Cherkasy is a quiet island between the hot front lines. To the north from us, there are battles for Kyiv sometimes reaching Bila Tserkva. In the east, Kharkiv is burning, bombed but not conquered, and Russian orcs sometimes break through to Poltava region. In the south, the heroic Mykolaiv is holding back the occupiers. And so, it turns out that we are one of the few regional centres that has not yet been touched by destruction.
Missiles often fly over us, most of which are shot down, and none have hit their targets so far. I used to think that there should be some logic behind war objectives, and that no one would shoot at the residential areas (what’s the point?). But we now see hundreds of private houses burning having been hit by the fascists. I know now that it’s only up to blind chance and I hope only for its mercy, as well as the precision of our air defence.
We try to be a reliable rear for Ukraine on fire. Thousands of Cherkasy residents work every day to provide for the military and civilians. They sew clothes, bake bread, cook tushonka (canned meat stew), buy ammunition, source medicines, and pack clothes. Tons of these supplies are delivered to conflict hot spots by brave drivers who take stuff one way and come back with people.
Cherkasy region is a transit area for the large flow of refugees who are taken out of hotspots every day: either by volunteers via guerrilla trails or by the authorities via “green corridors”. People usually go further West or abroad after resting here in specially equipped shelters. However, some stay because it’s already so densely packed with migrants everywhere else, and it’s hard to accommodate more. The demand for housing in Cherkasy is already well above supply and many unscrupulous people have raised rentals unattainably high. At the same time, rural communities often share their homes with displaced strangers for free.
The city is gradually coming back to life, and now you can catch up with friends at a café, get a haircut at a barber shop, shop for clothes or shoes. Our “Agroelf” bakery is also open: although most of our shelves stay empty, the suppliers are gradually resuming their production. In general, our grocery stores remind me of the late soviet union period. The variety of products has reduced in many folds, and the aisles are filled with the same type of jars. There is not much choice, but it’s nothing to complain about as we’re not starving after all, and that’s good enough for life.
The spring’s sun is shining so cheerfully! It makes you forget about the war for a moment as you stroll through the sunny city alongside other people, with the street musician playing the trumpet in the same way as before. But suddenly the siren starts, and you have to seek shelter. There is a bomb shelter next to my office where my colleague and I go to during the daytime air raid alarms. There used to be a gym there; people have brought their bedspreads, pillows and blankets to put over the gym mats. Families who live nearby just come to their allocated spots, wrap up in blankets as it’s pretty chilly and wait for the end of the alarm (which can take hours). Many people bring their pets, so you can play with them to pass time.
Fatigue is growing… It’s not so much physical, but rather mental, caused by uncertainty and inability to make plans any further than a day or two ahead. People are becoming noticeably more irritable, arguing more often, blaming the government or each other over and over again. Everyone is eager for the war to end, but no one knows how to achieve this. People are also feeling guilty: we live here quietly while our compatriots perish in basements with no food or water, under bombs and shelling. So, every time you treat yourself well, your conscience comes back to bite you. I recognise the unproductiveness of this survival guilt, so I try to switch from guilt to gratitude. I am grateful to all those who make it possible for me to enjoy relative peace: the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the volunteers, the leaders, the diplomats, the partner countries helping us.
This week, for the first time since the beginning of the war, I burst into tears. There was no particular reason for it, it just felt so unbearably bitter and offensive that all this injustice and pain have been imposed on us – we did not deserve any of it. The killed people, broken destinies, destroyed businesses, and the entire cities put to the ground. It did not last long, I soon calmed myself down. But I think that the emotional shell which has covered me since the 24th of February is finally cracking. I cannot even imagine how big of a sea of tears one would need to cry to mourn all those that we’ve lost. By now, every Ukrainian city has buried some of its heroes and every Ukrainian has either lost or is distraught about someone. Some of our fellow Ukrainians are still stuck in Mariupol, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and other tortured cities, – people from whom there’s no word, and it is very scary.
I have also begun to feel how madly I miss my children: I want to hug them, spoil them with treats, and just be with them. And they’ve started calling more often, – they miss me too. My eldest son’s birthday is approaching, so I decided to visit them for at least a couple of days. And now that I have this goal, life is easier. Taking small steps towards this goal will give some direction to my life.
They’d planned to invade us within three days, but three weeks have passed already. Weeks that turned our world upside down, but have also showed us what our values are worth. I have always said that a value is only true when its true price is paid. And it seems that now we are paying a huge price, reminding the world of the values they forgot through their fulfilled and quiet life.
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