity, in extreme heat. Such were the times. The summer of 2014 was very bloody for Lugansk. The city was besieged, and was being destroyed using all types of weapons, including aircraft. There was no phone service, water, electricity, food, pharmacies were empty. People couldn’t understand what was happening.
Sasha’s mom lived for two more years after that wound. Two years of suffering and constant pain, before expiring.
Sasha was left alone with his grandma. No, that’s not right. They had each other.
We’ve been helping them for years. Last year Taisiya survived two strokes. Thank goodness she survived and recovered.
Taisiya Pavlovna has a whole range of ailments, including hypertension and diabetes. She and Sasha live on 3200 rubles a month, plus our aid. I can’t imagine how one can live on such income. The boy is growing, goes to school, there are utilities, medications…
This information is for those who doesn’t know anything about Taisiya Pavlovna.
And now I will say more. There is an amazing person among us. Boris from Kazan. Remember him? You should!
Yes, he’s the one who bought the boiler for our sisters, and brought cigars from Cuba for Seryozha Kutsenko. He’s also helped a lot others as well. Boris is a young geophysicist, with merry young sons. Boris, I didn’t say too much, did I?


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From Havana!

Our Seryoga is like a smokestack.
No matter what we do, it doesn’t help.
–Seryozha, what should we bring?
His eyes are full of yearning so that there’s nothing you can do to resist. –“Cigarettes, Dunyasha”.
–There are few pleasures in the retirement home. But you know what is the biggest one? Every morning I brew coffee, then I take my tank out into the stairwell and draw on a cigarette…Mmm…
“Tank” is his term for the electric wheelchair.
And you know, he tells you this story with his eyes half-closed, with a sweet smile melting across his face, as if he were resting on a beach, with the ocean licking his heels.
So we gave it a collective shrug. Although, to be honest, his health is not exactly very good. Everyone is trying to get him to stop–the doctors, the retirement home staff. Seryozha has polyarthritis, last year he had a heart attack. Not a laughing matter.
But as soon as I remember his “mmm…” with half-closed eyes, I can’t join in. He’s been smoking his whole life, the devil.
And he smokes the nastiest stuff he can find.
So recently I got a message from Boris. Boris from Kazan who bought a boiler for our sisters and provided the intensive care department with powders and cleaning supplies. And in general regularly helps people in our care. So he says “Dunya, I’m in Cuba right now. Are any of ours smokers? I could bring a cigar…”
Boris! Remembered! About the people we care after! While in Cuba!


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