War through the eyes of a child – interview with a little hero of Pervomaisk


In Russian Spring, January 31, 2016

Translated from Russian by Tom Winter February 3, 2016

This boy in camouflage pants, with blond hair and a very serious face, is busy now. He’s gluing a model airplane at the Center for Children’s Art in Pervomaisk — Pervomaisk the very long-suffering city where there is barely a house not damaged — or worse — by Ukrainian artillery.

The boy is named Vadim. He is an adult, despite his seven and a half years. He shows us his hand-drawn pictures and a huge robot, that he built up with cigarette packages for building blocks. The robot is almost his height.

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And Vadim calmly tells how he waited out the Ukrainian bombardments in a basement.

– Vadim, where are you from? Pervomaisk?
– Yes.
– You’ve been here all the time through the bombing?
– Yes.
– It was terrible?
– Yes.
– You go to school?
– Yes.
– What class? 
– Finished first grade. Going into the second.
– Well done. And how are your studies going?
– Good.
– And did you go away, when they were bombing here last year, in the winter?
– No.
– But how are you here? Who do you live with? With mom and dad?
– With my mom, dad, little brother and my grandmother and grandfather.
– I see. Well, they’ve all stayed alive?
– Well yes. We hid in the basement of the house next door.
– And what’s in there?
– There’s a good cellar. But there where I lived, there is a basement, with bare pipes and rats and all. Very dark.
– Do you live there all the time or do you just hide there when the bombing starts?
– We lived there, but now we’re living at home. But we head for the basement when the bombs are incoming.
– So you still have to take shelter in the basement?
– When the shelling is going on, yes; when not – at home. And so we spent the nights in the basement for nine months. No, twelve — summer, autumn and winter, and a bit more that spring. Mom said that it just about rounded out to 12 whole months.
– So the basement is generally equipped to be liveable?
– Could be. Something hit close by once, practically at the window. Did some damage but we patched it up. But our whole building was bombed. The vegetable garden, our building, the one next door, and then somewhere on the 9th floor two bombs hit. And when one of them hit, the whole basement, was, somehow, trembling.
– The horror! But why don’t your parents get you out of Pervomaisk?
– It would be nice, but there’s no money for it. We have scant money. Just 8 hryvnia and 120 kopecks. That’s it.

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