DREAM 8. HOW WE WENT TO BUY BEER
One morning, right after the formation and the daily nationwide minute of silence, our company commander told me and the alpinist Ruslan to follow him.
The three of us went into the nearest store and the commander ordered:
“Take a bottle of beer each.”
I resisted a little, “I don’t want it, I don’t drink, and it’s early in the morning now.” But the commander insisted. We took three bottles. We go to the checkout. The saleswoman does her job and tells us the price. The commander suddenly turns red with rage and utters his prepared phrase:
“That must be the last time! Selling alcohol to the military and police officers is strictly forbidden!” he stated loudly, highlighting every syllable.
The store employees began to resent the fact that no one had warned them. The commander explained in a calmer tone how it should be, and we went on our way.
In the next store we did the same, and after the commander’s shouting the seller burst into tears:
“But I wanted to give it to you for free. As a thank you for defending us.”
“Don’t you understand that we are people with weapons? We get drunk and start shooting. No alcohol,” the commander insisted.
“It’s just beer, what harm can it do?”
Indeed, what harm can come from a drink that becomes the starting point of alcoholism for most drunkards?
In the third place, after our control purchases and explanations, the employees assured us that they had understood everything and would not make the same mistake. At parting, the commander asked for coffee and a hot dog. The cashier did not hesitate to give him the receipt for the beer, which we had already put back on the shelf, along with the coffee and the hot dog.
They understood nothing.
DREAM 9. FIGHT AGAINST FOOD
The local canteen feeds us extremely deliciously. Three times a day, volunteers prepare quite a lot of delicious and varied food by the sweat of their brows. There is no denying their good intentions and concern for us. For that, I am very grateful to them.
But they are f*cking mad! For lunch, we get half a litre of thick fatty soup, half a kilo of porridge with meat and lard, salad or pickling, bread, pastries, jam, an apple, and tea, certainly with sugar. Overall, we get almost one and a half kilos of food for a single person. For breakfast and supper, they give no less, only without the soup.
At home, we are used to eating 600 grams of food for dinner for three! I’m simply unable to stuff my guts with so much food as they offer me to do in the volunteer canteen.
Since I’ve experienced the Ukrainian 1990s myself, I know a little about the lack of food — I’m used to eating out everything there is on my plate. And for the first few days in the Territorial Defence, I ate everything I was given. Overeating made my stomach hurt, my reflux got worse, I got pimples all over my body, my sleep was ruined, my body quickly became saggy. I was gaining weight quickly.
So I decided to just ask our volunteers to give me half a bucket of food less. The first time went on like this:
“Oh, we didn’t hear, well, let it be like that this time.”
The next time, I asked louder.
“Oh, somehow I forgot, but you eat, eat well.”
Then I asked directly the lady who was putting on a portion. She looked me in the eye, smiled, and poured, as usual, to the very brim of a large salad bowl.
Then I started walking into the dining room with a loud and long, aggressive greeting:
“Good afternoon! I’ll have only a little, please!”
Sometimes they would listen to me and put less food. But that was according to them. In reality, my plate was just as full as the other soldiers’.
It’s kind of absurd. It’s like I’m a teenager again, dreaming in my sleep about my insecurities, where I’m trying to move or talk, but I simply cannot do that. I drown in something thick, progressing very slowly, no matter how much effort I make.
The volunteers look at me, smile, and ignore my requests.
After all, I could not stand it anymore and… No, I did not climb over the counter and strangle one of them with a giant ladle out of powerless rage. I kind of wanted to do that, though. No, I did something scarier: I started to leave half the food on my plate and walk away.
It’s driving me crazy to think that we are wasting food. We are a nation exterminated by the Holodomor and other great famines of the twentieth century. In the memory of our compatriots, whom the katsaps murdered in an absolutely horrific way, we have no moral right to eat irrationally and waste food.
But I cannot constantly overeat, damaging my health because of guilt over destroying entire generations of Ukrainians or the senseless whim of my volunteers, “you eat, eat well”.
Still, I sluggishly remind them that I don’t need that much. And very rarely do they listen to my request. But mostly I just leave half a portion and go with the guilt of a terrible sin.
TO BE CONTINUED…
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Ukrainian Text by Oleksa Melnyk, a volunteer fighter, translated into English by Ukrainianvancouver team — Jun 20, 2022