Article by: Andriy Zelinskyy
I hear a report over the car radio on the current traffic conditions on the roads around the capital, and especially on Khreschatyk. The streets are filled with people, jovial, or absorbed in their own thoughts, or tired, just ordinary people. In the subway stations there is a sea of human bodies, with happy, or distracted, or tired faces, ordinary human faces. Life ebbs and flows with the rhythm of daily life, wanders along unkempt streets, and surges along the dirty arteries of this winter city.
January in Kyiv: the season for premieres in the theatre; over at the closest branch of PrivatBank one can see a long line to use the ABM; and meanwhile my men are taking cover in shelters, in the dark underground of the Ukrainian front lines, in the very same hiding places where only just yesterday I myself could be found taking cover during artillery barrages. Such was my experience, concurrent with what is seen here along Khreschatyk: animated pedestrians, some carefree, some deep in thought, others outright tired, everyone going about being ordinary people, alive during ordinary days in grey-skied Kyiv; innumerable lives with individual aspirations, completely unaware of what I was doing, somewhere in the dark underground of the Ukrainian front lines…
I do not like those “hrads”. They scream insanely and rip apart the earth; they wound human flesh with such force that the tiniest of capillaries in the human organism begin to bleed. They have the ability to disrupt one’s most fundamental sense of well being, while mercilessly tearing apart the living, piercing, shattering what is alive, that which is very much human… There are some who have been exposed to them for months… I do not like war. War has a fierce and inhuman face. Humanity is always against the shedding of blood. I have seen this humanity in the ranks of our defenders. I have seen a great deal of human compassion during this war… at the very front end of the war. This humanity is always what the enemy snipers look to fix their gun sights on; the ideological perversions of the Kremlin regime are constantly on the hunt for it. It is today’s Ukrainian soldier who is its great defender.
Someone has decided that truth can be fabricated in a scientific experiment, the result of which has been thousands of dead and wounded, while millions of others have been brainwashed and are now willing to kill: sometimes with weapons, and other times with their indifference. One person hides in a trench from real shells, while another person hides behind his own self-delusion and from his own fears, fears that can kill that which is truly human within us. Yet another person stands guard today at the line of fire, exposed to dangers that are very real and very concrete, from jagged steel shrapnel that have left their mark written in human blood throughout our native Ukrainian land.
Deprived of electricity and heat, lacking food and sleep, kindness and understanding, covered in sweat, engine oil, and blood, men like him stand as giants compared to us in our frightened pettiness, all those jovial, preoccupied, tired and ordinary people… Meanwhile he protects us with that which is most dear to him, most valuable to our nation: his human dignity… a protection from brutality and banality, from extreme indifference, and from an abstract and senseless nihilism, from an insatiable self-absorption, an irrational sense of superiority, abject ignorance and spiritual poverty. And he continues to defend us! He could very easily have fabricated his own “the truth for me.” He could have fled from his own true self and from every sense of responsibility. But instead of fleeing, he stands guard! At the cost of his own life if need be!…
In the evening I went to a concert, where the philharmonic orchestra was playing popular songs of the 20th century… I thought it would be therapeutic. But just as soon they started to perform the song, “Two colours”, there flashed before my eyes an unstoppable sequence of faces of men from the front lines, and in particular, those individuals in whom I had encountered an authentic humanity: jovial, thoughtful, tired, and ordinary humanity… In order for life to continue, we must make our stand, all of us together, confidently, as the best defense against spiritual treason. Today I may have returned to Kyiv, but I will never leave the front!!!
Translated by: Jeffrey Stephaniuk
Edited by: Jim Beale
Source: Original (in Ukrainian)