ROBERT GAMBLE
8 min readDec 22, 2022

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This story was written by Tatiana Lonskaja.

Read it and you will understand, in a deeper and more personal way, what few understand: what is happening in Ukraine. For more about me, see: www.thischildhere.org

“-The soldiers of your country go to death for the sake of death, and the defenders of my country die for the sake of life.”

I watched the soap bubbles I used to wash my hands turn pink from the drops of blood on my skin. I looked detached, without any emotions and feelings, as if these were not my hands, and not my shelter. Once I went out without gloves and froze my hands a little, and now the reddened skin from the icy water is cracking to the blood. In the 60 hours without power due to the massive rocket attack in late November, it was still not without the need to wash cups, forks, cat bowls, and at least a few times the hands themselves. Both thermoses have been empty since yesterday, and besides, I wouldn’t waste warm water, and therefore pink soapy foam slowly dripped to the bottom of the washbasin.

You understand, these missiles are for the good of all of you!” — since yesterday, this damned phrase has been screaming in my ears in the voice of an old friend Mila. She is in Moscow, I am in Kyiv. And the whole Universe separates us, which one can no longer fly over even in a lifetime.

Leaving for the kitchen, I asked myself for the thousandth time: “How could this happen?” This is my Milka, with whom we studied at Lviv University, right in the “Bandera lair”. We sat next to each other at a desk in the classroom, passing before the eyes of the professor cribs for exams. How many problems in genetics I solved for her, how many microscopic sections of tissue she drew for me in the album on physiology. She gave me her umbrella during a rainstorm, because I have a long way to go, and somehow she will run across the alleys. I held her close to me, wiping away tears when her two-year-old became ill with acute bronchitis. Every day we washed down sandwiches with tomato juice in the student cafeteria, halved a chocolate bar or the last pill for a headache. And we jokingly repeated a phrase from a well-known fairy tale: “We are of the same blood.” And even when her husband decided to move to Moscow, because his parents lived there, and my family and I moved to Kyiv, our friendship did not stop. We kept in touch regularly as friends.

If someone had told me back in January that the war could change everything, I would have laughed in his eyes. Sweetheart — developed, smart and progressive. Her family is wealthy, and not from the Russian hinterland, where the toilet bowl is still a miracle. Yes, and traveled around the world enough. And most importantly, her old parents still live in Lviv. Is it possible to fool her with fucking propaganda?

But I was wrong. At first, she listened to my egregious stories, sighed and even sympathized, whispering, “What can we do?” Then she was silent for a long time in response, and at the end she added that not everything was so simple. Well, then she said bluntly: “Let’s not talk about politics, this does not concern us in any way.” When I resented that it really concerns me and my family, she again kept silent, and our conversations slowly faded away. And then suddenly she wrote: “How are you?” She asked a question that we, Ukrainians, write to each other every day. And something stirred in my soul again. And I honestly told her: They [the news] write that a hundred rockets are flying to Ukraine, strong explosions were heard very close, after a second the light disappeared, and in the dark it is even more terrible to test fate. The [Facebook] messenger was silent for half an hour, and then spat out a voice message. I listened to it, and I felt disgusted and offended. And it’s scary … Is it really my girlfriend?

I understand that it’s hard for you right now. But take to the streets and demand an end to the war through a truce! Your sacrifices are meaningless! You will never defeat us! Nine months have passed, and you are all hoping for a miracle!

I looked at the room thermometer, frozen at 10 degrees, unfolded the blanket and, picking up my legs, sat down on the kitchen sofa. But really, what can be done in 9 months? Bear and give birth to a child. Write a book. Watch a television series. Build a house. Open your own business. Sow, grow and harvest. And a lot of other things aimed at development, beauty, life. And you can also send a hundred thousand of your citizens to guaranteed death, so that they exterminate a neighboring country, build, raze beautiful cities and flourishing villages to the ground, force millions of people to leave everything that was dear, and go into evacuation, separate families, and carry everywhere destruction, disaster, death. And bring your country to poverty, and make it a complete pariah in the world, which is ridiculed and fenced off with walls and fences, like a pack of rabid dogs. Indeed, it is time for a truce…

I looked into the distance. There is complete darkness outside the window … It is impossible to believe that this is my native Kyiv, from the night panorama of which you usually cannot take your eyes off. And now it seemed that I was the only one in the entire galaxy. Phones and power banks are discharged to zero, and around is silence and black cotton wool of darkness.

