My student I. replied by e-mail to my question concerning the final version of the bachelor’s thesis. I have to read the message twice to make sure I fully understand what he writes. “I’m still working on it today and tomorrow to finish the text, but tomorrow evening I’m going to kyiv and I want to try to join the military unit of the Azov regiment there. I don’t know yet whether I will stay in the staff where I will follow the course of the young fighter would do the trick. Such a decision may come as no surprise in times of war, but I would be the last of my trusted male students. I. was almost a child prodigy in his literary studies of history and theory. At the same time, he obtained a three-year degree in psychology in Vienna, is fluent in English, his educational horizon goes from Aristophanes to Slobodan Šnajder, in his bachelor’s thesis he dealt with Julio Cortázar and had the prospect of a scholarship in the United States for his complementary master’s degree. He is a mature man, I have no doubt that his decision was not spontaneous. I tell him that I would love to see such brilliant minds because he is above all reserved for science, but I have a lot of respect for his decision. A short zoom chat later confirms my suspicions that this is a mature idea. However, how he will cope with the reality of his new life remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, “my” O. from Zaporizhia calls. They arrived safe and sound and are looking for accommodation, for the moment they are with friends, the three of them in a small room. They can’t live like this for long, but they’re all happy, especially the son, it’s a familiar domain after all. Her home is only 50 kilometers away – and inaccessible to her. I have to think of well-meaning suggestions, like “an orderly withdrawal from Russian-occupied territories” as a supposed possibility “to end the war.” As if you could really create “ordered” conditions. But apart from that: The individual, personal dimension of such a maneuver is of course not taken into account. What are called and perceived from afar as “territories” or “zones” are for the people concerned their living space, their homeland, their land, the ground under their feet, the graves of their ancestors, their gardens and courtyards where childhood memories hang where their children and grandchildren grew up, where you know every corner, every tree and every neighbor. These are their places of nostalgia. And no, not everyone dreams of starting a new life “in the West”, although for many it is also an option.
An old woman cries and kisses the smuggled drugs
O. writes that the medicines she sent from Chernivtsi finally ended up in Vasylivka. Practically smuggled by someone. “I told my manager, who stayed in town, on the phone what was for whom. They were distributed in secret, otherwise there could be problems. Ukrainian humanitarian aid is strictly prohibited.” O. sends some photos with comments. An old woman who “cried and kissed the medicine”, “a deaf girl who urgently needed new medicine”, a boy with Down’s syndrome, “our handsome man”. Next is a photo with the son and a dog. Rescued dog Druzhok from the rubble is now R’s best friend. We maintain that if she ever needs medicine or money again, she will contact me.
My roommate M. was informed by the pro-rector of a Kyiv university that a children’s home evacuated from the Kyiv region to Lviv needed summer clothes for about 30 children. M. gets in touch with the contact person, after a few hours a list of 24 children’s names arrives with dates of birth and size as well as an estimate. A store would give a five percent discount on each piece. In the digital age, everything goes quickly: I transfer the money from the earmarked donation and two hours later we receive photos. These are teenagers who are visibly happy with the novelties. Beautiful young faces. M. says, which I can’t even think of at first: it must be a special pleasure for them because they were allowed to choose things themselves. A little shopping experience. Otherwise, children in Ukrainian children’s homes are actually deprived of it, even in times of peace.
Read more episodes from this column here.