You thought our New Year posts have come to an end? No, there is more!
There is a community of the blind in Lugansk, which includes our Vika. They have holiday parties, and we conveyed New Year greetings to them. It seems nobody has done that before us…
The tree celebration was in early January. I did not attend, but Lena and Zhenya recorded everything)))
This is Natasha and her grandmother. They live alone because on August 3 of the bloody 2014 their garden was hit by a shell. The house survived though the blast shattered all the windows, but a single piece of shrapnel flew in. Just a single piece of shrapnel. That was enough to kill Natasha’s mom right in front of her. The shrapnel pierced her head.
Natasha did not say anything for a week, and it was a miracle she resumed talking later. She stuttered for a year. Her grandma really aged in that instant. She’s only 70, and at the time, 3 years ago, she looked different.
I began helping the Donbass in 2014, when I and my friends, thanks to you, my readers and online contacts, brought lots of food to Pervomaysk in a big truck. In 2014, the city was in a catastrophic condition, and it literally suffered from hunger. It was cut off from the rest of LPR and found itself in a humanitarian blockade, where even OSCE wouldn’t go. People lived in cellars and bomb shelters, shops were closed, and there was nothing to eat. Only communal cafeterias worked, which fed people for free. We kept returning until the summer of ’15, about once every three weeks, with food for these cafeterias. Then the situation improved, the cafeterias were closed, so we stopped our visits. Although in my view such cafeterias are still needed nearly everywhere in the LPR. For the needy. There are many single elderly, multi-child families, and simply needy individuals who are trying to ends meet and suffer from poor nutrition.
But that’s not what this post is about.
It’s about how we started with delivering food for lots of people. I never imagined I’d become an aid coordinating center of sorts.
I couldn’t wrap my head around it even during our first visit in a car loaded with food and clothes. I felt this was a one-time action, but people continued to turn to me and that’s how it came to be. The Little Hirosima blog helped, even though I created it for something entirely different. With time, our aid became targeted–we help those who are in poor straits, who can’t cope on their own.
In December there was a prisoner exchange between the Republics and Ukraine. Among them was Petya who’s been in captivity for about 2 years. He and his wife Ira and thee kids lived in the village of Zolotoye-4. Near Pervomaysk, but on the Ukrainian side. Petya joined the militia: “When they started to kill us from aircraft–we all knew who was doing it, saw the planes, and I couldn’t just sit at home.” Several of their neighbors perished right in front of them. Died on the spot.
Petya’s parents and sister left for Western Ukraine 8 years earlier. When the Donbass was bombed, before Petya joined the militia he called them. Called to hear the voices of relatives, hear words of support, share the shock of what he saw–it was impossible to accept and understand what just happened. Nobody could believe what was happening–aircraft, and bombs falling onto ordinary homes. His own mother told him: “It’s your own fault.” Then he called the sister, who answered: “What did mother tell you? She was right, don’t call us anymore.”
They’ve had no contact since. An ordinary story–there are hundreds of such relations, people who refuse to believe what the relatives from Donbass say, who don’t want to hear anything and who believe that “it’s their own fault.”
Dear God, how many times have I heard these words…How many times…
–I have a DVD player and a huge bag of dvds with cartoons. It’s a pity to throw them out–that collection took a long time to assemble! But now it’s all on the internet…Perhaps someone on the Donbass might find a use for it?
So I kept thinking.
–Bring it along!
And now all these dvds, the player, and all manner of arts and crafts supplies are going to Lugansk with us. Anya, you had doubts?! You’re my precious!)
They proved useful after all, very much so!)))
A young father stands by the doorway. He’s pacing in the snow, he’s not dressed for the outside, jumps up and down. Sees our car, waves at us.
–We’ve been waiting for you since early morning. Got very nervous.
He speaks in plural, gets frantic–he’s trying to shake our hands, runs ahead of us, then lets us pass.
–Vika, they’re here!
We enter the apartment, and there’s an 11 year old girl with her mom, trying to avert her gaze. She saw us, crossed her fingers, and turned away.
Mom is holding her by the hand, hugs her, but the girl is still afraid, though she’s no longer looking away.
Then everything was like in a fog. The girl haltingly reads poems about frost and wind.
She’s very shy, though it’s clear she’s trying very hard. Everyone is helping her, the mom, and dad, Grandfather Frost and I. Then we hugged her, and she was speechless.
As we’re leaving the mother grabs us by the hand–her eyes are full of tears.
–Mom, give me your hand.
Vika jumps onto the couch, spreads her hands, and fixes her long, lovely hair. Sveta holds her hand, but Vika is already performing.
–Music, more music! I’m singing!
We visited Vika in Grandfather Frost and Snow Maiden costumes, and the girl decided to honestly earn the presents we were bringing.
She couldn’t see our New Year’s costumes. Between you and I, she doesn’t even know what I look like. To her, I’m some Dunya who’s her height, but she knows my voice, knows it very well.
When she listens, she tilts her head and tries to listen not only what is being said, but sense all the intonations.To capture the connection between what is being said and how it is being said.
–It fell here. But didn’t break. But on the other side, the wall was full of holes. It was never as scary as then.
Valentina’s voice breaks, her eyes fill with tears. Her tale meanders–one moment she’s joking and waving her arms, the next her lips shake and tears pour in a stream. She speaks with such a strong Ukrainian accent I sometimes can’t follow.
She lives in Pervomaysk, LPR. She has diabetes and lip cancer. She’s also all alone.
We brought her aid and, before we even crossed the threshold, she ran across the house to show us the photos.
I’m often called a volunteer, but that’s not true. I’m no volunteer, not even an aid worker.
I don’t know how to properly label that which I do. I realized that I can’t be a volunteer who helps hospice patients, the disabled, the elderly. I can write a report, can place myself in someone else’s place and write about that, go to the “front” where there’s danger. Yes, I will be afraid, just like any normal person. But I’ll get over it. But looking into the eyes of people who have only very little time left is beyond my strength. I wasn’t able to get used to in even in three years. Abandoned elderly, disabled kids, the dying in hospices–all of it kills me. I can’t.
But our Lena can. I don’t know how. I don’t know where she gets her strength from.
I recently chatted with a friend, but she was so full of complaints about everything that I ran away from her.
Then I realized I find it hard to bear negative information. It seems to make the puddles more dirty and the sky greyer. But I understood that these aren’t the problem. I will also say that banality is nonsense. Let’s take your tiny salary and the price of chicken. It doesn’t mean one shouldn’t talk about it. It only means it’s small potatoes, and it should be talked about only to the extent it needs to. Without going over it every day.
As you know, we help cancer patients. The majority of them are in a hopeless situation.
But they are hanging on, grasping at every straw. They do the best they can. They are not discouraged, they try to fully live the time they’ve been left. They are happy with every day spent with children and relatives. There’s no-one to help them, they have nobody, and they are alone with their illness.
I’ve written this a hundred times and this must be the 101st repetition–value what you have.