I was craving coffee. I got up to heat the water. A gift set for fondue, which has been lying on the mezzanine for ten years, is finally experiencing its stellar time. For the second day, we heated water for coffee and tea on alcohol vodka, and even warmed up food a little. But after looking at the last couple of “tablets” of dry alcohol, I resolutely closed the box. It is not known when it will be possible to replenish the stock. So it’s better to spend the last pills tomorrow, when everyone wakes up. As for coffee… There must definitely be a jar of instant coffee somewhere.

Feeling bitter granules on my tongue, I realized that traitorous tears were creeping down my cheeks. Of course, this cannot be compared with the torture in Bucha, the siege of Mariupol, the sharp edges of Kharkov, or the complete blackout of Kherson. But it’s all the same, what a pity for children sleeping in hats, so as not to get otitis media [ear infection] from a cold pillow. They sleep interspersed with cats that huddle under the covers, warming themselves from each other. It is a pity for the neighbors of the newlyweds from the first floor, who were taken away from the maternity first-born the day before. It’s a pity for the neighbor upstairs, whose old mother has pneumonia. And this is all in the capital’s high-rise building… in the center of Europe… in the 21st century…

It may be hard for you to understand, but an attack on your power grids will stop the killing of Russian soldiers. And Ukrainian too. So many young guys go to their deaths and die. Don’t you feel sorry? It will probably sound strange, but these are rockets of goodness ”

The lamp on the table, which had honestly exhausted its charge, blinked and went out. We must go up and take a table lamp with batteries. But there was some need to remember this bitter taste of the endless black night forever. Perhaps, in order to quickly remember someday, in a future peaceful life, if there is any doubt: maybe not all Russians are the same?

Having made an effort, I again crawled out from under the illusory protection of the blanket and came close to the window. In the house nearby, the windows were burning — for some it was barely noticeable, like memories of the light, for some it was quite bright, as if to spite the enemies. I counted over fifty. And suddenly I realized that I was smiling at these indestructible windows. The verse was spoken by a battery-powered radio (this old “device” is another treasure from the mezzanine). The endless night marathon, which was on the air, continuously transmitted the situation from the de-energized regions and cities. And I heard that the Lviv cardiac surgeons of pediatric cardiology successfully completed a super-complicated heart operation in total darkness. And resolutely wiped away her tears. And then I heard that a cat had finally been found, which had disappeared from an apartment in Vyshgorod that had been cut down by a rocket attack. And somewhere, people picked up a pretty rabbit — also near the affected house. And all over Ukraine they passed it on to someone who, apparently, was looking for him — the bunny in the heating center is waiting for its owners, crunching carrots and earning money with anti-stress. And again I could not hold back the tears. You do not understand, my ex-girlfriend. In 9 months, a new generation of people was born in our country. And a superstrong nation was tempered. We don’t have electricity, but we have light. There is no connection, but there is communication, and we are together. There is no energy, but we hate enemies more and more fiercely, and we love our country more and more, although it seems that it is no longer possible to be stronger …

The finale of the voice message trembled with falseness and smelled of mockery. “Stay there. If you need help, get in touch. After all, we are of the same blood.”

No, Mila … As it turned out — not one. Yours boils with indignation at nationalism in a foreign country. Mine is frozen with dark spots on the skin from the cold. Yes, it’s nothing. The wounds on the hands will heal. To victory. Of course, to our victory, which neither we nor the entire civilized world doubt. Someday they will live in the soul. But, if there is a point of no return in a relationship, then it was it that was set that night. I still have almost a day without light and heat ahead of me. But tomorrow I will recharge my phone in a cafe and first of all I will permanently delete contacts from it.

I’m sorry you don’t understand why this happened. But it doesn’t matter. For the gulf between us is growing exponentially. Yes, it’s true, every hour people die, young guys. But do you know what the difference is? The soldiers of your country go to death for the sake of death, and the defenders of my country die for the sake of life. And our children, who are now shuddering from the view of the sirens and freezing in the darkness of their homes, they will have a worthy future and the right to live in a free country, unlike yours, whom you are depriving right now … and have already deprived of a normal future. Now it is difficult to understand, because propaganda has grown into the very brain. But it won’t always be like that. Someday the narratives will change, and a heavy insight will come. Only it will not be possible to fix anything, because “rockets of goodness that have taken off on their bloody flight” cannot be returned to paint over everything with black paint. But know that we are with our country. We will stand and win. And we never, you hear, never… We will never forgive you…

And you, friends, will you ever be able to forget and forgive?

Tatiana Lonskaja

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ROBERT GAMBLE

Robert Gamble, D.Min. Presbyterian Minister, Executive Director of This Child Here, www.thischildhere.org