Do you know who this beauty is?
That’s our Lena.
Let me just tell you one story.
She’s of the Moscow volunteers who in 2015 was helping the people of Lugansk and decided to help one young girl who had cancer. She asked out people to bring her aid.
In Lugansk Zhenya has a “bus”–that’s how vehicles like the gazelles are called on the Donbass. Fiat Ducata. This vehicle has served us well during the whole war, not breaking down even once. But recently it suffered one breakdown after another. We don’t know what to do. Every time we go, we bring some spare parts from Moscow. The vehicle is old and driving on the tortured LPR roads is killing it.
Zhenka spends a lot of time on the road–you can see that for yourself from the reports.
Our Ducata is a combat vehicle–it experienced shellings, particularly when taking your aid into Pervomaysk.
Our most recent trip in December was particularly hellish. At some point the gearbox gave out, and the car kept stalling. We barely managed to get home from Stakhanov.
And now the battery quit.
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!]
Lena’s hair reaches down to her legs, and few can withstand the gaze of her eyes. Zhenya is tall, so much so I barely reach his chest. He speaks with a low, deep bass voice. Lena–so that you realize what kind of a person she is–sat to the very end with an unfamiliar woman at the Lugansk Hospice. Who died practically in her arms. It was Katya, a young girl who was diagnosed with cancer too late for it to be treated. She was from an orphanage, had no relatives on the Donbass. Lena kept vigil at her bed at night. Because there was nobody else to help her. Dying Katya had one son, Vovka. Her husband vanished somewhere in Ukraine, abandoning his family. The guys–Zhenya and Lena, took him in, even though they saw him only twice prior to that. It will soon be a year since Vovka joined the family. In the midst of war and uncertainty, the two of them adopted a 12-year-old. Now he’s one of our assistants, who brings me tea whenever I’m about to drop dead from fatigue. Zhenka and he struggle with homework until tears roll. Because while his mother was dying, he missed a year of school. Our Moscow Zhenya never did math exercises with him during the trips. At the time, we collected clothes for him and delivered a computer, it’s all described in one of the reports.
Vovka is also a member of our tiny team. Zhenya previously wanted me not to write about it for various reasons. But it’s hard for me not to write about it. It’s been a year now, and I’ve seen it all. How they made their decision. And how difficult it was–after all, it’s not easy to take in someone else’s grown child.
It’s a little detail that will give you an idea of what kind of people life brought me in contact with.
I have nothing to say about the US elections. But I do know that Zaitsevo and other border towns on the Donbass were being ground to powder at that time. People died, houses burned. In the literal, not figurative sense…
I also know about ordinary people’s lives in this unusual region where a war is raging.
Everyone’s gotten used to it. The inhabitants are used to it, we’re used to it, I’m used to it. But everyday activities, for example, the operation of hospitals and hospices, suffer from problems whose existence we don’t even suspect.
This is the Lugansk hospice attached to the cancer ward. That’s where our Ira is.
These institutions have the lowest priority for aid. Medicaments are most important. The rest is an afterthought. But how is one supposed to wash, disinfect, do laundry? Nobody’s thinking about that. If they are, they lack the means. And yet this hospice where the ill come to die. Many of them can’t even take care of their basic needs anymore.
The doctors and nurses need paper and pens to write on and with, but those are shortage items too. Lightbulbs do burn out, and switches break, like everywhere else.
The workers here have to bring their own supplies from home. Just think about it–the workers spend their miserly wages so that there is light and paper ant work…And so that the ill are able to read books in the evenings…
Friends, here’s what’s happening:
Our Lena was picked up by an ambulance with a terrible headache and vomiting. No painkillers would help.
An MRI showed nothing out of the ordinary. Today Zhenya and Lena were admitted to the Lugansk hospital. Zhenya’s blood pressure has been fluctuating wildly.
During the spring, Zhenya’s mom suffered a stroke, and nothing has been the same since. With all that, Zhenya’s blood pressure became a more serious problem…If you only knew what was going on during the summer. The stroke took place on the very day we were leaving Moscow for the Donbass in May. And during the summer, after we left…Zhenya’s mom spent a long time in intensive care. Paramedics show up at their home regularly.
Zhenya’s running to and fro and him helping Kolya, who has meningitis and is on the brink of death, took their toll too. Zhenya rushed to the hospital every day, butted heads with the doctors, the mother who not always (to put it mildly) acted in accordance with the doctors’ recommendations, sought out medications. We spent at least half an hour every day discussing, seeking solutions to these problems. Zhenya was worried to tears. He nearly always fights for everyone until he has no strength left…
Zhenya never allowed me to write about his problems. Modesty (and stubbornness) kept him from asking for help. And he’s not giving me permission right now.
But they have me–someone who’s both immodest and rude to boot.
Sometimes you start writing about one thing, and then your mind wanders. Zhenya was delivering aid to Margarita. He started to write a “report”, and it snowballed from there. I keep writing about aid–Zhenya did this and that, forgetting all the while that he himself went through hell under the bombs. When we first met, he told me with tears in his eyes about how Lugansk had no contact with the outside world for three months, so he could communicate with his parents only through notes delivered by drivers of route buses. About how he used to climb on to the roof in order to send a text informing everyone that he and Lena are still among the living. About how he used to watch the incoming shells. From where they were coming and where they were going. The city was bombed, bombed, bombed, every day. About how he put out a fire at his neighbors’ place, about how the whole block was scarred by shells.
You know, Zhenya did not begin to help people just so. I noticed a long time ago that the desire to help others usually manifests itself among those people who have suffered themselves and experienced something very important and very deep.
He was helped too. He wrote into the internet, into nowhere, that he badly needs medicine for his father. He was in a bad state. And after a few days he got a phone call from a then-unknown to him volunteer who helped. And saved his father’s life. One never forgets something like that.
And if help becomes a given, an entitlement for some, for others it is a powerful push to start helping themselves. Zhenka, dammit, I then started to cry myself and remembered how we and Lena first met, back in ’14, on the Russia-LPR border…I was practically freezing back then, remember? You promised to take to to account for my short jacket and no warm clothes.
And then, already home, I plopped down on your fur-lined chair and you said nothing except “make yourself at home.”
Yesterday I wrote an angry text. Brimming with pique, exhaustion, frustration, and aggression. I read it to my friends before posting it. There were several of us, and one of my girlfriends began to cry.
I don’t know why.
Everyone said it was not my text.
A day later I realized what was happening.
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.
At some point in the spring of 2015, a link was posted on my wall to one of my articles translated into English.
It was a quite precise translation of one of my reports from the Donbass, with the link to this blog.
I was taken aback when a second translation appeared shortly afterwards. I didn’t know the author or the site on which the translation was published.
A month later, I received the first English-language email from an individual asking how he could help the people of the Donbass. Then a second, a third…All the while new translations kept appearing on my Facebook feed.