Originally written by Yevdokia “Dunya” Sheremetyeva and published at her littlehirosima blog; translated from Russian by J.Hawk
We are driving onto the dormitory campus.
We see a running young man who shows us where to go, showing us with his hands where to go.
Seeing him walk I thought there was something wrong with him. But Zhenya, tired from the daily driving, carrying, buying and loading, drove after him. We are driving in circles, and in the meantime people are starting to gather.
They are running right next to the car, but we are looking for an entrance and can’t stop and answer.
A large woman in a white smock is sitting on a chair next to the housekeeping building.
–You from the mortuary?
–No, we’re bringing humanitarian aid.
–You need to go this way.
She points in the direction opposite of the one in which we were going.
The Lotikovo Psycho-Neurological Dormitory is on the way to Pervomaysk. I remember that road only too well.
Turns, bridges, a church around the corner.
–Can you help the dorm?
–What do you need?
–Everything…We’ve had aid delivered only twice over the last year. “Doctors without Borders” in May, and then in March volunteers from an organization in Lugansk. And that’s it, we’ve been forgotten…Only canned meat and grains from LPR warehouses…
Yuliya Petrovna Melentyeva, the Acting Director of the dorm turned out to be a young and beautiful girl.
–Let’s go, I’ll show you what’s where/
–Maybe we’ll first unload everything?
The Dorm is big and has many “students”. One can see only men outside. Of all ages. While we were talking, they surrounded us from all sides.
–Can we take a photo? Could you photograph me?
Nearly everyone who approached us asked about money or cigarettes or sweets. And everyone started to pose as soon as they saw a camera.
There was general excitement.
Next thing I knew, I was in a center of a beehive.
–Can you show us the photos?
And they are as happy as little children when they see themselves on the tiny screen. Although it seems the process itself was more interesting to them.
–Can you take another photo?
–Yevdokia, let’s go. Otherwise they’ll never let us go.
I’ve never seen such genuine joy and happiness.
No, I’m lying–there was something similar when we brought ice cream to an orphanage.
The dorm has people with various illnesses. Schizophrenics, epileptics, man and women over 18 years of age suffering from a variety of mental and physical ailments. A wide spectrum. From fully bedridden to nearly fully sane people.
–We have many children from the Krasnodon dorm.
My heart shivered. My first orphanage.
It was the first time I saw children with such ailments. The first shock.
–We know that dorm well. Brought them aid several times.
And I see children’s faces which I’ll never forget. Especially those children who are mentally healthy but suffer from physical ailments. Like cerebral palsy. Such kids are simply doomed…
Disabled children who reach the age of 18 and who can’t take care of themselves are sent to the retirement homes, like Lesha, for example, and if they have mental ailments they end up in psycho-neurological centers like this one.
Many of them are utterly non-aggressive. They are sweet and kind, like children.
The majority of them takes an active part in the dorm’s life.
They unloaded all the food by themselves–only then I understood why there were only men outside.
Some were trying so hard they were dropping vegetables along the way.
The workers surrounded the mass of food.
–Chickens??? Peppers? Carrots? Potatoes? Butter? Wow, tomato paste.
The women were up in arms. Nearly all the aid they receive comes in the form of grains, pasta, condensed milk, but nearly never fresh food. That’s why we decided to deliver it.
–Not bad. And what’s in these boxes?
–Toothpaste, tootbrushes, shampoos, pads, creams, razors…Everything you asked for. And there there are powders, cleaning supplies, undergarments…
The workers didn’t know what to say. That’s no exaggeration. There was a silent pause.
It’s people like that who get the least attention in emergencies. Those who are mentally ill, asocial, and incapable of normally functioning as part of society. But they are people too. Many of them are someone’s relatives–children, brothers, or sisters.
–Here are the adult diapers, should we go through and distribute them?
–Seriously? It really smells bad there.
–That’s fine, we’re used to it.
It’s not the first place where the bedridden are being looked after. But this is the cleanest place we’ve visited.
Taking care of the bedridden is an extremely painstaking and hard labor. They suffer from bedsores, lesions, skin problems…
Nearly all of them were without adult diapers, and lay on multi-use sheets and oilcloths.
–How do you manage?
–What do you mean? We wash them.
–What about detergents?
Everyone laughed. The laughter of doom.
–It’s terrible. We have almost none. Detergents are a problem.
One has to admit the Krasnodon dorm and all the retirement homes had the same problems. They are not asking for food or sweets but detergents. And of course disposable diapers.
–What about medicines?
–We don’t have any. We have aspirine, anti-fever medications. But we also should have special preparations which we simply don’t have. You can’t find them on the Donbass. Some people have to take them continuously.
–So how do you manage?
They laughed again, with an even greater sense of doom.
–Somehow we manage. That’s life.
As we were leaving I was approached by several men. One of them asked me if I had cigarettes.
–Too bad, I really need a smoke.
–How about I take a photo?
They smiled and were happy. They didn’t know what was happening around them, but were concerned. They are people, just a little different. With real and sincere emotions. And many of them are much better people than some of my acquaintances who have higher education and prestigious jobs.
I am aware this post will be read by a minimal number of my facebook friends/readers.
Because it’s the fate of people with deviations that concerns everyone least of all. People like those men who are happy to see their own photos on the phone cause the least concern. People are touched by stories of children or young girls who still have their lives ahead of them. I supposed I am like that too.
But they are people too. They like sweets which they never get, some of them like to smoke, and many of them will never do anything mean to anyone close to them.
The war is around them but they have nowhere to go if heavy fighting resumes.
If you want contribute to humanitarian assistance to the people of the Donbass, contact me in person through my livejournal account, through Facebook, or via email: email@example.com. Everything will be delivered and reported.