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If anything happens to me...

They lived in a three-room apartment at the railway station and did not believe in any war. They were raising their two sons. One of them used to work as a doctor and would spend a part of his salary to buy his mother flowers every month; the second one, a fifth-grader, loved math. They were living a harmonious life. Getting ready for spring gardening, thoroughly picking up sweetcorn seeds at the market. Looking forward to May and the jazz festival.

That morning, a phone call got Lena (name changed) to wake up. Her husband went out into the corridor and briefly answered: "Yes, got it, yes". Upon hearing the unbearable "war", she sat bolt upright in her bed and fainted.

Then packing up her suitcase. Later she discovered perfumes, powder, lipstick in it -- but not a single pair of underwear. The decision not to flee from her city and several agonizing weeks in the basement with incessant rumbling. The ripple would pass through the walls, and they would turn into jelly. In the air raids, the people as if by silent mutual consent would kneel down to the ground and pray. Both old-time believers and those newcomers to the religion. There were a constant threat of bomb splinters. It always felt as if an enormous empty bucket had been hitting the concrete floor of the basement.

They came to the decision to leave the city when a shell hit the neighboring house. They instantly got into their car and hit the road across the open country. Entirely on their own -- not in the humanitarian corridor, overcrowded with cars. Leaving the city, Lena cast a glance back. The city behind them was gray-haired because of fumes and dust.

After a while, long roads washed in tears of refugees came into sight. Popovychi, Przemyśl, Warsaw. Deeply impressed with the Polish hospitality -- but her soul was with her husband and her older son, in Chernihiv. It was in Chernihiv that she fell in love, got married and became a mother of two. She would take her first-grader Stepashka to school and bake berry cakes. It is in Chernihiv where "The Tale of Prince Ihor's Campaign" was written, and where her grandfathers are buried, gray-haired witnesses to three wars. Here is her sky, the sun, and the ancestors.

There was a family living next to Lena: a blind man and a woman with a heart condition. Elderly, modest, and quiet. One day, the housewife went out to buy some bread and never came back. The blind was looking for her everywhere, helplessly stumbling over slippers. Then he was desperately waiting for her at the window. A notice on the table read:

Honey, if anything happens to me, remember, I loved you dearly”.

In mid-March, Anna and Volodymyr were passing by the regional clinic for children holding hands. A large crowd of people gathered. The pregnant, the elderly, the young willing to donate their blood. Grad rocket systems re-attacked at the very same minute, and the people crumpled to the ground. Volodymyr did the same, holding his wife's hand all the time. When the last shell blew and silence hang, he raised his head, struck with terror. War-torn people and war-torn soil all around. At first glance, Anna seemed safe and sound, but was slow to get up. The blood was disturbingly trickling down from her mouth.

The man was carrying the woman in his hands and screaming his head off. His love was surprisingly heavy, her body still warm but already lifeless.

Chernihiv's residents would fall victims to shooting while they were queuing up for bread, water, and meds. They would be buried in plastic bags, denied decent burial rituals.

The city is continuously being deprived of its memory, its history, and its sacred places. They're turning it into something faceless, motionless, trying to wipe it off the ground. The way the Mongol-Tatar horde did in the 12th century. The way the Russian horde is doing now…

Ukrainian Text by Yryna Hovoruxa, translated into English by Ukrainianvancouver team – 19 Apr, 2022

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