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July, 21

Luhansk journal. What have we done to deserve all this?

05/11/2023 03:54:05 pm
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There are russian "soldiers" next to me. Confident and self-satisfied, without a shadow of doubt. I catch myself thinking that I wish I could be like that - unwavering in everything. One of them has the inscription "It will be a glorious hunt" on his chevron. It makes me flinch. Just yesterday, a boy told me that his father died a year ago - they reported finding a bag with pieces of those they had collected. You can’t bury them properly or investigate. He spoke bravely, like a child, with all those specific words that only underscore the horror of what had happened. We often talk like that to try to downplay the enormous problem of the grief that has befallen us, which we cannot comprehend for a very long time. I look at this chevron and think about those American action movies where people were hunted down, when life was worth nothing. But behind every victim of this "glorious hunt" is a string of those who loved them, who waited for them to come home alive, in any health condition. For whom the tragedy of war will echo throughout their remaining lives.

Three people have died and two have been crippled on our street just this year. One had his leg torn off, the other injured his spine. The legless man was waiting for a prosthesis in moscow for a long time, and then they brought him home. His mother died before all this happened, I don't know how he'll cope on his own. Everyone is agile and skillful only in the news, but in real life for some reason everything is different.

He moves like a broken pocketknife. The prosthesis is like a stranger. Every step on two crutches is painfully slow. It takes him a long time to get to the store, because the nearest one is not that close. The dirt roads with potholes and bumps are not suited for crutches and cripples.

He walks down the street like a living reproach to all of us, alive and unharmed. He is on his own, and the prosthesis is on its own as well. And life is in full swing nearby. A neighbor is washing his car. He is a russian. He deals with groceries. Double protection from mobilization that allows him not to hide and not to be afraid. He listens to loud music and loudly washes the car. He has nothing to hide and he doesn’t need to hide. He drinks beer and listens to music at full volume, loud and bright, not about war. Parallel universes. And the one with a spinal injury walks, leaning on crutches. He walks with anger, pain, and for a long time. Past the one who washes the car while sipping beer. And everything he thinks about is written on his face. It's better not to catch his eye, it's impossible to endure that gaze face-to-face.

And there is a wedding on our street. The first real one, with balloons, cars and ribbons at the gate. This is also a break from the norm. And it seems that everyone understands that we need to keep moving forward stubbornly, despite everything. But we have become accustomed to bad news instead of good ones, so we are surprised by such a familiar miracle as a wedding, and we shyly look away from crutches.

A new category of young adults has emerged - the prosperous ones who have left and settled well in a new place. Almost always, it is those who stand in line for 4-6 hours in front of the local state bank in old, ridiculous clothes who talk about it. The unknown "there" is akin to a looking glass. Only those returning from "there" do so to collect their dying elders and sell their homes. But it is precisely "there" where everything seems superior. Careers are made there, money flows like a river, and only executive positions exist. And housing has either been bought "there" already, or is being bought. It doesn't fit in with the outfits of those telling the tales - crushing poverty against the backdrop of stories about the splendor and luxury of their offspring who left. But apparently, that's not the main thing in those tales. The old folks themselves do not see the stories’ mismatch. How can such rich and successful offspring have such poor parents?

You know what impresses me the most? The belief of all the elderly in the correctness of putin's actions. In the infallibility of the chosen path. In the fact that the inconveniences like standing in line and the impossibility of obtaining a russian passport without stress are only because putin is unaware of what is happening. All the bad things happen here because putin is ignorant of them, and all the good things happen only thanks to him.

And the longer you live in this, the more contradictory your feelings become. There is some silly awkwardness in front of loved ones - what did they do to deserve all this? Queues? Waiting? I want to take it all on myself so that they don't have to stand there and wait.

And some interest - what's next? Like Duncan MacLeod, I have already lived four lives, in four different states, but I have never left my city. I remember the changes during the collapse of the USSR, obtaining Ukrainian documents, the transition to the new state of the "LNR", unrecognized by anyone, with queues and documents. And now some new, another, russian stage. Another one?...

Why? What are these lessons for? What is all this for me? I won't be able to handle it if I have to change documents and stand in lines again after all this. For some reason, it is only in the long queues that I manage to understand how tired I am of everything.

Olha Kucher, Luhansk, for OstroV