HAPPINESS IS WHEN YOU ARE NOT SHOT AT

This morning I came across an article by Yevhen Shybalov, a Mirror Weekly correspondent in Donetsk, and translated it into English to post it in my blog:

 

Donetsk

We quickly got used to living in the war time. So quickly that this quickness is even scary.

Our children do not wake up at night, when shots are heard. They keep sleeping. They have accustomed  to shots.But we, adults, wake up. We begin looking around to see if everyone is safely back home. Only then we  know that we can sleep on.

Our dreams are dreamless. We sleep to get a rest before a difficult new day. The day that may be the last in our lives.

The children … The children have become quite different. They are small adults now. They stopped being naughty. Now they are quiet and obedient.

When they hear a plane in the sky, they get out of sandboxes, jump off the swings, collect their toys and run home.

When explosions are heard, they take us by the hand and look upwards with surprising calm. They wait for our instructions. They have started to understand that the war is about following orders.

Puplis do not shirk school to hang out with friends. Neither do they gambol in the schoolyard anymore. After school they stay in their classrooms waiting for us to come and to take them home. We come. Sometimes we even run to take them  – when there’s news that armed men were seen in the school neighborhood.

The kids think that we, their parents, know what they should do, and that everything will be all right.

We do not know. We just learn. We learn to live in the war.

“The bus is going only to Panfilov Avenue. Further, there’s gun-fight”, reports the driver through the loudspeaker in a matter-of-fact voice. He has already learned how to make such announcements.

Here are a couple of lessons for all of us.

 

Lessone One: stay at home if there’s no special need to go out.

We have learned not to go for a walk or to cinemas, or cafes. We do not stay in public places longer than it is necessary. Our routes are now strictly functional: our place of work, our home, an ATM, a shop.

Simple shopping and other pleasures of consumer society are no longer for us. Buying things is no fun. We buy only the most indispensible products and that is according to a list prepared beforehand. And just for survival.

And you must be always fast doing everything.

I must get back home before dark. You never know if the curfew has been imposed or not. That is why it is better not to be out at night. The night is the time of war. It’s the time when predators of the concrete jungle go hunting.

We have forgotten what traffic jams and rush hours are. The streets are empty. Only rare passengers use public transport in the daytime.

Unemployment seems a tragedy no longer. On the contrary, any opportunity to stay at home is like happiness. Fortunately, we do not go hungry at the moment. We do not have to go outside in search of a meal.  It’s good to stay at home. Water, light and gas are supplied without interruption. At least, the supply is not worse than it has always been.  Sort of strange (considering the war conditions), isn’t it?

Life has moved into our yards. But every foray beyond  the boundaries of the square squeezed between panel apartment buildings is a lottery. It turns into a far and difficult hike with no guarantee of return.

In the evening once crowded alleys and squares turn into Silent Hill – very much like a horror-survival video game of the same name. There’s a barely perceptible flavor of danger everywhere.

Lesson  Two: stay away from people with weapons.

People with guns are messengers of death . Their own death or death of other people’s. They just draw death to themselves.

This lesson was hard to learn.

Basically, we are peaceful people. We were raised on thrillers, on books filled with pathos and heroism, and on the video games where death is not terrible, but is only good and with special effects.

Barricades , armored vehicles on roads, gunners on the streets , helicopters in the sky… That was a novelty, and that was interesting.

A woman was said to have received accidental injuries because of her curiosity. In the evening she went on to the balcony to have look at the “fray”  through binoculars . Because of the binoculars’ optical glit she was fired at with a mortar or a grenade launcher. Who were the shooters is not exactly unknown.

Later we realized that at the place where death is sown there’s no accuracy.  A random bullet or a shell fragment can reach everyone.

On Wednesday, May 28, three civilians were killed in Donetsk and ten were wounded in Slovyansk. It’s only within one day. And on the eve, another three were killed in Slovyansk and one  in Mariupol.

Since the beginning of hostilities seven children were wounded. Their age was from four to seventeen. Fortunately, no one was killed.

We have learned this lesson. The streets get instantly empty if a file of military men appears there. Or if the “republicans” are on a stroll. Or if a four-wheel drive with no license plates and full of bearded camouflaged guys is rushing off somewhere.

