With a war, one’s relationships get defined. It is expected. In the case of the Mean War, it actually is a clear-cut. The positions and dispositions are very clear here. When so much evil is demonstrated by the side of a brutal and unprovoked aggressor, there is little doubt where moral inclinations of normal people go.
If it goes to the side of the aggressor, it says about the person who is sympathising with evil, everything I need to know about him or her.
I am deeply grateful to the Creator for the grace bestowed upon us, with most of our friends being on the right side. This moral solidarity and understanding gives one strength to live and work in the time when your mind is up round o’clock, when you are permanently nervous waiting for the news, when you are expecting the worst, and when some cherished part of your life has been brutally destroyed, annihilated.
Inna Rogatchi ©. Memory Landscape II. Memory Landscapes. 2020.
This re-defining of relationships is a vast phenomenon of the Mean War, specifically so because the human inter-weaving between people in Russia and Ukraine is massive. But there are also other kinds of this re-defining of relationships that goes rather international. It concerns colleagues and partners in various countries, and it goes from the IT sector to arts, from science and medicine to culture, from space programs to universities worldwide.
As lucky as I consider that my husband and I are with regard to our circle of friends and colleagues with this important regard, important because it defines not only your personal inter-actions, but often what you do, how, and with whom, there happened some exceptions, as well.
Among those exceptions, there is one known enough actor in Russia with whom we worked together and were good friends. He opted for ostrich position, knowing for himself that it is wrong, and pathetically resorting to finding some sort of humour in the things which are happening but absolutely now important. He refuses to bring out the only important theme which overwhelms our all’ lives. He ignores it, instead coming with some very pale effort ‘to keep calm and funny’. He is driven by the fear not to lose his roles in those rubbish ‘historical’ series that Russia produces non-stop, with steady marks of helpless provinciality. And I think he is driven by fear in general, too. Coward in action. It is useless to discuss with this kind of selfish cowards the matter of the life and death of others.
There is also a rather famous writer, granddaughter of a recognised master of literature, with a complicated story of his life in the maze of political loyalties throughout the dramatic early XXth century. She is a good writer, a masterful one. And an absolutely immoral human being. Totally so. Even prevailing the reputation of her twisty grandfather. She is not twisty. To the contrary, she is decisively and organically for herself steady in her tractor-like navigation through the minefield of the current Russia’s public opinion landscape. We became friends in the late 1980s when we both were enjoying the fresh air of the moment, when everything that has been forbidden for our parents during all their life, was permitted to us, and when that huge stiff country opened suddenly. What my former friend writer demonstrates now, in the midst of the Mean War, is extraordinary boorishness of self-acclaimed superiority regarding her country, her nation, her-beloved-self. She is so obvious in her complete inhumanity that it feels as an insult to one’s intelligence to get into any dialogue with this kind of creature. And I do not feel sorry for a moment for off-loading this monstrous character from my circle of people.
Among more serious losses, there is an elderly man, once a legendary Soviet investigator , a rare, honest and professional one, who was instrumental in many difficult, dangerous, unpopular and extremely important cases there, such as discovering incredible swindling inside the top of the Russian Orthodox Church, sheer feudal system with all its crimes that blossomed for decades in Uzbekistan, and many other top cases of the corrupted late Soviet reality. He never was afraid, and his contribution into the positive development of his country is very significant. Now, he stunned me with pedalling the arguments in favour of explaining what he called as “the road to the events today” during the years from 2014 onward, with ‘all those unspoken crimes against the people in Donbass ( under the Russian zone)”. He is not a cowardly actor, he is not a spoiled writer. I have known him for decades as an honest man, professional investigator. What went wrong in his case? As an elderly and not that advanced internet person, he probably fell victim to that mighty Russian propaganda machine. I have no other explanation. I feel sorry to lose that person. A sad example of how blindness makes people stupid, in front of your eyes.
But if it is possible, in the case of those dependable of massive Russian lying propaganda, to find at least very weak, but still reasons for basically good people not to see the Mean War clearly , for what it is, in my opinion, it is simply impossible to give this benefit of slight explanation regarding those in the West who are having all access to the existing mass of information from Ukraine, are eager to pervert the black-in-white picture. Because wars are always in black and white, despite any wishes and efforts to make it grey and deceptive.
First I was stunned to find the fine Italian musician, a very able and well known violinist from Venice, to express her public contempt towards Ukraine and Ukrainian victims of the Mean War. ‘Well, Ukraine is not the only war in the world, you know, – she declares. – What about Yemen?” Yes, exactly, what about Yemen at this very hour?
