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  • Writer's pictureThe Paladins

Fragments from a War Diary, Part #273

The ice becomes crispy in frozen Saigon. Tonight I staggered through the slutty streets of half-baked whores trying to sell cheap blue-and-yellow wristbands to foolish foreigners and IDP’s alike, bumbling off to Mano’s Bar for some cheap liquor from dirty old moonshine bottles to drown my sorrows in light of the fact that my apartment is freezing cold and I’m just getting sick of it. I almost slipped and broke my neck, a couple of times; but what the hell. You plough on past the early Saturday evening alcoholics, evading the scam merchants and all the other crazy people who populate central Lviv in these arctic temperatures, many of them wearing next-to-no clothes despite the ludicrous weather.

In these sorts of cold temperatures, no quantity of food seems enough. I bought sandwiches here, sandwiches there, stuffing them in my fat face while tramping through the windy hell, and as usual it took me five minutes or more just to take off my multiple jackets in the freezing ice. When is this bloody winter going to end? It’s all so dreadfully boring and painful.

My friend T—— and I quickly got stuck into the drinks, and then my other friend T——- showed up once more with his friendly American banter so I figured once again he needed a one-way ticket to Kherson, which my mobile phone App for Ukrainian Railways was unusually showing me available at the specific point when he walked in. What’s more, he got a deal: the price had dropped to 165 Gryvnas (about US$3), for a 20-hour train ride, which might well be appealing for us both as he’s suddenly running into some problems getting paid for his work in Ukraine (no surprise there) and I need a break from Lviv because it’s full of all these technical problems with difficult people here and there but I suppose I just don’t care about them. Too much of what goes on in the international community here in Ukraine is just so trivial, boring people here arguing with boring people there. Yet all this reinforces me in the value of an organisation like the Ukraine Development Trust, that siphons money from willing donors to good causes because Ukraine is a bunch of chaos right now and therefore you need reliable and focused trustees with information on the ground.

At one point the doors of Mano’s Bar swung open and a horde of drunks swung in with crazy stories and sexual innuendoes. They’d been to some party or other and some guy kept showing his butt and taking off his clothes. We don’t care about these things; it’s a a war zone and it’s just a bit of fun and we have more important things to focus on: like beating the Russians. I chatted and swayed with the alcoholics and nutters and the loud music pounded into my head. I asked various women whether they wanted to be journalists. It was kind of crazy but it had some sense to it too: we need female writers for the Lviv Herald,, and we need gender balance and everything needs to feel right. So I’m not ashamed of picking up capable and competent people in Mano’s Bar. It’s part of my innate and strange charisma, I suppose, that causes me to stand out from the others. I don’t know why I’m like this. I just am.

Some girl came up to me. She wanted to be a journalist. The only problem was, she was drunk as a Lord. Also, her husband, who was there next to her, was Azeri. He casually threatened to murder me if I spoke to her anymore, and he emphasised the point by repeatedly thumping his gigantic fist on the table. Later I learned that the Russians have his son as hostage in occupied Kherson. It’s hard not to sympathise with his predicament, notwithstanding his abusive aggression. The makeup of his wife-cum-girlfriend was streaming down her eyes with stains from tears or abuse. The whole thing was tragic. She just wanted to get away from this ghastly man with all his problems; I had seen her in the same bar night after night, on her own, trying to make friends and escape this horrible situation. War makes beasts of us all.

I grumbled past the piles of heaving drunks, making my way steadily towards the door. Some guy grabbed me by the lapels. I ignored him. You learn to be calm in a war zone; all this stupid violence means nothing when you might be getting your legs blown off on the front line. I just couldn’t give a damn by all this stuff. I was trying to get some sleep all this time but it’s oh so difficult in the middle of a war. I stuffed more sleeping pills into my gullet when I got home but so far it doesn’t seem to make any difference; I’m wide awake like a parrot chirping in the morning sun. As I left the bar, some very pleasant Military Police types were heading towards the door through the horizontal icy sleet and snow with gloomy stroppy-stern visages, nightsticks in hand and assault rifles slung casually over their backs with rows of ammo rounds strapped around their necks. It seems I’d just left at just the right time.

My friend asked me where he could buy a Browning 9mm. What a damn fool question. There’s a shop next to the sex shop just round the back of the Lviv Opera House that sells all this ridiculous stuff. My question to him was: why do you want this? Do you want to shoot yourself or to shoot someone else? Either way it’s no good. Maybe it was just the drinking talking, staggering as we were in a bar swaying like a ship on dark stormy oceans. It’s all just such nonsense. Buy a gun here, buy a gun there. Ukraine is a swamp, a monstrosity of casual violence engendered by war and conflict and this monstrous Russian garbage in which they think they can just take territory with no sense or logic and wipe out contemporary European civilised values at the end of the barrel of a gun. Well, we’re not going to have it. We will return Ukrainian life to normal, and we will do it, as will be necessary, down the barrels of our own far superior firearms.


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