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  • Writer's pictureThe Paladins

Fragments from a War Diary, Part #176

Anyone who has been seriously injured at some point in their lives knows what a mind numbingly boring and depressing and painful and inconvenient procedure it is to be able to get better. You spend hours each day in bed, cursing yourself for being in the wrong place at the wrong time but it was just the luck of the draw and you got injured. You can’t turn back time. You always hope you will feel a bit better tomorrow and often you do. But the tomorrows turn into more tomorrows and in the meantime there’s nothing much you can do except wait. It is a uniquely solitary process, as only you are injured and that is where I am right now. I am stuck in a hotel room and although I can get up and down the stairs and I can walk around outside I have realised that I can’t get too far.

I can’t pick things up off the floor and I can’t sit on a chair with a back. I am reasonable company, I suppose, and I spent some time with a couple of friends earlier today, but all I want to do is talk about the progress of my injuries and that really isn’t very interesting. Lying in bed hurts and getting into bed hurts and getting out of bed hurts. It’s actually all extremely boring. This room is boring, too. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with it, don’t get my wrong - except that it’s on the fourth floor and there’s no elevator, and it’s cold outside. There’s a television and a bed and a small desk and the room is en suite. It’s a lot better than being in a Ukrainian public hospital. Someone has stencilled some happy-looking symbols onto the walls but the room feels strangely bare. I wasn’t supposed to be here and by now I was supposed to be on my way on a train across the country and it was that terrible thing, the luck of the draw, that stopped me.

The Ukrainian winters are cold and they are gloomy. It gets dark early and there is snow and the days are better spent indoors and that is what everybody tends to do. The national mood darkens during winter, and the foreign volunteers leave the country as the temperatures fall as well, and it is a constant battle to keep people here through the winter contributing to the Ukrainian national cause in the coldest months. The country starts to grind to a halt and I start to wonder whether I too need a vacation from all of this. After all, I initially set myself a limit of three months on my stay in Ukraine and then I probably really do need a break and I may need to go somewhere warm. The first priority is to get better and then the second priority is to look after myself a bit and to decide what I can usefully do to support Ukraine and whether I should do that from in Ukraine or from outside.

I slipped across the glassy cobbles this afternoon, returning from my lunchtime appointment amidst various unusual shooting pains and realising I was taking everything too quickly and being too optimistic about my own injuries. I am wondering how I will spend the next few days. Shall I watch movies? I hate movies. I like writing but what shall I write about, deprived of stimulus and waiting to get better? I can read a book and probably I will do that. I know I can get to the shops but it just requires a push of the will and some stamina to get up and down those damned stairs.

I also know that I have to leave for Poland in about a week, in order to get a visa that will allow me to stay here longer if that is what I want to do. I have a lot of decisions to make but I know that in approximately one week’s time I will be in Poland and then I will have to ask myself how I feel about everything and just what further commitment I want to give and where from. I miss my family and my friends and I am feeling gloomy and despondent today, like the relentlessly chilly Ukrainian weather. Today it snowed for the first time and still the Saturday afternoon alcoholics were not deterred, swilling their vodka and cherry juice cocktails out of paper cups in Rynok Square in central Lviv amidst the snow-clipped heavy winds. They just pulled their hoods over their faces and got on with things. The Ukrainian spirit is quite determined and on Saturdays in Lviv you get drunk and this is what these people are going to do.

Obviously I should join them, I muse. Getting drunk is an important pastime in Lviv and actually it’s the only thing to do which may be why the expatriates all so like it here. It is the only place you could genuinely describe as a Ukrainian party town although that spirit is marred by the incessant drumbeat of war. I walked past another military funeral this morning although I did not stop to participate; in three months I have become inured to them. Eulogies to the dead appeared on boards in the city’s central square, young men killed fighting on the eastern and southern fronts in just the last few days. I may be stuck here in this solitary hotel room but at least I am not dead and that thought cheers me in spirit even as I pay tribute in my own quiet way, in my mind, to those heroes who died out there fighting for the Ukrainian national cause and for European values. I think of my friend stuck in a cellar in Kherson and I hope he will be back soon and we can smile and laugh because he too is undoubtedly having a much worse time than me. I ought to stop feeling sorry for myself. I should stop pouting, get slowly down those stairs, and go out and get drunk. After all, that’s what everyone else is going to be doing this evening. If I write a diary entry later tonight, you can probably ignore it. It won’t make any sense.


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