The other one from Italy, a senior cultural official, allows herself to lament about ‘atrocities from the both sides’, and ‘much fake news about the alleged crimes in Ukraine’, the last argument being too popular in Italy, notably and unfortunately. In the case of this official, her true European Communist essence which was dreaming for years being largely unpopular and counter-productive in her work, now manifests itself in stupid unjust arrogance. I never knew about her political beliefs as we never discussed it. It was irrelevant to our joint projects. Now all those good former projects are in the past, and some new ones in the bin. Neither I, nor none of our organisations would be ever able to cooperate with anyone like this.
Among my writing colleagues in many countries, there is only one case when the person with whom I was previously working , but stopped that cooperation over four years ago, did disgrace herself and her publication by publishing an outright piece of Russian propaganda barely disguised as someone’s ‘opinion’. My personal previous relationships with the editor who oversaw the publication, both professional and personal ones, has pushed me emotionally in this case. I was in torment, protesting vigorously, demanding to take the insulting piece off, successfully. I was deeply taken by this screaming injustice and so blatant manipulation. But then I realise that the experienced editor’s distancing herself from good versus evil, her utter indifference has made me absolutely aloof towards her and her outlet. Media is such a sphere of life that once one shames itself or its media, the damage is hardly cuperable. It also contributes directly to a thing called reputation. Simple.
Against those handful disappointments and a couple of personal losses, which are perfectly bearable, I am so very grateful to those of our friends, and even not that close friends, some acquaintances who did put so much of their own heart into helping the Ukrainian people that their actions, their attitude, their intentions has brought so much of unexpected warmth and goodness into rather bleaky almost 50 days of the Mean War.
There is one Italian well-known journalist who lives with his teenage son, just two of them, not living a luxurious life at all. But they were fighting for the honour to host the family from Ukraine, and when one of the families was allocated to live with them, how much of preparation went on, how nervous both papa and son were to meet the family which fled the war, how happy they both are because of the fact that they are helping those people. I always liked this journalist and his writings, but now I simply adore him as a human being who brings up his son in such a right way.
There are a great couple of our dear friends, also from Rome, the leaders of the large and important national institution there. Not only were they organising the evacuation of the people from Ukraine, but since the beginning of the war, they were heavily involved into the implementation of unique measures of coordination of real actions of acceptance of the refugees from Ukraine by Italian national medical and emergency situations authorities. It is a huge and very uneasy work, and it was done successfully. I feel so grateful and so proud of our dear friends who conceived it, elaborated the entire mechanism, and implemented it.
There are endless cases of the applied compassion towards the people from Ukraine by our friends and colleagues in so many countries, in Finland, Lithuania, Poland, the UK, in the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, in many other countries. Our friends are hosting refugees, organising the aid, contributing. They are not indifferent. They are active and compassionate. They are kind and understanding. They are just and generous. Our friends in and from Russia are strong to stay with their back straight and their position against the Mean War being articulated and clear. We are proud of them.
On the balance, there are incomparably more personal gratifications in the midst of the Mean War for me than sad or outrageous personal losses. I consider myself lucky, indeed.
Day 49: April 13, 2022, Wednesday
AIRPORT IN MY CITY
Inna Rogatchi ©. Memory Awakened I. War Pictures. 2022.
On the first day of the war, our close friend from Ukraine, practically a family member who found herself in another part of the world, called me to say that additionally to all the horror of the war, she is thousands miles from home, without a clear prospect to reach there. I was terrified. She was composed. The first thing we spoke about was the airport in her city which is also my city. The airport was bombed in the first hours of the Mean War, along with 11 more airports of a critical importance in Ukraine.
Almost 50 days, almost two months passed since our conversation on the first day of the Mean War. My friend is not at home yet. She made it halfway, and is in Europe now. At least that.
But a few days ago, after six weeks of total destruction that Russia brought to Ukraine, they have decided to bomb that airport in my city again, to shell it to the ground. And everything that is nearby. Those strategists.
From a prospect of a single human being, what they’ve bombed and destroyed, is a lot, apart of infrastructure. I cannot count how many times we were getting in and out of that very airport in Dnipro, to visit, to spend time in our native place, to say hello and to say goodbye. Goodbye, not farewell. When you frequently, during many years and decades, get to a certain place, the entrance locally marks your belonging, doesn’t it? And when that ‘certain place’ is your native city, that belonging is organic.
Places and people have mutual dependability, I believe. Not to mention our transportation hubs which are filled with our emotions. One’s parents, who are not alive for so many years, went to this place to greet you and to send you off. One’s friends who are so close that they were always there with you upon your arrival and when you were leaving. Years and years of meetings, hugs, departures, kisses, smiles, tears, bits of one’s life. Tiny, special, precious. This is what destruction is about. Not physical buildings, but human emotions and memories connected to it.
