“Alive”: War in Donbass as Told by an 11-Year-Old Girl

Each person knows that any war always has a beginning and an end. But official dates often remain nothing more than cold indifferent dates in memory of those who are involved in the events.

When did the war in Donbass begin for each of us? No matter how many people I can ask around me, all of them will have a different answer. In 2014 there were many events that became for some this same dividing line.

I believe in humanity. I want to have faith. Just like my parents. We do not live in a fictional world, no. There is simply a difference between what we see and what we want. And my relatives wanted to believe that these events were a terrible accident. After all, people can’t be so cruel and merciless? They can. And we know this, all the same continuing to hope that people are capable of coming to their senses. Otherwise, why then to live? This is just a naive hope that does not justify the crime at all. I do not know. Probably, there was just a conviction that this could not happen in our time in our Motherland. All this seemed to be some foolish nightmare. It couldn’t happen like that. It SHOULDN’T happen that your own army destroys its own people. But this happens all the same.

I think the real understanding that war has started comes when you get used to death. At this same time it begins also for individual people, and not just for the state.

For me such a date became June 2nd, 2014. I remember that it was a Monday, and my brother and I were ill and had to go for a doctor’s appointment. Everyday life is scheduled by the minute, although we do not notice it: the bus stop is this number of minutes away, the trip will take this amount of time. The timetable of bus trips, the timetable of work of the paediatrician, the approximate time spent in the waiting room… Angina is, of course, unpleasant, but not fatal, and if you put on a mask, you can go to the library to get books from the school list for summer reading. Plans that may change depending on the circumstances. Ours changed because my older brother was scared and I was the only one at the doctor’s that day, and I was too lazy to go to the library to get books that I couldn’t even find the time to read, except for looking the pictures. If my brother had not been afraid or my mother had not paid attention to his feelings, we would have been near the very square where the airstrike took place during the attack. And I understand that I am, perhaps, alive only thanks to my brother.

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I remember how I bursted into tears because of the terrible noise that could be heard all over the city. I remember how there was no mobile communication, and we could not phone our grandmother working near the regional state administration building. And I also remember that my teacher described to us about the events of June 2nd. Behind the administration building there is a kindergarten, and on that day after the shelling the teachers stood at the gate and at a meeting said to sobbing mothers with shaking knees only one word: “alive”. They didn’t need anything else.

War – it is when on June 1st the world celebrates Children’s Day, and already on the June 2nd the most important, most proper word that parents can hear, simple and short, is “alive”. A week later, the first child was killed by artillery shelling. Polina Solodkaya. She was 6 years old. She could’ve become a doctor, a teacher, or an artist. Anyone. But she will forever remain the first on the list of child victims of this war. The most terrible thing about all of this is the word “list”. Names are still being added to it. It’s the inconvenient truth, but it is impossible to forget about it. And it won’t happen, even if there was desire.

In Lugansk there is a memorial devoted to the children who died because of shelling. I think there is one in Donetsk too. Standing at it, adults still do not find any words and are silent, lowing their heads. There is indeed nothing to say here. The world celebrates Children’s Day, but cannot protect us.

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I once wrote that children of war are silent because they are not heard by adults. So far it’s indeed like that. But I believe that everything will change. One day we will see peace on our land too. We, the children who endured war, will grow up. And we will try to stop all this horror by doing what adults failed to do, so that Children’s Day is no longer just a date, but a real celebration.


Faina Savenkova (resident of the Lugansk People’s Republic)

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