Losing hope when you lose contact

Losing hope when you lose contact

This story, like dozens of other stories of losing contact with loved ones, began on February 24th after Russia’s heinous attack on Ukraine. We were fortunate that we were not located in the main hot spots, but not all our loved ones had the same luck. An obligatory morning ritual has emerged: we contacted our friends and relatives every day by phone and through messaging apps to make sure that they were safe, that the shells had not landed on their homes, that they still had a place to spend the night. Among them was a conversation I had with my colleague Nastya, whom I’d recently met but have a fairly close and warm relationship with.

The last message I received from Nastya was on March 3rd. I asked “How are you?” and she responded, “Hold on,” and “Not scary anymore” when I asked about the situation in their area. And then there was silence. For a whole month. We knew that they were near Ivankov, in the Kyiv region, where her mother lives and where her father was buried a week ago. At that time, there were grave battles and heavy artillery strikes from the occupiers. The mobile and internet lines were damaged, and there was no possibility to contact the locals nor the possibility to leave from there.

I kept texting and calling Nastya and cried bitterly when one day instead of beeps I heard a notification from the operator that the phone was turned off. Time passed: March 10th, 15th, 25th – and still there was no word on Nastya. I realized the futility of my actions, but I still dialed her number several times a day and listened to the same message that had already been etched in my memory. Different thoughts about the possible state of affairs kept popping into my head, and it got even worse after what I saw news about Bucha. Beasts – just animals, why would they even do such horrible things to civilians, children and vulnerable retirees? There are more questions than answers… After seeing the Bucha massacre, it became even more horrible to think about Nastya and her family, and the intensity of my calls grew. Also, she has a small kid… A child who is barely 4 years old, and who still has a whole life to live. Where are they now? What happened to them? Are they alright? Are they alive? These thoughts did not leave me for over a month. There was not a day that I didn’t try to reach Nastya, although with each passing day my hopes became more vague and naive.

And then came the good news that the Ukrainian Armed Forces had reached that area and were liberating the previously occupied cities. And my hope were plummeted again when days of phone calls did not bring results.

On April 4th, during the next call “to nowhere”, instead of the usual message from the operator, I heard the beep of the call. “The phone’s on, they’re alive!” – I thought. But after hearing about how looted gadgets were sent to Belarus and Russia, my passion subsided a bit. Maybe it was stolen or taken from her… I didn’t want to think about it. The beeps kept coming and going, and I held my breath in anticipation of the answer and the voice I would hear. And then I heard her. Nastya picked up the phone and said that they were all alive and returning to Kyiv. I had no words… I started crying and just sobbed into the phone while she tried to tell me something. I couldn’t hear anything anymore. I just cried and through the tears repeated the same phrase “it’s good that you’re all alive.” The last thing I heard was that they were all okay, but not everyone was so lucky. We didn’t bring up the condition of houses and infrastructure too.

Later, when they had returned home and were able to catch their breath, Nastya texted me that she saw all the “charms of Russia” from every angle. That her daughter “learned military techniques instead of the alphabet and understands by ear when a shell arrives and when it departs.” It just shouldn’t be like this …

Children should not grow up under a volley of fire, should not be born in basements and bomb shelters, and should not have to see their parents being tortured or killed. Children should not be startled by every loud sound and should not know the realities of wartime. Nobody should. War brings nothing but destruction, destroyed cities, maimed people, and broken destinies. War means horror and death, it should not be the reality of the 21st century in the heart of Europe. But Ukraine is in just such a situation. Not of our own free will. And not even in response to some of our actions. But simply because the Russian imperialists wanted our land and for their twisted impression of the world to become a reality. In our country it is not like that. We strive for peace, we strive for development, we strive for happiness for our own children. It is not normal for us to plunder the cities of our neighboring countries in order to gain some intangible claim to victory. We are not like that. We work for our own good. We are not ashamed to leave our country to work, and we do not feel sorry to spare no effort. And we certainly will not be going to blame someone for having a better life abroad. This is something that people  ourselves and their country’s leadership should figure out together. Isn’t it time for Russians to ask their top officials why someone can’t afford the same TV or coffee maker without going to war, killing other people, and destroying their lives?


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