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  • Writer's pictureThe Paladins

Fragments from a War Diary, Part #377

War creates tragedy in the souls of those it relentlessly and mercilessly tortures.

The night before last I found myself in a spooky old restaurant anticipating International Women’s Day with my blond Bond girl after my brunette Bond girl, NSK, had thrown in the sponge, not wanting apparently now to meet me at all yesterday evenings, and feeling rather sorry for myself. After all, I was looking forward to going to Lviv National Philharmonia orchestra by myself, with an empty seat beside me, and I was getting the impression that Ukrainian women are distinctly flaky. Maybe it’s just my bad luck but I don’t think I’m without charm or an unhandsome man and I ought to be treated a little better than this. Nevertheless I picked myself up with another friend M——, hitherto barely known to me, suggested that we go to a play embodying Virgil’s Aeneid when I get back from my forthcoming trip to the front line - the entire play, in 260+ pages, being acted out in Ukrainian. The show is so long that she is having to take half a day off work to watch this epic monster with me and apparently there is some famous Ukrainian actor taking part. The whole thing seems rather eccentric but good natured and the idea that I have to read an entire book synopsising Virgil seems rather amusing so I went along with it. My friend M——- also agreed to come along with me to the orchestra yesterday evening, so I bought her flowers to celebrate International Women’s Day. I do not know her very well but she seems educated and sophisticated and the sort of person I may like to spend time with it. I know I’ve said that about many women but let’s just see on this occasion whether it works out.

Aside from that, I had a dull day yesterday researching escape routes from the Donbas, interviewing for a post that would let me teach law remotely from Ukraine and therefore not feel so financially depressive about my continuing stay here, and loitering with miscellaneous estate agents and their pretty female tenants. All things considered, it had been a good day but I find myself doing ever more paperwork and ever less manual labour and that somehow makes me feel awfully guilty. It’s like I’m not doing my bit, if all I am doing is using my mind. That’s a strange feeling indeed to have adopted but it’s one of the myriad changes that has overcome me while I have been here in wartime Ukraine.

The Lviv Philharmonia Orchestra was an exquisite performance of music at its finest last night, a rendition of Le Nozze de Figaro, Mozart’s masterpiece in four acts. But, being played in the Philharmonia Hall rather than in the Lviv Opera House, it was without the acting or the cast. It consisted instead just of the Philharmonia’s full and resplendent orchestra plus the various opera singers singing the parts without acting on stage, adjacent to the musicians. This was an admittedly unusual idea but it worked well because the music was so impeccable and the acoustics in the building, if a little less grandiose than the Lviv Opera House, are exceptional. We were all riveted to our seats as aria after aria was performed to transcendental music and my friend M——- and I enjoyed every minute of it. I hope she liked the performance. M and I parted on hasty terms at the end of the performance, but I hope she enjoyed the flowers.

Then I returned to the Moss Eisley Space Port bar for some chaos.

And chaos it was to be, and tragedy was to strike. After telling me she did not want to go to the opera with me, NSK had gone to the Moss Eisley Space Port bar alone, to wait for me because she knew I would go there after the end of the opera. I found her sitting there with my friend T——- half-heartedly trying to chat her up, so I casually offered to buy him yet another train ticket to Kherson. He does seem to have a way of bumping into my female friends, at least those I care about, and we have made rather a joke of his scheduled journeys to Kherson whenever I find him in Moss Eisley Space Port trying to talk to women I know. But he was looking after her, and showing humanity, as she had shown up in the pretty clothes I had bought for her and started on the process of getting relentlessly drunk while waiting for me. She was overbearingly affectionate for me, at least half, then telling me I should not put my arm around her in public, and then being grateful when I did so; I saw her staggering and swaying on her har stool; I saw the bar staff trying to ply her with water with sodium carbonate in it; and I realised she had been there for a while and she was slaughtered.

She told me she loves me like a brother, like the family she never had because she has been separated from them since she fled Luhansk in 2014. That’s why we’re going to have to make that trip to Luhansk together at some point: because she ins all alone in this world and she feels separated from her family and I somehow feel that I am all she’s got. She fell over onto the floor by 9pm and I hoisted her back up, but she could no longer walk or stand up or anything else. I stabilised her and with another lady in the bar we managed to get her dressed. The lady took her off stumbling into the street, a complete wreck, apparently taking her home although really who knows what was happening or where she would end up. I asked her to send me a message when she got home and she agreed and this never happened, and she probably woke up this morning remembering nothing. She’ll probably learn of her adventures only by reading these words.

She’d been sitting there waiting for me, drinking on her own, because I’m her brother and I’m all she has. The tears rolled down my cheeks, and I tramped off home feeling sorry for myself soon after that. I just wish she liked the damned opera, because then I could occupy her with a pastime that will slow her determination to drink herself into an early grave.


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