People with guns have a varied life. They split into groups. They form strange alliances, which turn to be unstable and unpredictable.

First they stand together at checkpoints under one flag. Then they call each other “looters” and “traitors” and begin fighting — sometimes with the Ukrainian army and sometimes with each other.

They seem not to remember from where it all started. But they cannot stop anymore.

Death is chasing them. However, they may escape it and, instead, we may be easily trapped by it. That’s why it’s better to avoid them.

 

Lesson Three: Trust no one. Never.

We have learned to keep our opinions to ourselves. Once we loved to argue and to carry our point loudly. We loved chatting, joking and defending even the craziest ideas.

Now we ponder every word. Especially, when we talk  with an unfamiliar person. You never know how the person will react. Will he rush to the nearest patrol shouting, ” Grab him, this is Bandera ” (a Ukrainian nationalist)? Will he strike you in the face with the words: “Receive, you bitch of a (Russian) separatist “?

It’s better not to test. Better to remain silent.

It sounds crazy for us when we hear on TV the words “negotiations” and “social dialogue”. The dialogue with whom? With us? We will not talk . We have learned that silence is a key to safety.

The last remnants of trust are destroyed by your close and own. It’s good if your friends and relatives follow the same views as you do. It’s good if you know who is with you and who is against you in this war.

But this is rare. A carelessly spoken word, like a match, starts up a fire of ugly quarrels. Family ties are broken, an old friendship is shattered.

And the children look, quietly and sadly, from a corner at adults screaming and cursing.

But they (the children) do not cry. They have learned not to. Or have they forgotten how?

We trust public and official reports no longer. Especially the reports, which tell of peace and security.

We have realized that security can be only temporary. And the peace was before. There’s no peace any more.

We telephone our friends or just the people we know: “Look, I have some job to do in your part of the city. Do they shoot there?” – “There was some shooting in the morning, but itseems quiet at the moment.” – “Aren’t the roads blocked?” – “The checkpoint is in its old place. There are no new ones…”

With those whom we distrust a little less than others, we share something special. The information which is the most important and the most necessary.  About shops and ATMs which are still working. And again about roadblocks.

Or about the curfew:

“ So, is it still on or not?” – “God knows!”

The police are distrusted more than anybody else. Earlier we feared them, but regarded them as representatives of the authorities. But who are they now?

My friend is having dinner at home. There’s a knock on the door. A woman neighbor appears before him, tears rolling down her cheeks. “ My husband has been taken! Those with guns were on to someone, and he tried to defend the guy. So they led him to the Security Service office. What shall I do? Could I call the the police?”  To call the polce is nonsense. There are more chances if you call the terrorists’ friends and ask them to help with the release of the man. To call the police leaves no chances at all.

Now we just do not understand who are these strange people wearing that stupid blue uniform and calling themselves “police” . They are said to be paid by the state for “maintaining law and order” and “ensuring” the safety of civilians.” Funny ..

However, there may be some use from them.  Just the same as from white mice on a submarine — they are the first to begin suffocating when there is lack of air there. When another shootout is about to happen in Donetsk or when new pogroms “in the name of the (pro-Russian) Republic” are organized the police are the first to disappear from the streets. It means it’s time for us to flee too.

 

We take great efforts to preserve remnants of humaneness in us. We do not break into stores opened by crowds of looters. We think it’s shameful. But we don’t do it just because our families are not yet on the verge of poverty and hunger.

Those with a queasy conscience may rail at themselves for being silent at the time when the word might have changed something. The most honest admit that they were stupid when they thought that their idea of ​​happiness was a sufficient enough reason to grab the weapon.

We still try not to fall into chaos.

But… we finally have found something that unites us all. Whatever our tastes and preferences are: All of us, hiding it from each other, look into the starry sky at night, through curtained windows. and pray, “Lord, may all this be over soon …”

 

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2 Responses to “HAPPINESS IS WHEN YOU ARE NOT SHOT AT”

  1. Olga Says:

    Thank you for a huge job. it is a good entry to make up a current media vocabulary for the students

  2. vitaliyb Says:

    Thanks for your appreciation, Olia!

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