Those who are giving the orders and fulfilling them in that totally irrational country are not privy to such sentiments. We are seeing their qualities , human and intellectual ones, and their skills, military and diplomatic ones in all the shine of their deadly mediocrity. In their stunning stupidity, they would never get that their brutal destruction evokes the best in people whom they attack. It evokes true patriotism, true stoicism, true intention to help the people next to you by anything you can. This war is lost because it is inhuman. It was lost even before it started. Because moral dwarfs never win wars.
The landscape which one could see from a plane’s window approaching my city is not extraordinary. There are vast fields and many farms around. As far as it stays in my mind, there is also a lot of sun in the area, most of the year. Human mind is not a fast machine, sometimes. It struggles with facts, at moments like that. It will take some time before it would seem natural for me that we won’t be able to come to my city by air. Previously unremarkable landscape, sunny and calm, as if fixed in the air, as it is in my memory. It is a soothing image, and now a symbol of comfort and warmth. This is something that no putins, nor armies of putinoids are able to destroy.
Day 48: April 12, 2022, Tuesday
GHETTO TODAY. RUSSIA’S MADE
It is bordering on impossible. Completely impossible. But we saw it with our own eyes, the place, the people, all in detail.
Facts only: there is a small village about a hundred kilometres from Kyiv, called Yahidne, Berries-place if translated. It is a small place, 0,3 square kilometres only, and people live there compactly. 399 of them, this is the number of Yahidne’s residents. Or it was.
When ‘the liberators’ came to the village, it was easy for them to collect all its residents, 360 people at the same place. Handy. After the three days of the presence in Yahidne, ‘the liberators’ ordered all residents in the school’s basement. Elderly, young, small, babies, everyone. There were about 50 children there, including babies of a month and six weeks old.
They all were living sitting, and some standing. There was from 0,5 to 1,5, metres of living space per person. I saw it on the screen.
There was no electricity, no light, no ventilation. There were no toilets. People were using baskets for the purposes.
I saw a decent 60-year old man who said that for 25 nights he was sleeping standing next to the Swedish wall in the basement, tightening himself to the wall by his own scarf, blue & yellow, as it happened. The man tried to contain himself while telling about his and his people’s ordeal to the Western media.
Because of this round-o’clock sitting, many people suffered serious swelling, to the dangerous degree. Their ration was controlled all the time.
Elderly people started to lose their mind first, and to die next. Twelve people died during those 25 days of ordeal. First the people in the basement could not bury them. They were not allowed to do it. So children had to live next to the corpses for days.
While those savages kept 360 people in the cramped conditions round o’clock, ‘the liberators’ enjoyed a massive, total loot of the village. As we know by now, it is their main activities in Ukraine, apart of murder.
All this was happening for about a month, for 25 days and nights.
What does it remind you of? I research the Holocaust and post-Holocaust for over thirty years. My reaction was immediate: we saw the ghetto in front of us, in all and every way. To put people together in impossible living conditions, to ration them in food, drink, medicine and everything else, to deprive them from light, electricity, fresh air and normal breathing. As if by the Holocaust text-book, in its ghetto part.
What had to happen to human beings in Russia to make them anti-human? To make their army the gang? We all are seeing the results of that process which was overseen both inside and outside of Russia.
Yahidne was a lovely village. People from Chernihiv, which is nearby, loved to come there for their summer vacations. Now this place would be known as one of the ghettos of the XXI century , imposed by Russia in Ukraine.
As for my part, I still need some time to absorb everything which unfolds daily in the Mean War. To understand that this is for real. That all these screaming war crimes are allowed to happen. And to go on. The continuation of the daily horror in Ukraine is the worst part of the Mean War.
Day 47: April 11, 2022, Monday
ELENA OSIPOVA, The HONORARY CITIZEN OF MILAN
Artist Yelena Osipova at her vernissage in St Petersburg, April 2021. Photo © MK7, St Petersburg.
On April 7th, 2022, at its meeting, the City Council of Milan unanimously voted to recognize Mrs Yelena Osipova, the Russian citizen and native of St Petersburg, as an Honourable Citizen of the City of Milan.
I wrote about this very special woman in the first days of the Mean War, on Day 8th, March 3d, 2022, when she, 77-year old artist, survivor of the Siege of Leningrad, bravely went with herself-drawn large posters to protest the Mean War in the St Petersburg down-town.
