Fragments from a War Diary, Part #175
I feel like an old man. I am still suffering from that blunt trauma injury I incurred on Tuesday when I fell off a squat toilet amidst a loud bang outside. I really hurt myself badly and I haven’t been to work since. Yesterday I thought everything was fine, because I was able to run some errands. But I had agonising pains shoot up through my back overnight and I couldn’t sleep properly. My muscles and ribs are bruised and swollen and the idea of taking a 20-hour train journey to the front line is totally out of the question. I have dreams of an earlier age when I was young and fit and healthy and I could have taken a good knock in the side lightly and I would be bouncing around after a couple of days like nothing had happened. But of course these are just the fantasies of an ageing middle man looking back on the springtime of his youth and imagining that back then he was invincible. I wasn’t invincible then and I’m not invincible now and I have actually been fairly badly injured. I would probably have spent a couple of nights in a hospital with these injuries were this not Ukraine and the hospitals are all full of wounded soldiers and amputees and people with large pieces of shells sticking out of them and all sorts of other horrors.
The fact is that you don’t return to the front line, if you are wounded, until you have made a full recovery. In one of my first diary entries I observed soldiers doing this and I thought how silly it was. I’m not going to make the same mistake. When you are young you tend to throw caution to the wind but when you are older you become more sensible. There are lots of things I can’t do when I am injured that I might have to do when I am close to the front line. I can’t rush down to an air raid shelter. I can’t give other people paramedic treatment. I can’t throw myself down onto the floor quickly because there is incoming artillery fire. It’s not that Kramatorsk is particularly dangerous - there hasn’t been a direct attack on the city for months - but there is of course an increased risk as you approach the front line and you must make realistic assessments. My friend has offered to take me for an English breakfast, perhaps as a kind of consolation prize for my cancelled or delayed trip. I could go back to work but I think I will take him up on his breakfast instead. It’s Saturday, after all. I have been cooped up all week and that means you get more things I have written and you have to read. Or you don’t. You can of course ignore it. But my hits counter on my webpage suggests that some people are reading all this stuff.
I woke up this morning, in all this bloody pain as I had to lift myself gingerly out of bed, and I must have been having a depressive moment, because I thought to myself: shall I stop writing all this stuff? Shall I just give up? Diary entry 175. It’s all getting a bit silly. I don’t know. Wartime Ukraine is one of the most intense and extraordinary places I have ever been. Call it war tourism - I now happily call myself a war tourist although I am here to help Ukraine and her people and I believe I have done a lot to help and I have a lot more ideas on what is needed. But the fact is that I enjoy being here even though there is a lot of privation. It is an extremely stimulating experience, and the work is enjoyable, and the challenges are motivating, because nobody really knows what to do next in Ukraine except survive and fight and die, and I am coming along with some new ideas and I will mention one of them to you now.
I am establishing a foundation that will link government and private philanthropists’ grant money with deserving NGO’s so that they can continue their good works in Ukraine but in a more structured environment than the initial crisis response modes that NGO’s were working in at the beginning of the war. Advice can be provided to the NGO community on legal and administrative issues - we have a good legal back office of people to call upon to advise. We can help match volunteers with NGO’s. We will invite governments to channel grants to NGO’s using our quality criteria. And we will promote the sorts of development reconstruction and infrastructure projects that Ukraine needs to develop into a modern European state fit to join the European Union, notwithstanding the war. Right now I am looking for volunteers to help establish this foundation, and if you are interested then please write to me and let me know. You know the email address: firstname.lastname@example.org will reach me personally and this represents a new idea and a new dawn.
Ukraine needs a foundation that helps large philanthropists, governments and smaller NGO’s connect and cooperate. This is an idea that a colleague and I have had in the pipeline for a while and we’ve called it the Foundation for Development. Once our website is complete - and I am looking for volunteers to help me work on it - we will go public. We already have a protean charter and a basic infrastructure that will enable us to get up and running. It’s going to be a lot of work but I think it has the opportunity to make a real difference for Ukraine and for the way the international community engages with the Ukrainian conflict. It will be non-ideological and not run to make a profit. It will promote higher standards of governance within the NGO world and greater cooperation between the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. It will be like a World Economic Forum for Ukraine. At least that is the idea. If you can spare a hand, to help me set this up, then please write to me and let me know. And in the meantime I will keep writing these diaries so that you know what I am up to.
I feel inspired. Today may have started out as one of frustration with injury and a cancelled trip I was eagerly looking forward to, but war is full of surprises, mostly bad ones, and as I always say you just have to be flexible. The hotel in Kramatorsk was very understanding. I’ve been injured and I can’t travel. A lot of people are injured in wartime. I’m one of the lucky ones. I will use the spare time I have freed up to promote my new project. You’ll hear more about it here. Join me and together we can create a new dawn for international cooperation in Ukraine.