Mariupol’s Man With a Book

NEW – April 26, 2022

We, the “WarGonzo” team, met a man with a Book in one of the courtyards of Mariupol. The spectacle, of course, is apocalyptic. There is not a single intact house in the yard. Not one. The nine-storey building facing the road was particularly affected. Several entrances were crumpled by fire, one crumbled to the second floor, the other to the fourth. Half of the house was burned out, the nine-story building was covered in black, heavy streaks from fires.

And in front of this destroyed house, as if nothing had happened, a man in a cap and glasses was sitting on the bumper of one of the burned-out cars and reading a book. The wind ruffled the edges of the pages pressed with his fingers.

We stopped.

Amazing. He didn’t pose, no. There was no way he could have known that journalists would be here. He read the book no matter what. Neither at the destroyed houses, nor at the playgrounds scattered by fragments in the yard, nor at the skeletons of cars standing nearby. He sat quietly and turned the pages, although it was by no means safe to read in this place – a battle was going on in a few blocks on the outskirts of “Azovstal“.

Text from March 23rd: “The residents of Mariupol are amazing. We met this intelligent and absolutely iron man for the first time yesterday in the liberated quarter of the Levoberezhny district.

The storming of the city continues, however, as well as shelling, tens of thousands of people leave for the safe territory of the DPR and Russia.

However, today we found him calmly reading Valentin Pikul’s book “Gentlemen, I ask you to the barrier!”.

Among the ruins. Shells are exploding nearby.

Mariupol residents are, of course, incredible people. The mind does not understand. Only with the heart.”

It doesn’t matter what the book he was reading was about (it was a collection of stories by Valentin Pikul). In these circumstances, in the conditions of chaos and madness of war, the book, as a source of knowledge, symbolised the opportunity to cling to rationality, think about, understand what is happening and draw conclusions. The man with the Book seemed to be trying to peruse and explain to himself the madness and ferocity of the war. To explain the inexplicable.

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We made a short story with him.

In war, some kind of connection is quickly established with people. I was standing next to this person off-screen, I was looking at him, but I don’t think I remember exchanging a single word with him. And until recently, I didn’t even know his name. But that was enough to bring tears to my eyes when I found out that he had been killed.

The man with the Book was killed by a sniper. It was murder, moreover, a deliberate, cruel, inexplicable murder. Explained only by the unknown logic of Evil. The man with a Book was killed when he was changing a tire on his car. There were no Z’s on the car. The man with the Book was in civilian clothes, he was not wearing any white armbands that could indicate that he was a Russian military man. He looked like a civilian because he was. But… two bullets, one control shot – in the head.

This villainy could only be done by a poor, limited and uneducated subhuman. The ideology of Ukrainian neo-nazis is based on ignorance, myths and lies. And their hatred of books is hereditary – let’s remember Germany of the 1930s and bonfires of literature objectionable to the Nazi regime.

The man with the Book was called Yury Nikolayevich Demchenko. In addition to books, he was fond of water tourism. Yury Nikolayevich was a master of sports in water tourism and a seven-time champion of Ukraine in this discipline. He was killed when he turned 72.

Goodbye, the Man with a Book! I hope your soul has been transported to the best of the worlds that you have ever come across on the pages you have read.

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Dmitry Seleznev

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