Mrs Osipova was arrested promptly, then released. After which, the inhabitants of St Petersburg are seeing her regularly with new war-protesting large posters which she creates and carries on to her individual protests. These posters are confiscated by the police every single time, but a 77-year artist draws them anew. And goes to her protests in the most visible places of St Petersburg regularly, all this period of the shameful Mean War.
As stated in the decision of the City Council of Milan, “the conferral of honorary citizenship on Yelena Osipova represents a strong sign of solidarity and closeness of the City of Milan to a woman who is a symbol of Russian citizens who are fighting against the war in Ukraine for peace”.
Intelligent, thoughtful representative of the best part of the Russian intelligentsia, Mrs Osipova might be glad to learn that in the whole modern history of Milan, she is only 12th personality on whom this honour has been bestowed, at least during the past 50 years. Among that noble dozen of people from all around the world, there are Charlie Chaplin who was proclaimed the Honorary Citizen of Milan in 1972, the Czech leader Alexander Dubcek who resisted the Soviet invasion to Prague ( he was made a honorary citizen in 1988), Dalai Lama who has become a honorary Milanese as recently, as in 2016. But most of all, the heart of the 77-year old artist who is known for many people in St Petersburg as ‘our conscience’, would resonate with the fact that another Russian person who is recognised as a Honorary Citizen of Milan is Academician Andrey Sakharov who had received the honour back in 1980. I knew Sakharov’s wife and widow late Elena Bonner quite well, and I can tell that from the prospect of honesty, devotion, decency and that incredible quiet courage, the parallel between two Russian Honorary citizens of Milan, Academician Andrey Sakharov and artist Yelena Osipova is absolutely justified. I am very glad that the Council of the City of Milan conceived the idea and voted for that, recognising the power of human decency and courage exemplified in the 77-year old woman from St Petersburg. Vivat, dear Mrs Yelena. We love you. April 7th is my birthday. This year, the decision by the City Council of Milan was the best birthday present I’ve got.
Day 46: April 10, 2022, Sunday
TARGET: CIVILIANS AT THE RAILWAY STATION. KRAMATORSK.
So, there is an overcrowded railway station in Kramatorsk in Ukraine, a very important industrial centre, with 150 000 population, 30% of which are Russian-speaking. The city itself is 250 – 300 km from the Russian border, in different directions.
On that April morning of April 8th, 2022, four thousand people gathered there, refugees. People were prompted by the local administration to leave immediately, due to the imminent danger of ‘the liberators’ attack on the Luhansk region.
At 7.30 in the morning, those four thousand civilians, with many children among them, were hit by the Russian missile attack. The interception of the Russian army internal exchange tells how satisfied they were about the precision of the strike. “Tochnoje popadanie, the hit is precise in Russian, is heard clearly.
So they are satisfied, on their own record, for hitting the condensed gathering of several thousands of civilians who were in the process of evacuation. Their hit resulted with 52 dead people, seven of whom were children, and over 300 wounded.
In the horror after the morning strike in Kramatorsk, up to 40 local doctors were operating on those who were wounded in the Russian premeditated strike. The tough female surgeon, absorbed in her non-stop work, could not speak on the TV camera. ‘As far as I am focused on my work, I am OK, – she explained, trying to control her sobs. – Otherwise, I am not, sorry’.
We should stop to ask ourselves: who should be a person who gives and those who carry on such anti-human orders? We know who they are, we are seeing them in action daily. Savages who act consciously, and according to their plan, causing as much damage, pain and horror as they could. In their world, it is stimulating development, to cause damage and horror, to kneel and to frighten. To annihilate. We do know whom they belong to, to which forces. They are proud to belong to the forces of evil? No surprise on that. We should be proud to keep them as far from the human world as possible, in contempt, weakened, and defeated. It is not only about Kramators, Bucha, Borodjanka, Mariupol and many other places in Ukraine where those savage ‘liberators’ brought unspeakable horror and committed numerous war crimes. It is about us, all of us. Everyone of us. It is about good against evil. The endless story. And now it is our turn to defend decency against barbarians of our days .
Missile attacks. Two missiles. For Children, customary slogan of the savages.
Day 45: April 9, 2022, Saturday
CANNED FOOD FLOWERS ON THE GRAVE
Ukrainian boy visiting the grave of his mother, with canned food instead of flowers. Europe, 2022.
There is another chilling photo from Ukraine, from tortured Bucha. A six-year old boy visits the grave of his mom who is buried just next to their home in once idyllic Kyiv suburb. I saw the pictures of Bucha before the Mean War. Lovely place. It was. Nice, nit, appealing.
