Original by Yevdokia “Dunya” Sheremetyeva published on littlehirosima blog; translated from Russian by J.Hawk
This is Uglegorsk. Right next to Debaltsevo and Gorlovka.
Only six kilometers from the border with the “ukrops” [slang term for “Ukrainian” which literally means “dill”]–that the only word the locals use for them.
We hear incoming every 5-10 minutes, then heavy “whomps.” Heavy artillery.
I shudder every time because I got unused to it. It’s been quiet in Lugansk for a long time now.
The watchman at the School No. 42 distractedly drops his hand.
–They shell all the time. Maybe it’s not exercises. Who knows.We slowly go up the stairs.
–The physics classroom…Or used to be…
A huge hole in the floor. From a direct hit.
There’s still writing on the blackboard.
The cupboards are full of textbooks and tools. For physics.
A thick layer of dust on chairs and desks.
I see a face in my head–my daughter goes to school.
She’s too young for physics. She’s little.
But I meet her every day at the door…
–Many direct hits?
I ask a senseless question.
And I get an equally senseless answer.
–Try counting them. There are many.
This is the second floor. There is a poster on the wall on electromagnetic waves.
Textbooks mixed up with bricks and broken glass. Rubble.
–This is the math classroom. See the hole? The shell went right through.
Not a single intact window in the whole building.
Only naked holes. Or frames with shattered remnants of windows.
Some were shattered by the shells, others by the blast.
–And what’s this?
I point at colorful geometrical figures on cupboard shelves.
–You’ve never been to school?
The watchman looks at me with amazement.
–Of course I have. Students made them?
A lot of time has passed since the school became a deserted pile of rubble.
With mummified physics instruments, textbooks, and paper and glass tetrahedrons and octahedrons.
I think the schools are the most difficult aspect of this war to explain.
There’s a rowan tree next to the school.
Big, full of juicy fruit.
It seems to be beloved by birds from the whole neighborhood.
Leaves have turned yellow, and it is now indescribably beautiful.
I see a globe below…It’s visible through the missing window.
The geography classroom.
–They say it will be rebuilt. The school. They promised.
It’s a big, spacious school.
I can see in my mind the kids running in waves toward the cafeteria after the bell. Someone is kicking a backpack, someone else trying to trip their friend.
Boys are pulling girls’ hair, who then scream.
There are only two schools in Uglegorsk. Both were destroyed last winter. One was rebuilt. That’s where the town’s kids study now.
The School No. 42 is now only a skeleton.
Abandoned. Without windows.
The first floor had holes covered with plywood to prevent people from entering.
It will be many years.
But the school will be rebuilt.
I know it will be rebuilt.
It will graduate many children.
They will stand with beautiful bouquets. And with radiant smiles.
The girls will wear bows in their hair, as tradition demands, but also short skirts to horrify the older generations.
The boys will pose with their diplomas for their parents’ cameras.
Some will go behind the building to smoke, until they see a teacher.
Everyone will have flowers. Many flowers. Many, many. Everything will drown in flowers.
The school will be beautiful once again.
But I will forever remember it like this.And you should too.
This rowan tree.
Remember it forever.
Something like this must not be forgotten.