Original written by Yevdokia “Dunya” Sheremetyeva and published on her littlehirosima blog; translated from Russian by J.Hawk and originally posted at South Front. October 12th, 2015
–We’d like some Spanish literature.
–Something merrier. Do you have Don Quixote?
–For whom are you buying?
–We’re heading for a retirement home. To see an old guy. In the Donbass.
The bookstore suddenly came to life. The staff dropped everything and went off to look for books for us.
We arrived at the retirement home at high speed and with a great deal of noise.
–We’re here to see Yuriy Loginov, please!
I’m walking with a purpose.
The packages I’m holding are so heavy, my hands are barely holding them.
Packages of letters and post-cards from the whole world–Germany, US,
Australia, Turkey, for the elderly and for Yuriy personally. Then there
Zhenya is walking behind me with bags of cookies, candies, and
gingerbread, and is trying to stop my freight train. But it’s no use–the
boiler has been stoked, and steam is coming out of every crack.
The nurse is confused:
–Loginov? I don’t even know where his bed is.
–I know–on the second floor. Take us there. To the left.
Yuriy was holding a book, just like last time.
–We’re here to see you. Remember me?
Yuriy did not react – too astonished.
I sat down on the floor next to his bed and started taking out letters.
Letters written especially for him, after I posted about him.
The whole blanket was covered with post-cards, and we still needed to
find room for all these candies and cookies. And tell him about the
–You read English?
Yuriy, chained to this spot for all eternity, not having any relatives
and living his internal life, simply has dropped out of reality.
–No, but I used to know German pretty well.
–Well, unfortunately, this German woman sent you a letter in English.
–Please translate it. May I have a bun?
Yuriy’s manner of speaking is very cultured and polite. As if he were a university
professor in his office. I’m always embarrassed to use jargon when
speaking with him.
Right there, on the floor, I start to read one letter after another.
My head is spinning. For some reason there are tears in my eyes.
Yuriy began to cry. And I keep on reading.
One card, then another.
Dear God, people, can you imagine what you have done for him with your letters?
Just don’t cry, OK?
–”Yuriy! Write me a letter!) I am leaving a photo for you, and you send me a letter”.
–I have nothing to write on.
But we foresaw everything. We brought notepads and pens with us.
While I was making a mess on the floor, Yuriy’s neighbor rode into the room in his wheelchair.
I’m gesturing to the nurse. She half-whispers…
–It’s Ivan Ivanovich Shargorodskiy.
I’m grabbing Kordula’s post-cards–she’s an awesome woman from Germany
who sent post-cards with chocolates in which she touchingly wrote in
Russian, using an internet translator, about “greetings from Freiburg to
–Ivan Ivanovich, she wrote to you too.
Ivan Ivanovich got a confused look on his face, then softly smiled while
his hands were filled with sweets, which they simply don’t get at the hospice.
I also had a bag of homemade post-cards from the Moscow
Psycho-Neurological Dormitory No. 18. A remarkable girl by the name of
Zhenya Birman gave them to me to pass on to the old folks. They are all
different and signed. Colorful papers, cut-out newspaper articles. You
can see the gaps where cut-outs were re-glued many times, because they
weren’t evenly spaced the first time around. They were made with a
great deal of commitment and love.
When Zhenya was asked about the dormitory, she answered: “A few years
ago we somehow organized ourselves into a group of volunteers to go
there on the weekends and do what we could. Mostly group
activities: art therapy (we draw, sculpt, glue, cut out), literary
circle (we read a poem with them, roleplay, etc.), in the summer we play
various games outside, there are individual activities with those who
can. I, for example, teach one girl math, sometimes we take someone who
is allowed to go outside for a walk. We also provide physical labor to
the institution. We painted fences and benches, planted flowers,
organized a party. The people who live there are adults, 18 years and
older, some have parents or relatives who visit, others are orphans who
spent their entire life in the system. The department has people with
various developmental “particularities.” But not severe cases, they are
all capable of communicating, some of them are genuinely bright, though
their behavior is a bit off because they don’t know any other
life.” There are such amazing volunteers in Moscow, and they got involved in organizing post-cards for the abandoned elderly of the
Donbass. I sent a photo today for Zhenya–she simply answered “Hurrah!
I’ll make copies and bring to my people. How wonderful.” See? “My
people”? It’s Yuriy, Seryozha Kutsenko, they are already “mine.” The
natural cycle of goodness.
And these post-cards made it to the Home for the Elderly in Rovenki.
This is Aleksandr Levenko–he is blind, but understands everything.
I got a cardboard postcard. There are many cut-outs inside. And a huge butterfly glued to the outside.
–Here’s a big butterfly. Can you feel it?
Aleksandr takes it from me while looking through me, and starts feeling it. The butterfly moved its whiskers under his touch.
Aleksandr smiled so broadly that everyone around laughed.
–Here are some candy for you!
He couldn’t even find words. He was flabbergasted.
Here’s another girl, Galya. A journal editor. Lives in Turkey. She
loves the sea and diving. Like me. She found me by the metro with a
package of letters: “pass them on to the old folks.” Galya is a beauty
with three kids–and she wrote touching letters. I vilely read them,
since the envelopes were not sealed. They are simply astounding. All
different, no two alike. All expressing great concern. Each with a soul.
And we delivered all these letters and post-cards. We didn’t do it all
ourselves–there wasn’t enough time, many patients slept when we came, others
were taking their walks. There were many letters. Some were in English
and I had to translate them. Others were emailed, and we printed them
Before leaving the Home for the Elderly, the nurse took me to Zinaida
Andreyevna Antipova’s room. She’s only 69. To be honest, I didn’t even
understand how she ended up there–she’s an energetic and friendly woman.
She could be digging up her garden and feeding her grandkids jam. She
has a son–he’s the one who dropped her off here, and he doesn’t visit.
He simply never shows up. Perhaps he left the region for good…
She’s been at the Home for four years.
After talking to her I was about to leave when a man walked into the room.
I’m thinking–what’s this? Men and women live quite separately from one another here.
While I was thinking, the man walked up to me:
–Dunyechka, you don’t remember me?
Quietly and softly–and fatherly.
Right! The last time he helped us unload the sweets and the diapers.
He remembered not only me, but also my name.
It turned out to be her husband, Nikolay Antipov, 70.
They got to know each other here, at the Home. Got married a year and a half ago. She took his name.
He also has a son. Who also doesn’t remember him.
But now they are together. Just look at them.
–Can I photograph you together?
–Just a second, I’ll comb my hair, wait, Dunyasha! Kolya, take off the bandage!
They got busy. Kolya lovingly says to her:
–Zinochka, you are my most beautiful no matter what!
We were alone in the room. Zhenya and nurse had left.
I held on to the Antipovs, and they held on to me.
–Will you print us a copy of the photo with you?
So I had to make a selfie.
But I don’t know how to make one)
When people do nice things for you, you want to reciprocate. When people
compliment you, you grow wings. When they think of you and give you a
present from their soul, your heart fills with warmth which you wish to
share. And the more caring you share, the more people share it with you, in a cycle. And so on, to infinity.
I am getting banal and boring, but one thing is coming to my mind–one
has to multiply the goodness. Breed it, grow it. You simply can’t
imagine what you’ll receive in return.