We all saw what it has become after the savages’ crimes there. Those who are lucky to have their own graves are buried in courtyards. And now we see the visitors to those graves. As that six-year old boy who comes alone to visit the grave of his mom. He brings his flowers to the grave, which are cans of preserves. Two cans and a small package of apple juice which he most likely got from the official delegations’ visits to Bucha after the massacre.
Do you know why this boy brought these ‘flowers’ to his mom’s grave? Because she died of hunger. In the centre of Europe, in the XXI century.
I am repeatedly self-protesting because of ongoing usage of this ‘centre-of-Europe-XXI-century’ mantra, but at the same time, I know that we must to repeat it, day and night, until the meaning of it, the screaming meaning of it, would be comprehended to the point of adequate reaction which will efficiently refute the Mean War and those who conduct it.
Looking at those canned flowers on the grave in a courtyard, brought by a six-year child to his mom, to whom, in her grave, he gave his own small package of apple juice, I wonder: what for we needed the previous twenty centuries, really? What for?..
Day 44: April 8, 2022, Friday
SILENT PEOPLE. SILENT CHILDREN
Inna Rogatchi ©. Dialogue. War Pictures. Ukraine. 2022.
We expect children to be talkative, funny, chirping, laughing. Childhood is associated with sound. Well, not anymore as a general phenomena. Because, a new phenomena appeared as a result of the Mean War. Silent children. It is almost impossible to bear. Just yesterday, a photo of an incredibly sad boy, of approximately 7 years old was posted on social media, with a devastating simple note: ‘Please, this boy was found ( near Zaporizhzhya). He does not speak. At all. Please, perhaps somebody knows him to tell us anything about him’. A little boy’s eyes are fixed and down. Does not matter what we do, around and in connection with him, and in general too, he lives in his own world, being absorbed by what he saw and went through.
We do not know his name, his age, his address. People who are with him now, and who very kindly care about him do not know anything about his family and where they live. The boy was just found.
The same happened a week ago in Switzerland, in a village between Bern and Zurich where locals, being moved by the efforts of the woman who lives there and who is originally from Ukraine, have opened their homes to some of the refugees. Some of them were seriously traumatised, I was told by a friend who lives in Switzerland. There are two teenage girls who both were raped by ‘the liberators’ , and who does not eat, does not speak, and does not interact with anyone around them in that nice Swiss village. ‘People’s hearts are broken over those two girls who are living here being virtually a shadow. It is extremely difficult to see something like that. The girls do not react even to professional psychologists who are trying to work with them. They are living somewhere else” – my friend mentioned painfully. “ Or not living”, – I said.
My husband was told by our close friends in Dnipro, Ukraine about masses of the people from Donbass region who managed to get to Dnipro as the place of evacuation from the front-line. Our friends are in charge of organising the relief for those people. They are working 24/7. “We have noticed deafening silence among those people who came ( here). They all are so impossibly silent. Men, women, children, elderly, of any age. They do not demand a thing, not even asking for anything. They come and go, appear and disappear, all in this marked silence. It is heart-breakening, I have to tell you’ – our experienced and tough friend told Michael.
There are so many silent people now around us. Silenced by their sorrow. Silenced by their grief. Silences by their horror. The screaming silence of the Mean War.
Day 43: April 7, 2022, Thursday
A BOY IN A RED COAT
Three weeks ago, on March 15th, 2022, the photo of this lovely boy appeared on social media. Friends of his parents tried to reach out in an effort to find Sacha Zdanovich, 4 years old. I wrote about Sacha too, on March 22nd, 2022, when covering the phenomena of the Lost Children in the Mean War.
‘The boy is dressed as in this photo’, it was written. He is in a red coat, perhaps, somebody did see him. His coat is so bright.
Sacha’s coat was bright. It is not anymore. Not after his family madly looked for him all this time. Sacha’s red coat’s colour waded in the cold water in which the body of this beautiful little boy was drowned and stayed there for a month or so.
Sacha’s grandma, 60-years old, was drowned together with the boy and their two dogs when a water vehicle in which the civilian refugees were trying to escape from Kyiv via the waters of the huge Kyiv reservoir, was hit by ‘the liberators’ fire, and the vehicle capsided. Grandma covered little Sacha by her body when the fire started, as did so many parents and grandparents during this Mean War.
The body of Sacha’s grandmother was found a week or so after the fatal attack, on March 11th, but the little boy in a bright red coat was not to be found anywhere all this time. Until yesterday.
These tragic red coats of children in various wars. It gets into our consciousness to stay there.
But little Sacha Zdanovich had big eyes, and such pleasant features of his nice face of just a four-year old child whose life was brutally, senselessly taken from him by savages who are let to murder children, elderly and civilians for over six weeks by now. Incomprehensible.