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  • Writer's pictureThe Paladins

Fragments from a War Diary, Part #325



The evening’s opera was beautiful; an exquisite performance of The Love Potion by Donizetti. This is one of the Lviv Opera House’s most popular displays, and once again it enthralled and enraptured me by equal measure. The cast and musicians were even better than usual by the very highest standards of the Lviv Opera House, and Donizetti’s hilarious and potent opera about how an imagined love potion would create romance across otherwise apparently insuperable class barriers turned out to be mere wine resulted in the cast running around the stage with much merriment pretending to be drunk.


My James Bond girl who the previous evening had approached me with fascination about my forthcoming trip to Kharkiv has since shrunk off from the idea. I think she has probably been drunk; like most people she is more fascinated by the concept of what life is like on the front line within range of Russian missiles and artillery than she is in the idea of actually getting up close and seeing it for herself. For her, as for many, the front line is a sort of vicarious fascination in which people would like to experience it through the eyes and ears of others rather than take the personal risks themselves. I can understand that and I don’t blame her. Fear is a typical reaction. It’s just that I don’t experience much of it myself.


The music yesterday evening was particularly good but events got bogged down in that tedious British habit, the administration of justice. Just as R——- W———-, and T— H——- of Siobhan’s Trust, had been defaming me to some people in Lviv, telling them that I had exposed myself when working in Zaporizhzhia (total nonsense), last night they decided to escalate and compound their own legal problems. One of Siobhan’s Trust’s employees has been banned from even entering the same room as me, and this is a problem because another Siobhan’s Trust employee has instructed me to be her legal representative in suing both T— H——- and Siobhan’s Trust in a case alleging sexual harassment / discrimination. The details of that case will all come out in due course but of course one of the things you have to do as a legal representative is to collect witnesses and T— H——- seems to be trying to prevent me from collecting witnesses by putting out an edict to his own staff at Siobhan’s Trust that they aren’t allowed to talk to me. This may amount to conspiracy to pervert the course of justice under British law because, as we famously say in Britain, “there is no property in a witness”.


Of course it is a common problem in employment cases, in which a former employee accuses a sometime employer of wrongdoing, that the principal witnesses are the current staff of the organisation and they are deterred from giving testimony under fear of retribution (i.e. losing their jobs) by their existing employer. However in this case T— H——- seems to have taken this to an extreme, by actually affirmatively banning his staff members from talking to me and actually I’ve never seen such a thing. Perhaps he ought to take legal advice before issuing edicts to his staff on a Sunday evening in the course of impending or ongoing litigation.


Things reached an increasing apex of absurdity later on in the evening when T— H——- apparently contacted his friend R——- W——— (I told you we’d be hearing more about him) and had his contacts to whom he’d been spreading rumours at the request of Mr H——- to the effect that I had been exposing myself, to tell the staff of Mano’s Bar about this and ask them to ban me from going there. This is some sort of punitive action for being a lawyer or for bringing lawsuits, and again it arguably amounts to a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, this time involving Mr W———— as well as Mr H——-, because spreading malicious gossip and trying to harm a lawyer just for doing his job is a very serious thing indeed.


Anyway I have explained that if the management of Mano’s Bar do ban me then I will hire a Ukrainian lawyer to file a criminal complaint against them and then I will just move bars and they will lose their best customer. So there doesn’t seem much upside for them in banning me. I think I just go to the relative relaxing calm of Khariv under Russian military bombardment for a few days and I let this little story play out. I am quite sure I will be welcome in Mano’s Bar when I return. I’ve never heard of a lawyer being banned from a bar for commencing a lawsuit before. That’s beyond absurd.


There is little good about firing off lawsuits all over the place, especially when they involve a charity that one hopes is doing good work. But this charity is not doing good work. It is importing food into a country with food surpluses and paying the greater majority of its donors’ revenues in salaries received in the United Kingdom and not being spent in Ukraine at all; or it is spending money on things like freezer storage for foreign pizzas and gasoline costs for maintenance trucks driving across Europe and Ukraine all for no purpose because there is plenty of food in Ukraine. And then - so it is alleged in legal process - its top foreign manager is abusing at least one female volunteer in a remote corner of Ukrainian military theatre and frankly I find the whole thing pretty revolting. The absurd personal smears upon me I can manage with the customary phlegm; they’re just silly and anyone who knows me is aware that I don’t go round exposing myself. But sexual assault and harassment - if proven, for we are only at the beginning of a legal procedure and defendants are innocent until proven guilty - are much more serious things, against a woman, and in a remote corner of a military environment where there is nobody obvious to call for help.


My Ukrainian friend asked me tonight, “you Brits and your courts. Why don’t you just shoot each other?”. I think my answer to this question explains why I’m here and why we’re fighting this war. That’s the Russian way. Our way is to resolve disputes using piece of paper rather than bullets, something the Russians just don’t understand.

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