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  • Writer's pictureThe Paladins

Fragments from a War Diary, Part #271

Last night’s performance in the upper salon of the Lviv Opera House was a little disappointing. It wasn’t just that P——- hadn’t shown up, leaving a starkly vacant front row seat in an otherwise jam-packed auditorium. I’d expected her not to be there. I’d checked the messages between us and she had deleted a photo we’d taken of us together the evening before, as well as written to me a message saying “no kisses” - to which I had replied “but we didn’t kiss”. It sounds to me as though she has an extremely jealous boyfriend and he was going through the messages on her telephone. Well, there’s not a lot I can do about that. She has to get rid of the guy and I can’t do that for her. The other problem with the concert was that the admittedly distinguished piano duo had comprehensively strangled some of Beethoven’s finest piano music, adding their own twists here and there and introducing some chords that sounded distinctly like Shostakovich. There is a habit amongst modern Ukrainian musicians, I have noticed, to introduce discordant tones into their music and I don’t find it agreeable at all. The hall gave the pair a standing ovation and clapped them back on for an encore, but if I am absolutely honest I didn’t think they were worth it. I prefer my classical music to be classical, but I acknowledge that the duo were extremely technically talented.

The evening got better and worse in turns after that. My friend T——- and I had a good laugh about my threats to put him on a train to Kherson. And then I suggested that we actually go there. Unfortunately he can’t go next week; he has some other important obligations, and his work, which involves enthusing the youth about learning English and discovering western culture, is thoroughly commendable in a country coming out of the shadow of Soviet paranoia and embracing liberal values of tolerance, freedom and being able to say whatever you want. However I met a new friend, M——, who is an actress and journalist and she is interested in highlighting to the world the plight of those suffering on the front line so she and I are tentatively planning travel to either Kramatorsk or Kherson in the coming days. We’ll see how it works out. Naturally trips to the East have to be fitted around my opera schedule, which always comes first. I can’t let down the orchestra of the Lviv Opera House.

I also got engaged in a rather curious affair in which some Russian-speaking Ukrainian is eager to leave Ukraine “the hard way” - i.e. by walking long distances - at an unspecified location. I’m not quite sure why he wants to do this or what he thinks he’s going to find once he’s done it. But I’ve resolved on trying to help him, if I can, because I fear that he has no idea what he’s letting himself in for and if I don’t give him some sort of guidance then I think he’s likely to die. He doesn’t seem to have any money, and if there’s one lesson I know about irregular methods of travel it is that you need access to funds. If you’re going to be walking and sleeping rough for a couple of days in late January in Ukraine then you need warm clothes, a decent rucksack, a sleeping bag, adequate food and water and medical provisions, and all sorts of other things. Allegedly someone is showing up tonight with a map and we’re all going to discuss it. I don’t know whether this was some sort of crazy talk manufactured over a few beers or whether the guy is serious, but I think I’m going to try to talk him out of it. He looks hunted, haunted and desperate, and we probably need to think more about other solutions to whatever problems he has than his marching off over some random mountain range on his own with no equipment and no money to await a fate who knows what. So I’ll spend a bit of time with him tonight, if he shows up again, trying to find a better way for him to escape whatever perils he has in his mind. The solutions might be medical, legal, political or something else. But two-day walks in forests and mountains in arctic winter conditions in Ukraine don’t sound like a good idea to me. This is a seriously large and empty country, and if you get lost walking around long distances then you’re as good as dead.

Today is going to be some frustrating day. I didn’t sleep properly last night - a common complaint amongst people living in war zones. I popped some anti-anxiety pill when I woke up, to try to put myself back to sleep, but it didn’t seem to do any good so instead I got up and showered and wrote this diary entry. I spent the evening swearing with the Lviv Herald website, the newspaper I am setting up, but it now suddenly seems to be working so maybe my brainwaves were surreptitiously reprogramming the servers overnight. Have a look;  it’s at but there’s nothing much on it yet except jolly Ukrainian people waving Ukrainian flags and an inspirational message. I find so much modern technology arbitrary because it’s badly written and full of mistakes and too complicated. Fighting with all of that put me in a thoroughly grumpy mood, hating my fellow man and all the rest.

It’s compounded by the fact that now I have to tramp off through the cold slushy weather to an immigration office to sign some papers for my residency, and then I have to tramp to the other end of the town later in order to get to a doctor’s appointment, using some smashed up, bashed up old piece of public transport. All in all it’s going to be a frustrating day, when all I really want to do is to chop vegetables and edit up the Lviv Herald website because I have articles coming in by the bucketload. Everyone seems to think this is a really good idea so let’s run with it. Nevertheless, It’ll be a long tiring day ahead when I have to smile nicely and be polite to people, when all I’m really thinking about is going to Mano’s Bar and meeting my new friend D—— for some drinks. I hope the man with the ambitious walking plans for the freezing cold doesn’t show up with a bunch of crazy maps, but if he does then I’ll have to help him because in the midst of war you can’t leave wretched souls to die. It’s inhumane, and inhumanity is what we’re fighting against.


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