July, 13

"Smart people keep their opinions to themselves". Luhansk journal

05/27/2024 08:00:00 pm
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How are we? It varies. It's like walking through a swamp, where solid ground is followed by quicksand.

If you live by the rules without trying to break them, you'll live normally. Just normally. It might be bad, or it might be good, but you'll live. If you raise your tiny fist against the system, you'll live too, but you'll live badly. So, keep your particularly valuable opinions to yourself. At most, share them with your wife in the kitchen.

Any of your actions can be seen as rehabilitating Nazism, any words as defaming the army, and photos as espionage. The naive actions of a not very smart or overly confident person can always be interpreted as insulting believers' feelings. That's why truly smart people don't have social media accounts. Or they don't post anything there. They don't like or repost anything. Smart people keep their opinions to themselves, having learned from loud exposés. There are plenty of such revelations now.

They expose saboteurs, spies, terrorists, former employees of Ukrainian special services, those who pass on location information and take photos... A real nightmare begins for their relatives: searching, waiting, hoping... Until this point, you realize that you lived a wonderful life, you just didn't appreciate it and didn't know how good your life was.

My acquaintances were accused of being saboteurs. One managed to leave, abandoning his property, position, belongings—everything. The other two were caught as bombers. A married couple. They were detained for a year. The husband took the blame. The wife returned home after a year of investigation. Their house was under surveillance for a year. No job, no husband, no car. Forget about TV shows or thrillers—how will this woman live now? What will she cling to in order to stay afloat?

Such dramas are ssen everywhere. Saboteurs on the right, heroes on the left. My neighbor lost his leg in battle. After that, he underwent a long treatment and got a prosthesis in moscow. Before all this, he had a reputation as a drunk and a loser with a predictable end. Now he looks like a terminator on a brand-new prosthesis and has a young wife. He receives state benefits and wearts shorts. He barely limps. He didn’t care about anyone’s opinion before, and now he cares even less.

Sorrow and joy, tragedy and farce. Highs. My acquaintance found her love with a russian accent. He rented an apartment for their passionate meetings and gives her money. She boasts about her new earrings. He helps her son. She coos with happiness. Everyone whispers: is he really not married? Not for sure. Here, everyone claims to be single, but you can’t get the truth out of anyone. Allegedly, their wives were scoundrels, only wanted money, but they love their kids and forgave their wives long ago. A friend's daughter brought such a man to a family dinner. Nice guy with serious intentions. Turns out, he’s married. He let it slip. And the family was almost preparing for a wedding because it was the first time someone had interested their daughter.

The world has changed. It became fast. Strange. Always busy. You can't afford to be idle. Insurance, passport, property documents, registration, criminal record check, local duplicate of the Ukrainian child's birth certificate... Tons of new paperwork, endless queues, hours of waiting…

Looking back, it’s crazy what we’ve been through. And we made it. How did we endure, how did we manage? If someone decides to come here, they should be aware that it is not 2021 anymore when you could easily disappear. This is a new reality. Even working for yourself, you can't avoid everything. Without a passport, you can’t get a bank card; without a bank card, you can’t get a job. A vicious circle.

Stories about trips to Ukraine are like miracles. Five days of travel. Three hundred euros. Before, it was four hours to Kramatorsk, ten to Poltava. Was that real? Nowadays it seems like a dream. You can't dwell on it, or you'll go crazy. You need to live in short segments.

Dental services and bread have become more expensive. Everything is expensive. Just like in russia. It's even cheaper in russia than here. But the key thing here is to live. Not to live well, but just to live. With children, with family, in your own home. Live. And then decide from there. There's nowhere to run.

Many continue to hide and live cautiously. If you are employed officially, they’ll make you register for military service. Otherwise, you can always lay low. Hide. The new family chapter—husband at home or husband as a hero. What matters is that he’s alive and nearby, no matter what.

I have almost no friends left in Ukraine. Politics erases everything, even a shared past.

I don't want to prove anything, to justify myself. I don’t want to discuss or criticize.

For now, that's how it is. Who knows what will happen next.

Olha Kucher, Luhansk, for OstroV