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Summer. War. Childhood.

Apricots are ripening, children are already eating the sweet cherry. The sun gives a nice tan, the sea is so tempting… but there is a war going on.

The war took away childhood, laughter, family at the table and gathering of friends. We have learned to sleep standing up, our children know how to run headlong into the basement and lie down immediately at the sound of rockets whistling.

Summer also means crunchy cucumbers, juicy tomatoes, new potatoes…

And a boy takes a cucumber from the table and rushes to his mother squealing — “a cucumber,” he is shouting, “mom, a real cucumber!!!”

His mom is laughing. “We’ve always planted everything,” he says. “But this year we could not plant a vegetable garden. War. The entire spring took place in the basement. Only preserved food in jars and sometimes potatoes baked on the campfire. And out of our preserves, only pickles managed to survive for the most part. That’s why those pickles started to make me sick eventually. We were also lucky to have drinking water.”

I want to give something tasty to the kids that are so fond of food. So, I look for cookies or candies all around the house. And the child looks at all my movements and waits.

“Why are you leaving so late?” I ask. “I know that your place has not been safe for a long time now. You should’ve left earlier!

“Yeah, we should’ve. But where would we find the transport? There was no Internet, no one to ask for help. I’m with my little son and parents, we couldn’t go on foot. The others were evacuated by car, but there was no time to take us too. And no money to hire someone. But on the other hand, who would agree to risk their lives for money? That’s why we stayed. Then the orcs came to us. They got settled in every yard. They set their own rules. Not only were we not allowed to look at them, but the phone was taken away, and they even broke the typewriter so that I wouldn’t report their positions to our army. Savages. All food was raked together — I did not have access to it. At night, we were closed in the basement. I guess it was done so that I wouldn’t kill them at night. And during the day they could make us cook for them, butcher a pig that they stole somewhere. Once they even forced us to pull a murdered elderly woman out of the debris and bury her. It may not be scary to you. But psychologically, it is so exhausting that I just didn’t want to live anymore. And while I was forced to do something, my child had to stay at home so that I would return. And you know, I was so worried about my son. They are perverts, they are worse than animals. But thank God, apart from mental trauma, they did not hurt us.

That’s how we lived there. Until our boys liberated us. Then the volunteers came and took us out of there. So they made a stop here at your place, the car needs to be repaired, and then they’ll take us somewhere. They say it’s somewhere safe. But we’re fine here with you. We would be happy to stay here.”

A boy with freckles on his nose is playing in the yard. He caught the neighbor’s cat and was telling him how to sit quietly so that the soldiers wouldn’t come. And I look at him, how he’s playing without making a noise, and I realize that not everything is so simple there, in the head of this child. That this fear will be with him for a long time. That I will find bread crumbs under the pillows almost every time after the people will have left.

And in the morning they left. Quietly, so as not to wake up the neighbors who were still sleeping. And the boy gave me a piece of paper torn out in the shape of a heart. “I will come to you,” he said and hugged my legs very tightly.

God, protect this child and his family.

Ukrainian Text by Andrey and Lyudmila Kozubenko, translated into English by Ukrainianvancouver team — Jul 31, 2022

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