There are events that split our life in half, brutally ruining the world that you have carefully been building for many decades. This war ruined the largest part of what I have been breathing for all these years of the third millennium. All sense is gone now. There is only an inconsolable living left; an imitation of existence with the sole desire unquenched: to kill the enemy, to exterminate them like Devil’s spawn, like the Universal Evil that by no means should be left unpunished; or rather, not a bit of it should be left at all.
Time and again, my memories take me back to that sunny day on October 14, 2000—the Pokrova (1)—when God gave me a son. That was you, whom I named Theodor. From the very moment we met, I was overwhelmed with the utmost delight of motherhood. I would cover your little rosy feet in kisses, I would dandle you, and sing to you; I would relish every bit of those bonds only a mother and a child could develop.
And so, days and years started rolling by like film. Your first steps, first words, first Christmas carol. I recall how your elder brother Adam and you learned those carols to spread the Good News on Christmas Eve and also add something to your pocket money.
Later on, Adam and his friend joined a karate school, and you started attending classes together. You were the youngest of the group, but wouldn’t allow those 3 or 4 years of difference to put you at a disadvantage to the rest.
As a child, you were strong, well-balanced, calm, and composed. Your teacher thought of you as of the student with the rich worldview and original mind. You had a plethora of hobbies: playing the piano and guitar, performing on stage! You also painted pictures and tried your hand at poetry.
You appeared on stage in a play titled Almost Hohol’, Almost Viy by the From Street to Stage theatre. However, when someone offered you a job as a male model, you refused, full of indignation. Such a sweet, amusing boy you were.
The last out-take in this colour film of ours is your birthday on October 14, 2021. We spent it together, just the two of us. Taking a walk in the city, going to a shopping mall to buy your favourite brand of jeans, dining in a café afterwards. Talking of just about every thing in the world, and laughing, laughing…
A few days after that, you enlisted in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and you were so proud and elated to have passed the navy aptitude test. We had a very hasty goodbye moment; a brief hug. In the following days, you wrote to me that everything was fine; that you made some true friends, your brothers in arms; that you often thought of home. You came back on New Year’s Eve just for a day, to celebrate the coming of 2022 together with your sweetheart Yulia; I was abroad at the time. In February, you told Yulia to come see you no later than the 18th or 19th because a war would break out at the next weekend, you claimed. You shared with me a few photos of your sweetheart and you, telling me about how beautiful your girlfriend was—my future daughter-in-law.
At 5:00 a.m. on February 24, all forces were put on combat alert. You immediately called and asked me to give you blessings before going to a war. Half-awake, I couldn’t grasp just how serious it was. I only told you to let Jesus go before you wherever you were and follow in His steps. I recited an Akathist Hymn and the psalter to strengthen myself with divine reassurance that I would continue receiving a 4.5.0 (1) from you every single morning. And that worked. For twenty three days of war, that is. During that time, we stopped our phone conversations and only used Viber and Telegram chats. As war news was getting grimmer, the colours of life faded; yet we went on exchanging our brief text messages. Here are your war messages, my dear son Theodor.
“Glory to Ukraine, Mom! They go on the offensive, attacking us from multiple directions.”
“All will be fine, Mom. I called Friar Pio and got his blessing, the whole monastery is praying for us now. (It was the Basilian monastery in Kherson, the one Theodor used to visit for Christian camps at the island of Dzharylhach.)
“We won Mykolaiv back for now. But I won’t go AWOL no matter what—marines fight to the last soldier.”
“4.5.0., the city’s under control.”
“Still holding the line.”
“They are demoralized.”
“4.5.0., some of them surrender.”
“A few hours of calm.”
“All plays out to our benefit.”
“There will be riots in russia, they’ll wake up.”
“4.5.0., reading the news with great joy.
“The homeless in Lviv help gather bottles for Bandera smoothie, lol!”
“It’s all so much for real, Mom!”
“Today was our turn to shell them.”
“4.5.0., all’s well, Mom! Glory to Ukraine!”
“All’s well and quiet, I’m a fine feather.”
“4.5.0., Ukraine is transitioning from defence to counterattack.”
“Hi, Mom. Get this: there was a column of 50 tanks approaching yesterday, but they all ran away. Also, we saw a chopper landing, and as we were preparing a warm welcome, they started to wave, signalling to us not to shoot. They threw down their armour and weapons, landed almost naked, and then scattered in all directions.”
“4.5.0., they’re running from Crimea, everybody’s aware of what’s going on. Four battlecruisers are dawdling near Odessa, afraid to come closer.”
“Mom, Ukraine is now famous in the whole world!”
“We’re now in the money, we’ll join EU! And NATO, too!”
“It’s a thorny path. But we’ve proven our worth!”
“I am proud to be part of the best army in the world!”
“4.5.0., Glory to the heroes! I’m OK, feel fine. I’ve gotten used to all this, that’s our fate.”
“Mom, they’re shelling us with Grads. I’m safe, I’m not hurt. The grid is down, we’ve got no network. But I’m alive, Mom.”
“4.5.0. The tamada is great, fireworks interesting (2). They didn’t take the city. We won’t let them.”
“I love you, Mom. Take care.”
“4.5.0.” That is your last message dated 1:42 a.m., March, 18.
On the day before that, at 10:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 17, I was worried sick. I called you, and I was able to hear your voice. We were talking for quite a while, a whole of 15 minutes. I was delirious with joy when I heard you talking—you, whom I missed so dearly. There was not a modicum of uneasiness, fear, or hesitancy in your voice; only peace, quiet, and iron self-control. I was so unspeakably delighted just to be able to chat with you!
You took watch at 4:00 in the morning together with your battle brother Tymur. At 5:09, the military base in Mykolaiv suffered a direct rocket hit. That is how your innocent soul, my sweet lovely son, got taken to the eternal home. I didn’t learn about that at once; I had to stay on pins and needles for five days while they were sifting through the remains of those barracks. It was only on March 23, on my Angel’s Day, that my son Adam called me, saying: “Mother, Theodor has gone to a better place now.”
My sweet son Theodor, now you are lying in a mere 15-minute walk from our house, on the Glory Alley, near the obelisk of St. Michael the Taxiarch who guards the eternal sleep of Ukraine’s fallen sons at Lychakiv Cemetery. I wanted to bury you in your birthplace, in our home region in the Kropyvnytskyi land, where my mother’s family is laid to rest. But the lady from the Ministry of Defense told me that your weren’t just my son anymore. “He’s Ukraine’s glorious son. And he should be with the rest of our heroes.”
Easter is just around the corner. I realize I have to learn to live without you. To keep doing something for Ukraine, a land you loved so much. And I will. I will be a warrior on my own frontline—my son, you can rest assured that even after your death, there is someone left to love and defend Ukraine. Still. Should I be able to kill a thousand of those monsters, my open wound won’t be healed. Even that wouldn’t right the wrong that is the murder of Bucha and Mariupol’s children; their deaths hurt me as much as yours.
I am not afraid of dying anymore. I don’t know when I’ll meet my death, but I know of the place you are residing now—it’s a place of light and happiness. I ought to try and make sure my earthly journey will also lead me there where I will finally be able to hug and kiss you, my sweet son, my dear defender of our homeland of Ukraine.
(1) The Intercension of Theotokos Day.
(2) “all is fine” (a code used by the Ukrainian military)
(3) a reference to the wedding-related meme popular on the Russian internet.
Read the original text here
Ukrainian Text by Halyna Osadcha. Translated into English by Ukrainianvancouver team – Apr 21, 2022