Littlehirosima: The Life’s Underside


 Original written by ; translated from Russian by J.Hawk and originally posted at South Front. October 1st, 2015

I returned to Moscow.
And I realize I can’t remain here.
I don’t want to pick up the phone. I don’t want to do anything at all.

It’s not about being tired, or about the mad dash, when you are trying to do month’s worth of humanitarian work in a week. Dozens of people, families, houses, cities.

I’ve known that feeling for a long time.
The sad feeling of bitterness.

It’s not even the heart-rending pain. No.
I clearly remember how I returned from Pervomaysk during the winter. It
was then shelled from all sides. It was being turned into a sieve. And
we heard incoming shells all the time. I remember the destroyed
stairwells with a dusting of snow, and people with assault rifles
everywhere. I returned to Moscow, and since then everything in this
world, yes in “this” world, everything changed. I could not understand and accept the
border, the difference between the two. One day I am somewhere, where
there are kids in bomb shelters, and elderly women are afraid to go
outside for months on end. The next day I am where the euro costs 100
rubles and poor-quality cheese represents a major problem.

It’s like you cross some kind of a boundary. But don’t leave the other world.
I remain somewhere in between. Not there, and not here.
Not on the Donbass, and not in Moscow. Geography is conditional.

When we were distributing aid with Olya Ishchenko, the acting mayor of
Pervomaysk, to elderly women and single mothers, I saw her tears. She
didn’t show them but I saw how she was trying to wipe her eyes without
me seeing it. She lost her husband to the war, and she lives in a
besieged city. She knows what life is, better than I.

I saw how our driver
Sergey, who helped us in the deliveries, just lost it when he saw an
old granny in Debaltsevo whose house was shattered to the foundations.
Only bricks and a piece of the stove were left. She lives in a destroyed
shed next door to avoid crowding the kids: “the four of them live in a
one-room apartment.” The granny scoured the burned out ruins and showed
us the surviving forks and cups. Sergey was in shock, although he
himself spent a month in the cellars when Lugansk was bombed in August
But I did not feel anything. A sort of cool calm.

I am visiting hospice rooms, homes for the elderly. I don’t notice
strong smells and terrible sights. I calmly watch children with
disabilities in orphanages.

I am already immersed in another side of life. I don’t know–can it be called the underside?

But this is a different world. It did not exist in my old one.
The world of a someone who likes to dive in a monofin or go skiing in the mountains or track hippos on African mornings.
My world was broken open, and it will never the the same as before.

I am at a crossroads.
I look back and I understand that it’s not just the war, though it’s part of it.

I became an unwilling witness to another side of life.
Where children abandon their parents to die in hospices and homes for the elderly. Don’t call them when the city is besieged.
Where parents abandon their children.
Where relatives hate each other.
Where friends betray.
Where people are ready to kill over trivia.
Where neighbors plunder apartments and then lie and complain about life.
Where you are one step away from unbelievable atrocities.
Where dirtbags profit off others’ suffering.
Where the worst nightmares and horrors become a reality that could not otherwise be invented but which already exists.
Where the good side is hidden so deep that you have to shake it, shout at it, to wake it up.

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We don’t see all that. We don’t want to see it and know about it.
We live in a parallel reality.
And I suddenly looked through this rift. And remained transfixed, not knowing where to go.

And yes, I know there are many good people.
Caring, responsive.

Those who aren’t Russian and don’t even know Russian language, but still want to help a diabetic girl save her eyes. Those who put out the fire at neighbor’s house, risking their own lives. Those who wash
the diapers of the dying people at a hospice, even though they are not
related. Those who save the lives of others driving an
ambulance under shelling. Those who drop everything to help others, risking themselves.
Life goes on.
I know.

I see how my posts about pain and horror, the gruesomeness, are ignored by many.
Perhaps that’s the right thing to do. It’s an instinct of self-preservation.

Why let that pain enter your life? What will that pain change?
What will the knowledge of the horrors and the dark side of human nature give you?
Isn’t everything already known and written down?
What’s it for?
What’s in it for me?

I come home, and it’s hard for me to view people as before. Believe in them.
What is man, what is his nature?
Haven’t I spent five years studying that at the university, and then more in graduate school?
Isn’t this a question that everyone is trying to answer?

An abyss has opened before me.
An abyss of fear, pain, and horror.
Should we know of it, if we can’t change anything?
Or can we?
And how?

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