DREAM 2. GET AT THE READY
Immediately after the shelling, we began to prepare for the worst — for the lack of electricity and heat. Stock up on food and water put a bug-out bag, and think about evacuation. Of course, this should have been done the day before, when putin was concentrating troops on our border. But we didn’t believe it could happen.
In the grocery store on the morning of the 24th, it was calm, although there were more people and fewer goods. However, I easily bought food for a week and didn’t even wait in line for long.
After that, the three of us took our beagle-girl Pinta for a walk and at the same time scouted the nearest bomb shelters near our home. Along the way, I instructed Dolia on her actions in case of various threats. We learned where to hide during shooting and shelling. Her moderate zeal and willingness to learn were reassuring.
We kept a schedule, ate rationally, and took care of each other. All these actions, and especially articulating them and drawing up a plan, created the illusion that we are in control of the situation, that our fate is in our hands.
After lunch on the third day, the friends of my friends from Kyiv called. IT specialists Vova, Vania, and Maria. They were being relocated abroad when Ukraine declared martial law. Men were no longer allowed to cross the border, so they were looking for a place to stay. That’s how they became refugees.
While we were waiting for the arrival of our guests, we began to carefully clean the house. This was another way to calm down and restore the order of our lives. It always helps. It helped that time too.
Funny, but since Natalia and I opened the UA Comix Kolomyia comic book store in Kolomyia, we haven’t had the time to clean our house properly. And now a full-scale war was to happen so that we would have a technical day off for cleaning.
The guests arrived.
“Hello, thank you for accepting us,” said Vova in russian. I met him at the b-d party of my friend and colleague Oleksandr Chernov.
“Don’t consider me a russophobe, but you’d better use Ukrainian now because the locals might not understand you,” I said.
We got along well together. Vania loves dogs, so he took it upon himself to help walk Pinta. Maria, despite her thin body type, eats a lot and therefore cooks well and deliciously. And Vova volunteered to give Dolia English lessons.
We went shopping again. We bought some warm clothes for staying in the shelter. And late in the evening or at night we visited it for the first time to the sound of an air raid alarm. This first time was the scariest. We were worrying too much. And our guests from the capital have already heard enough of it.
“I’m scared, I’m scared, I’m scared,” Dolia repeated softly as she was feverishly dressed up, and we were grabbing warm clothes and running out to the nearest shelter.
We and the other people there were also scared.
DREAM 3. TO BE USEFUL
Life in our house was settled down. During the night, someone was always on duty so that we did not oversleep the sirens. And at 5 in the morning, my shift started because I would get up at 5 even before the new invasion.
Breakfast, walk with Pinta, a lot of news about the horrors of war, a little communication, inventing activities for Dolia, cooking food, and dreaming again in my sleep that was interrupted by sirens. And again and again.
About a week after the hit, I began to feel remorse. Everything is moving, Ukraine is being destroyed, torn apart, and I am hiding in Kolomyia. I wanted to be useful.
To begin with, I decided to tie up loose ends at work and pay the bills. I read my lines for the Ukrainian localization of a dystopian movie Kimi. I finished my voice-over of the latest fairy tales from the Star Pirates book by Oleksandr Malyi and gave it to our editor Taisa Parashchuk from the project called Audio fairy tales in Ukrainian. And at the same time, I sent these audio fairy tales to my daughter in the messenger. She loves this author and my reading terribly. I believe that I will listen to Star Pirates in our most fabulous app [an app, designed for the Audio fairy tales in Ukrainian project — Ed.].
I used to feel anxious when I went on a business trip. For me, leaving home is a small death. Therefore, for an easier parting with my family and our cozy nest, I would always complete something. I closed projects, finished reading books, finished video games, or watched the final episode of some series.
Now I felt something similar, but stronger. It was scary to think that my life would end, and I hadn’t done so many things. Fuck, I spent a year trying to get a three-phase power line into the apartment. And now it can already be installed, just the ground loop needed, and I or our apartment can be gone now, and all this would’ve been in vain. All our lives would’ve been in vain.
These worries did not allow me to sit still. So we opened the comic bookshop again and saw the demand. Customers and players of the board game club came to us. But I wasn’t satisfied.
I went to ask to join the volunteer movement. I myself have no idea how to get the necessary supplies and carry them, so I wanted to offer at least my own physical labor. Carry, fold, and make something. But there were already volunteers everywhere, and my help turned out to be superfluous.
During one of the air raid sirens spent in the shelter, I met Oleh Tokarchuk, the city council deputy I knew. He volunteers a lot, and now he’s been conducting pre-medical care courses.
“Listen, do you have a job for me?” I asked hopefully.
“Let me see… what can you do?” Oleh asked quite seriously.
“I’m a voice-over actor,” I said, realizing the absurdity of my profession right now.
Oleh forgot me and didn’t look for me afterward. I also tried to make an announcement that I would do a voice-over of anything for the needs of our resistance for free. I even read a few texts for Ukrainian propaganda. But all this seemed ridiculous to me.
In addition, there were calls from all sides to take up arms for all men. For some reason, women were not called up. So I tried to enlist in the ranks of the Territorial Defense. I had to go for several days to a meeting near the military enlistment office and return home afterward. But one morning I got a call, and here I am. I haven’t been home for weeks. I serve the people of Ukraine.
Ironically, my desire to be useful led me to stop being useful to my family. While I’m in the barracks, learning how to handle weapons and perform combat missions, Natalia is far away with Dolia and without my help.
“You’re a piece of shit dressed in uniform 🤢,” my daughter wrote to me in the messenger when I once again remotely wished her a good night and sent my photo in uniform. “I hate you,” she added.
Natalia said that during the few days of my absence, Dolia began to worry and be offended that I left her. She said that I was the only one who understood her and spent time with her (and this is not the case in reality). So at first, she ignored me, and then she started writing insults.
I complained to Natalia that it seemed I was hiding in the deep rear of the barracks from real responsibility.
“A lot of people go working and volunteering, and you’re the only one hiding,” my wife objected to me sarcastically. “Funny, but it’s too late. I didn’t think it would be so hard.”
It was her “funny” that hurt me. Although we discussed my decision to go to the Territorial Defense troop and her ability to cope on her own, it seemed from her words that only I was responsible for making a “funny” decision. And it was hard only for Natalia, while I was relaxing on a vacation.
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Ukrainian Text by Oleksa Melnyk, a volunteer fighter, translated into English by Ukrainianvancouver team — Jun 16, 2022