top of page
  • Writer's pictureThe Paladins

Fragments from a War Diary, Part #116

This morning, before going to work, I attended another military funeral, in front of the City Hall, in the grey and dreary weather of Lviv in late October. It was once again a solemn affair, and a sole trumpeter played the Ukrainian National Anthem while the crowd stood on in respectful silence. The war is intensifying in the east at the current time, as the fighting season is soon to come to an end and therefore both sides are trying to make last-minute territorial gains before the rain turns the trenches to slush and then the winter causes everything to freeze over. I have heard reports of increased military skirmishes in all of Kharkiv, Avdiivka, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the last week, with each side reporting minute military successes over the other. The net result of all this is that more people are dying on both sides and that is why there is a sudden increase in military funerals in Lviv. They are a depressing and gloomy spectacle but the popularity of these events and the solemn air with which they are undertaken reminds us that the Ukrainian people remain steadfast and determined and that they are 100% behind their armed forces, as are my colleagues and I who I join at work to help prepare meals for the military.

The location where I work is anonymous. There is no sign, no directions on the internet, no telephone number, no website, although these is a social media presence but I do not know what it is. I do not know who is in charge, I have not signed a contract and I work as hard or as little as I want every day without fear of scalding or retribution. It is entirely upon my own conscience, and people come and go throughout the day to work for free as is consistent with their other obligations. It is the antithesis of a modern western working environment, with line managers and procedures and organisational charts, and it represents my vision of a Soviet collective perhaps. We are all there to work on the basis of our consciences.

At the time of writing the torrential rain has caused my feet to become sudden so I have undertaken a brisk walk home to change my flimsy summer shoes that I arrived with in Ukraine at the end of August into my reliable trench boots that are now more appropriate for the forthcoming winter. It is wonderful to work in an environment in which everyone is focused collectively upon the end product and not with the political infighting that infects offices where there are more people than there is work to do and the spare time is filled with political infighting and petty competition. This is real teamwork, and all the management gurus in the West would do well to come and spend a few months working in a Ukrainian military kitchen to come to understand how to get people to work together effectively.

Lunch is late today, served at about 2.30pm, and the team is getting anxiously hungry working under tarpaulins in the driving rain. Nevertheless when it comes it is delicious: a beautiful pasta dish with potato salad and tomato sauce. I gobble my portion back and even go back for more. This tiring hard manual work causes all my flimsy civilian bones and muscles to ache and stretch and I acquire a huge appetite. On the other hand it may be the only meal I have today. We eat standing up, perching behind stacks of tomato crates and trying to fend off the rain. It is drying up but we are all damp and sticky. We are tired too; working seven days a week is an exhausting regimen. Then I go back to chopping and cutting up peppers, and cheering the morale of my fellow workers with some silly story or other and others do likewise. One of the team is adopting a dog from a local shelter. How I would love to do that too, but I have no idea how I would get him home or where he would live. I don’t have the space. Anyone with the means to adopt an abandoned domestic animal, please come to Ukraine to assist with this problem that I have already described in detail.

Everything we eat is organic in Lviv: literally straight out of the ground. I have had no fizzy artificial drinks or foods with colours or added sugar or chemical flavourings for several weeks. Although I have found an operating McDonald’s in Lviv, I have no interest in going there and I might even return to the vegan cafe or a good vegan restaurant in town. My entire dietary regime has changed since living in Lviv and being in Ukraine, and I am sure it is a change for the better compared with the artificial fatty foods we over-consume in the West. Ukraine is an agrarian society, and life here is healthy.

I am tired today and my mind is awash with thoughts, mostly of my family yet I remain immersed in the Ukrainian psyche, thinking and breathing ever more like a Ukrainian patriot and remaining concerned about the people I meet and the risks and dangers they might be exposed to. I am getting more used to the unusual and bizarre. As I am walking home, a journalist sprints down the street after me, asking to do an interview with me. I decline. I don’t do interviews ad hoc in the street. I’m not here in Ukraine for glamour or for glory. I’m here to do my duty: to support the people of Ukraine and her Armed Forces to the best of my abilities, in their struggle to preserve the principles of European civilisation.

And now I must lie down for a few minutes, dry my feet out, take stock of an extraordinarily busy day so far, and then return to work. We are open twelve hours a day and there is a limitless quantity of work when you are striving to feed hundreds of thousands of people. Later I will find time to dance and make merry with my colleagues, no doubt. But that somehow feels a long way off, because there is just so much to do.


bottom of page