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The Life’s Underside

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The Life's Underside


Original written by Yevdokia “Dunya” Sheremetyeva and posted on her littlehirosima blog; translated from Russian by J.Hawk.

I returned to Moscow.
And I realize I can’t remain here.
I don’t want to pick up the phone. I don’t want to do anything at all.
It’s not about being tired or about the mad pace of life when you are trying to do in a week that which takes a month.
Tens of people, families, houses, cities.
I’ve known that feeling for a long time.
The sad feeling of bitterness.
It’s not even the heart-rending pain. No.
I clearly remember how I returned from Pervomaysk during the winter. It was then shelled from all sides. It was being turned into a sieve. And we heard incoming shells all the time. I remember the destroyed stairwells with a dusting of snow, and people with assault rifles everywhere. I returned to Moscow, and since then everything in this world, yes in “this” world, everything changed. I could not feel the border and the difference between the two. One day I am somewhere where there are kids in bomb shelters and elderly women are afraid to go outside for months on end. The next day I am where the euro costs 100 rubles and poor-quality cheese represents a major problem.
It’s like you cross some kind of a boundary. But don’t leave the other world.
I remain somewhere in between. Not there, and not here.
Not on the Donbass, and not in Moscow. Geography is conditional.
When we were distributing aid with Olya Ishchenko, the acting mayor of Pervomaysk, to elderly women and single mothers, I saw her tears. She didn’t show them but I saw how she was trying to wipe her eyes without me seeing it. She lost her husband to the war, and she lives in a besieged city. She knows what life is better than I.I saw how our driver Sergey, who helped us in the deliveries, just lost it when he saw an old granny in Debaltsevo whose house was shattered to the foundations. Only bricks and a piece of the stove were left. She lives in a destroyed shed next door to avoid crowding the kids: “the four of them live in a one-room apartment.” The granny scoured the burned out ruins and showed us the surviving forks and cups. Sergey was in shock, although he himself spent a month in the cellars when Lugansk was bombed in August 2014.
But I did not feel anything. A sort of cool calm.
I am visiting hospice rooms, homes for the elderly. I don’t notice strong smells and terrible sights. I calmly watch children with disabilities in orphanages.
I am already immersed in another side of life. I don’t know–can it be called the underside?
But this is a different world. It did not exist in my old one.
The world of a someone who likes to dive in a monofin or go skiing in the mountains or track hippos on African mornings.
My world was broken into and it will never the the same as before.
I am at a crossroads.
I look back and I understand that it’s not just the war, though it’s part of it.
I became an unwilling witness to another side of life.
Where children abandon their parents to die in hospices and homes for the elderly. Don’t call them when the city is besieged.
Where parents abandon their children.
Where relatives hate each other.
Where friends betray.
Where people are ready to kill over trivia.
Where neighbors plunder apartments and then lie and complain about life.
Where you are one step away from unbelievable atrocities.
Where dirtbags profit off others’ suffering.
Where the worst nightmares and horrors become a reality that could not otherwise be invented but which already exists.
Where the good is hidden so deep that you have to beat at it to wake it up.
We don’t see all that. We don’t want to see it and know about it.
We live in a parallel reality.
And I suddenly looked through this slit. And remained there, not knowing where to go.
And yes, I know there are many good people.
Caring, responsive.
Who lives without knowing the Russian language but still wants to help a diabetic girl save her eyes.
Who puts out the neighbors’ fire at the risk to his own life. Who washes the diapers of the dying people at a hospice, even though they are not related. Who is saving the lives of others under shelling in an ambulance. Who drops everything to help others, risking his life.
Life goes on.
I know.
I see how my posts about pain and horror, the gruesomeness, are ignored by many.
Perhaps that’s the right thing to do. It’s the self-preservation instinct.
Why let that pain enter your life? What will that pain change?
What will the knowledge of the horrors and the dark side of human nature give you?
Isn’t everything already known and written down?
What’s it for?
What’s it for me?
I come home, and it’s hard for me to view man as before. Believe in him.
What is man, what is his nature?
Haven’t I spent five years studying that at the university and then in an internship?
Isn’t this a question that everyone is trying to answer?
An abyss has opened before me.
An abyss of fear, pain, and horror.
Should we know it if we can’t change anything?
Or can we? Change?
And how?

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