September 1, 2004.
On that day I was in Crimea. We were walking and drinking wine in the garden, toasting Chinese philosophy.
And then we suddenly heard “Beslan” from an adjacent garden.
My September 1 will never again be the same. With flowers and meeting of old friends.
On September 1, 2014, many Donbass children did not go to school. Many of them have not gone the whole year. Hundreds of children were hiding in the cellars, afraid to go outside. Some of them are now gone. Some? Many, rather. Not just those who were hurt by the shells. Also those who never got the insulin they needed, or an anti-seizure drug, or some other vitally needed medication.
Hundreds of kids became disabled for life–and not only those who lost limbs or suffered wounds. It’s the newly discovered diabetics, kids with constant headaches, nervous system pathologies, cancers. On the Donbass cancer discovered a “fountain of youth”, if that’s an appropriate phrase to use.
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.
A friend sent me a message about my visits to the Donbass: “Is it worth it? Oligarch clans are fighting it out. Ordinary people are dying. It’s a story as old as the world itself.”
I was actually discouraged by that. What can I say? In the last several weeks, the question asked most frequently by my friends has been “why take the risk?”
I can cite a single story in reply.
My life has undergone colossal changes during the last month.
It has been surrounded by such darkness that it defies words.
The many stories I have heard in Novosvetlovka, Lugansk, Pervomaysk, still upset me.
Children’s faces, signs on walls, grannies struggling down the stairs to get bread, houses with rubbled stairwells.
There is nothing that I want more in the world than to unhear these stories. Forget these faces. I want to go shopping and to the movies, and have heated arguments in the internet about who’s right and who’s wrong.
But on the other hand–this is life, and one has to know about it. Remember it. We all ought to know about it rather than turn away from it. Instead of sticking our heads in the sand, we should understand: war is not about reports from battlefields and pathetic statements from the generals. War is eternal pain and fear.
–During the summer, we buried the corpses in gardens. There was such shelling that one could not go further…The city smelled like decomposing corpses. It’s still unknown how many died. A body can spend a long time in an apartment. Without anyone knowing. Some may still be laying there…
The post about my visit to Pervomaysk caused quite an upheaval.
Especially among my friends and acquaintances.
Many wrote me directly to say that I am a poisonous devil, I am inciting, I am provoking hatred in my posts. There’s blood on my hands. Goebbels, in other words.