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  • Writer's pictureThe Paladins

Fragments from a War Diary, Part #219



This evening I once again went to Church. The only problem was, it wasn’t the denomination I was expecting. A very polite gentleman was there to greet me, and we had a delightful conversation. And I want to thank him for his conversation. As a result of that conversation, I went back to Mano’s Bar. And we are all friends. And that’s because we all have common goals and common interests and we’re working towards the same results and that is the relentless diminution of the insidious influence of the security and intelligence services of the Russian Federation in free Ukraine. Nevertheless my domestic and international interlocutors appreciate that these influences remain in place, even in Lviv, even in western Ukraine, a long way from the front line. There are some bad people here and we must remain eternally vigilant.


My ex-girlfriend contacted me tonight. She is a very nice person. I admire her very much. She doesn’t send me strange messages with mysterious capital letters trying to insinuate all sorts of strange things. Then she told me it is her birthday tomorrow and would I like to buy her a 200 Euro bottle of perfume. What is going through the mind of people like this? Is she greedy or insane or influenced by malign forces? I don’t know. How could I. But 200 Euros could feed a brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces for a week.


I was pretty confounded by her, contacting me after all these years Nevertheless if she would realy like to live with me in Lviv, and support the war effort, then she is welcome. Because I will be here for some time more, supporting Ukraine and her people. She's from the Balkans, and people from the Balkans seem to think that life in the West is their right, their privilege. That's not right. We are here in Ukraine to fight for western values. As Winston Churchill observed, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. I am not buying some a lady a bottle of perfume at a price that can save dozens of heroes’ lives. Maybe she will grow up. Or maybe not. Time will tell.


I have made peace with Mano’s Bar. I don’t know whether that is the consequence of the gentleman I met earlier tonight, or whether it is a more general consequence of Church. We shall see. But it seems that Church it will be, for me, here in the frozen Saigon, with my friends and my cousins and my friends and my cousins and my friends and my cousins and my friends and my cousins, when I am not travelling to this place and that place and this place and that place.


On Monday I am going to Vinnytsia, all being well, for a meeting with a good man as far as I can tell, who is doing good things and is a hero for Ukraine. It was suggested to me that I might not do this; but to hell with suggestions. I follow my own moral compass, and this person strikes me instinctively as a good man and instincts are all we have to go on in war as we interact on a more or less arbitrary basis with all these unusual people. Yes I will be on a bunch of various dumb trains and rattling and bashing and thumping and clashing between these Soviet era carriages. But I will get on with it nonetheless, because I want to meet this man and I want to understand what he is doing to support Ukraine. I will probably have to sleep on some gritty grimy floor in some village hut in the icy freezing cold but really who cares about that. In my two months on the front line I suffered a lot worse.


One of these nutters who volunteered for the Sloviansk front line and then defected contacted me today. Now he has found some girl on Tinder and he has lodged himself indefinitely in some silly town somewhere north of Kyiv. Of course the SBU will find him at some point and then he will have some major problems. I don't reveal information about such people. If I was so egregious a traitor to the interests of others, nobody would trust me anymore. Nevertheless I wonder what sort of mania and dark secrets confine this man to live in a Ukrainian village with a random and unknown woman, and why he thinks he can maintain his undoubtedly unlawful presence in Ukraine without coming face to face with martial law.


I think the world is mad. I think this war is mad. All these crazy people are coming out of the woodwork and now people are asking me to deal with all their travails. As though I have the capacity to do these things: I am only one person. It’s not as though I have unlimited access to privileged information; I simply live on my wits, like everyone else in Ukraine, occasionally passed interesting intelligence but really just an ordinary person who makes their own judgments in war. In wartime, all this intelligence nonsense is really just that: nonsense. I don’t know what will happen next. Nobody does. I just listen to people and I absorb and take in all their lies. God knows the truth, but nobody else.


I hear it’s going badly in Avdiivka. The Russians have intentionally left one road open to the town for the Ukrainians, baiting them in and then killing them. The mean mortality rate is some two days. So they let you come in and then they kill you. It is a slaughterhouse. At some point, the Russians intend to seized Avdiivka amidst much international fanfare and with demoralisation of the West. What are we going to do about it? Is NATO going to get involved? On the other hand Ukraine has hung onto Avdiivka since at least 2017. Maybe it’s all bluff and bluster. I don’t know. I have asked for free passage to Avdiivka on several occasions over the past months, and nobody will give me the truth.


So I sit here, waiting, keeping all my contacts warm, and seeing what will happen next. I am confident of US financial support, in the end, but I am not confident of much more. We will just have to see. I think the west is absolutely determined not to let Russia prevail. But I don't know how quickly we are going to move our own troops into Ukrainian theatre. Because that is what is needed. Nothing short of that will stop this terrible war.

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