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…
Ulyana is a tiny and charming girl with a heart flaw. She is in the hospital every two months.
When she was one, she slept in cellars, dropped to the ground at any sound, and already know that “Hail” and “Hurricane” are not merely “weather problems.” And as any other child from Lugansk, Pervomaysk, or Donetsk, she’s still terrified of any loud noise. Their building was hit many times but their apartment miraculously was untouched.
Across the street, there was a huge construction materials store, Epitsentr. It’s no longer there, nothing was left after 2014. There was a fire station next to it which was deliberately targeted, like other infrastructure sites which were the first to be taken out.
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…
You didn’t forget to take a day off work to come to my book presentation at VDNKh, did you?
I wanted to write a happy post before the event.
Thanks to you we were able to prepare 50 Donbass kids for school!!!
50 kids received notebooks, pens, rulers, paints, and much else. They are from families for whom this is an unaffordable luxury. They are not simply Donbass kids who lived through war and continue to live there. They are from families with many kids, disabled, adopted. Families who lost homes, single mothers. Kids who really need this help. And every time we do this, we end up with very happy posts. Because children are the future. Children are life.
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.
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.
Lana married young. She went far away to live with her lover, got pregnant, but the beatings started almost immediately. It was so bad the girl ran off with her newborn to mother. The three of them have been living together ever since on the Pobedonosnaya St. in Lugansk. Those who spent 2014 in Lugansk know that in August artillery shells came in every day. Lana described how she saw “a woman torn in half” while waiting in line for water distribution.
There was no water, no electricity, no phone service. One could survive without many things, but not without bread and water. People came out of their apartments to get them, right under the shells.
I remember very well how the locals and Zhenya described August of that year at the time, shortly after these events. People could hardly bring themselves to talk about it. And if they did, only with trembling voices and flowing tears. Zhenya: “At that time, the ‘liberators’ were entertaining themselves by shooting at people who stood in line for water and bread, and where there was still phone service. Hundreds of people would meet there to send news to their relatives they were still alive. But the spotters worked there too.”
I remember how Zhenya told us about going to the roof to catch a phone connection to send a text message he’s still alive. There were no communications, but it was clear the city was under fire.
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.