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  • Writer's pictureThe Paladins

Fragments from a War Diary, Part #292



Today I lost my senses; I spent seven hours in Lviv Opera House, with a bare minimum of breaks, from 12pm to 7pm. I saw all these crazy performances, that I can’t describe to you now because it’s too late and it was an emotional evening with my friend from Mariupol crying and weeping and crying and weeping and crying and weeping and crying and weeping. She’s been beaten up by her boyfriend who stared at my like a soulless stone of hard granite and wondering whether to murder me in Mano’s Bar. She wept and she wept and she wept and she wept; but I felt a sense of common humanity and decency to protect her notwithstanding the horrors she divulged to the audience in this crummy nasty thin and dirty bar amidst a mélange of locals and foreigners alike. She took to the microphone after the vaguely naff band and she said her piece and she reduced us to tears and let us be frank: her life is sheer hell, because if you’re from Mariupol with your crazed insane boyfriend with all of this military this-and-that then it’s hard to stay finely balanced.


My opera experiences of today will have to wait until tomorrow, because they were so intense that I cannot right now coherently put them into words. I am overwhelmed with the technicolour set of experiences that drizzled my senses over the course of the day. Tomorrow I can make more sense of it, I expect, before my preposterous and lunatic trip to Kramatorsk that I have arranged to undertake with my good new friend and colleague E— who is simply the nicest of people if, I regretfully and respectfully have to observe, is somewhat naive.


E— messaged me this morning, after she had told me that her birthday is next weekend and I wanted to make some nice plans for her. I arranged for the five-star hotel with the dolphinarium in Kharkiv - some totally absurd arrangement - for us to enjoy and celebrate her birthday together. The hotel is owned by Russians, so it doesn’t get attacked. Alas, upon receiving my invitation E— got scared, and she suddenly told me that she didn’t want to go to Kramatorsk anymore or any of these crazy ideas that come out of my mouth from time to time.


But she proved herself to be a woman of true mettle: she has real guts and stout. She agreed to meet me after the first of my threefold operatic encounters today, and to discuss her reservations. It was a short cup of coffee, because I had to head from the first operatic encounter to the second concert performance: but she had the guts to show up and to talk to me and I suppose I respect her and even I love her for that. She’s a great woman and although I booked out the Dnipro Opera House for all these ridiculous dates without telling her in advance after our strange and silly trip to Kramatorsk and other front-line free Donetsk environments I know somehow in my heart that she’s going to come on this insane and self-reflective trip in which you understand what is important for you in life and what is not. This is a lady with backbone and with the attitudes of heroes and heroines and I feel a real sense of engagement with her.


The evening drifted on. A strange man I have known for months and who has been communicating with me under a pseudonym suddenly revealed himself to me tonight. We have reached some peculiar financial arrangement whereby I will wire him some money in exchange for valuable medical equipment. I’m willing to go along with that. He’s a solid, trustworthy, absolutely solid type: the kind of person I particularly admire. He has guts of steel, even if he’s served time in the Glasshouse. He’s a man of honour and I respect that and I hope he considers me to be the same sort of person. We’re friends for evermore, friends made in war zones, as I casually observed to him; he did not dissent.


Some other French character showed his butt in the bar. This was captured on camera but not by me. It’s part of the bizarre and eccentric regime in the bar we foreign volunteers have come to call home. We’re all nutters together, as we commonly agreed. But we are friends, and we trust one-another, and these are the most important things. We have to respect and trust different people from different backgrounds, as people acting in the common cause: to keep Ukraine independent and free. We are ideologues, each and every one of us, and I am proud of that.


What sort of person are you? Are you in this for the long haul? Are you dependent upon the whims of national governments, or are you really determined to keep the Ukrainians independent and free? Can you keep sense together, no matter how much you drink? My new female friend from Mariupol was stinking drunk, dripping and drooling all over me; yet she was a woman of force and fierce independence, trying her best to convey in her broken English the moral veracity of her cause. And she persuaded me.


Some dumb-assed fool approached me and asked me why am I here, in Ukraine, supporting the Ukrainian people, what’s in it for me. The answer is: nothing. There’s nothing in it for me. I’m in it because I truly believe that Ukraine, this historically suppressed nation state vandalised by Russian imperialism, ought in the first quarter of the twenty-first century to have another opportunity, so miserably deprived of it in the past, to be free once again. Ukraine should become a free member state of the European community of nations, and she is going to achieve that and she will do this with the full support and arsenals of NATO member states led with the moral superiority and blunt military and economic force of the American military-industrial complex. And then we will win, and Russia will back down, and Europe will once again be independent and free.

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