I’m leaving the city to go to the west. About seven o’clock in the evening. One for the whole carriage. And a cat. A conductor in the tradition of Verka Serdyuchka, with humor and charisma. The carriage is shining. We talked while the train was standing still about who we are, what we were doing, where I’m going, and about the war.
She enters the compartment. “Let’s have some coffee, shall we? I have some milk still”. I say that it is too late for coffee, then I will not sleep until Ternopil.
“How much of that life do we have? You have an interesting book, you will not open it on vacation anyway, so read it here. Do you want me to wake you up at seven in the morning when we will reach a train stop. You will watch a movie through the window. What have you seen good since February?”
“How much of that life do we have? And what have you seen good since February?”
I go by train to Kyiv, sit down in Svalyava. It’s cold in the compartment, I wear a sweater. The conductor comes in. “How are you? Please show your passport. Got it. Everything is fine”. I ask, “Why is it so cold. It’s blowing so hard my nose is dripping”. She says, “Look, it’s the air conditioner. We were standing and it got very hot. Now we will drive for 15 minutes and I will turn it off and turn on the ventilation. We will go into a tunnel and it stinks there. But if you feel cold even with the ventilation, because it is new and works very well, then speak up, the main thing is not to tolerate it. We cannot tolerate now.” And she left.
I froze for half an hour.
“The main thing is not to tolerate it. We can not tolerate now”.
I stopped at the Goodwine for gingerbread, there are some of these out there, they are made of opium or something, I can not stop eating. I’m staying, waiting for a taxi. Two ladies about 70 years old, beauties, like from Paris. I’m quietly taking pictures of the shoes of one of them, because they are very cool. Two boys are coming, about 7 and 10 years old. Shabby, dirty hands, but dressed normally. I understand that they are not homeless. They approach the ladies.
“Draftee [in russian], give me money for food, 20 or 50 hryvnias”. Ladies, “First of all, it’s ‘good day’, not “Draste”. Where are you from? This is money for beer and cigarettes, isn’t it?”
Boys, “No, no. We’ll take sausages down there and bake potatoes, and take dry Mivina, and we need batteries for the flashlight”
Ladies, “You can speak russian. Where are you from? Ah, I see. Maybe your parents drink? Are you wandering around?”
Boys, “No, no. Mom mopping floors at the hospital. Two days there. Dad is a plumber. But the man in the housing office does not want to take him. He wants him to “share” and give everything away. Dad also makes water barrels. You know, these. The ones under the ceiling. But there is not enough work. Dad drinks beer in the evening. But only one plastic jar. Mum cries. We had 8 cows, rabbits, red ducks, dad welded mini-buses and barrels, and a barrel churn too. And we earn money too. We collect batteries and bottles. There are 7 of us in the apartment. In one. We are two families who fled.”
Ladies, “Are you studying somewhere? School’s coming up.”
Boys, “Yeah. We have one tablet for two. One day Egor is using it, the other day – me”.
Ladies, “You do have a cell phone, do you? No? What’s mom’s number?”
Boys, “What are you going to complain about?”
Ladies, “No, give me the number”.
The boy holds out a piece of paper with a number. The lady dials the number. I don’t hear the whole dialogue, I hear the question, “Where do you work? And where did you work before? An accountant? And what can you do around the house? Do you need a job? Tomorrow my driver will call you and come to meet you, I need an assistant in the house, if everything goes well, the salary is as follows ….” and she gives a number that will solve many issues.
“Children need to study, and you need to stop crying”.
The guys are shocked. I cry into my glasses.
“Children need to study and you need to stop crying.”
“The janitor is in the house. A harsh uncle. Never welcomes you. He’s like a man in his own mind. He often complains about small children and those who signal at the barrier. He doesn’t talk to anyone. Coming from the yard, I see him standing with a mower near the bushes, looking at the grass. He sat down. Walking by, I dared to approach him, because he always says “hello to no one”.
I said: have you lost something? Shall I shine a flashlight?
He says, “No, there is a shell of a small egg. A blue one. Come and have a look. I wonder who grew out of it. I was mowing the yard alone yesterday. There was a wild orchid growing there. I almost cut it off. There are so many beautiful things that we can’t see.” And he turned on the mower. Given the number of words he said, this is a year’s supply of his communication with the world”.
“So many beautiful things that we can’t see.”
I am sitting in a restaurant, waiting for a colleague. At the next table, two handsome men are drinking whiskey.
“Listen, do you go down to the cellar during the air sirens?”
“Yes. Only for the cat.”
“What do you mean? Just for the cat? You have Vika and Anya (As I understood, they are his women), how will they live without you (laughing), and 200 employees.”
“When I imagine that he will be killed and I will be alive, I understand that I will not survive it. Actually, he’s the only one who needs me. You know how he meets me in the evening and never eats until I sit down. And fundamentally, I don’t want anyone else to suffer. Love turned out to be different and in a different way. I realized that I need very little to be happy, I know what I’m going to do when this whole fucking thing is over. No more children will suffer.”
I’m calling the banker. We need to solve three very difficult issues. Everything is solved in 30 minutes, with the connection of all links. They guide every step, we open, close, restore cards, unblock what I messed up, scan something, some codes, verify to three departments… I am shocked that all this can be done in such a short time. I imagined this process, for example, in Germany. I write to everyone, “Thank you very much for your patience and speed”.
I have received three responses: 1. “Thank you, you cheered me up with your jokes”; 2. “We are pleased that you smile”. 3. “Take care of yourself. This is the least you can do.”
I buy coffee in a street cafe. Taking it. The seller gives me the change and asks me to wait. And runs to the corner of his little kitchen. I stay. I see that the change is all here. I wonder what happened. He comes out and gives me something in a napkin.
He says: Here’s a cake for you. Mom baked two big bowls. It’s oatmeal cake. She said to give them to everyone who takes coffee – sweets make us a little happier. We need to smile sometimes now. We are from Volyn. There, laughter is medicine.
I’m crying again. I say – it is not sweets that make us happy, but people like your mother. A big bow to your mother.
“We need to smile now. Here’s a cake”.
And I realized. That among the amount of hatred, anger, despair that we carry in ourselves, see in posts and photos, in comments, all this is the task of that darkness, to deprive us of goodness, love, to flood us with hatred, which will penetrate every part of our heart.
And somewhere, imperceptibly, a huge amount of kindness awakens. Love. Light. And I will look in their direction. This is the only existing path to our new life – now and after…
Let’s take care of that part that should remain free and bright, no matter how difficult it is for us, no matter how much we want them all to die, let’s take care of love for the world, for ourselves, and for each of us. Because the victory of darkness is not in broken houses and ruined lives, but when it makes us like them. Then – they have already won.
I understand how difficult it is, I myself work with it constantly, it piles up so much that I can suffocate. I am in the same information flow as everyone else, even a little closer, because due to my work, I often “see” the dark angel of people’s despair, and I am Ukrainian to the smallest atom, with an excessive sense of justice. I also feel very unbearably painful and helpless. But. These tiny moments heal the terrible wounds of my heart and turn away the darkness. Goodness. Love. Not some kind of transcendental love for everything. But specific phenomena and actions. Look for them. Look out. Keep them. We cannot be turned away.