A boy was jumping on the road, glancing curiously at the adults. His tender blue eyes that looked like a clear sky had no anger or distrust toward the strangers. Even though they could’ve been full of it. But he was only five years old, and he didn’t have hatred toward the world yet.
“Have you been here during the whole occupation?” Bodia asked an elderly woman, who was with the boy.
“Well, yes. Here, the entire time.” She answered.
“What is your name?” Bodia asked the boy.
The boy tenderly held a colorful package, that he’s just gotten from volunteers. He was smiling.
“Please, find our daddy and grandpa. They were taken a month ago. We don’t know where they are.” Artem’s granny looked into the camera imploringly.
“Russians took them?”
“What are their names?”
“My dad’s Nikita, and my grandpa’s name is Sasha.”
“I told him to hide the gun properly. He didn’t listen to me. So the military found it and took away daddy and grandpa.” Artem interfered in the adults’ conversation. Granny hushed him.
I told Bodia that probably those two men had been shot. They were civilians, there was no information about them for an entire month, little hope they could be still alive…
But yesterday I saw a BBC article called “How I returned from a Russian prison without toes”. The headline stroked me. I opened it and read another appalling story. It was about torture. Civilians from the village of Andriivka near Kyiv, including Nikita and his stepfather Sasha, after being beaten were forced to lie for hours in the field on the frozen earth. Then they were put on the helicopter and carried away. Only later do they find out they were in Kursk, Russia. For weeks, the young man watched his toes turning black. It was bad. After all, even the Russians realized that a doctor was needed. The doctor amputated all toes on both legs. That man’s name was Nikita. And his son Artem was waiting for him at home. The man returned to Ukraine as an exchanged prisoner. The stepfather’s name was Sasha. And they were all from Andriivka.
I’ve read it. And I recalled the boy that Bodia met in Andriivka on April 6. And the boy’s grandmother with her “Please, find our daddy and grandpa.” And the puzzle was completed — the man with amputated toes is the father of Artem. That very boy with tender blue eyes.
But even still, I don’t know what this story is about. Is it about atrocity? Or is it about the need to keep the faith until the end?
Ukrainian Text by Khrystyna Kotsira, translated into English by Ukrainianvancouver team — Jun 14, 2022