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  • Writer's pictureThe Paladins

Fragments from a War Diary, Part #380

Yesterday afternoon I put in a few habitual hours chopping and slicing at my military kitchen for the soldiers but I wasn’t really inspired. The culinary options were rather short in supply for the staff; I found myself making myself a stale bread raw onion sandwich with sour tomato paste which tasted slightly less than riveting. At about 3pm the booze came out for the old ladies to celebrate some new members of the team so I figured productivity was about to fall substantially, so I quietly slid away to decide what to wear for my date yesterday evening. Should I go for cyberpunk, a black string vest which a shiny black jacket and sunglasses, a character straight out of Blade Runner which is how some of the people in my favourite bar seem to dress? Should I go for military chic, in military camouflage green from top to bottom? Or should I just stick to a boring handsome dark shirt and black trousers? I the end, not knowing the cultural tastes of the girl I was meeting or just how whacky she is, I ended up going for the latter. She can be introduced to my more outrageous trends later on, I figured. The conservative lawyer is the best place to start.

I made some more half-hearted efforts to pack and pull myself together for today’s trip, and then I duly went off to meet my date at the appointed time and place. That dratted dating App told me she had a personality type that wouldn’t forgive tardiness - promptitude is everything. I’m not quite sure how this piece of AI software worked that out and she was indeed on time - only in the wrong place. It turns out there are two bars with my bar’s favourite name and she’d gone to the other one. She made it to the right location in the end with a broad grin and we began the gradual process of pickling our brains and chatting about our families and our work. Like me she has two children, one here one in Poland, of similar ages to mine. She was also conservatively dressed so I figured I had made the right sartorial choices - for now. It was a pleasant evening but we retired from my favourite bar when the Moss Eisley Space Port band started up in the background and began playing music as though they were using cats as violins and microphones as receptacles to record guttural orgasms. The music being distinctly low par, we retired to a pleasant Georgian restaurant and continued self-pickling over some wonderful Georgian dumplings and walked home staggering over the cobbled streets. N——— seems like a very nice person, somehow in the same stage of life as me if that makes sense, and I am sure we will see one-another again. She’s professional and cultured if not quite so wild and whacky as me but maybe I’m wrong.

My friend S——— who is travelling with me today also had some packing problems on our extended adventure to Kramatorsk and beyond is also having some packing problems, apparently having purchased the entire contents of a small supermarket and one of those health nutrient bar shops and piled it all up on his living room table. I told him I wouldn’t be eating nutrient bars; this is Marathon les Sables. Instead I will be buying some finest (Ukrainian) caviar and eating it with fine fresh fish on the 20-hour train ride, although that will go very well with the red wine, until we arrive at our dry destination in which vodka secreted in small bottles is the order of the day. We finally managed to contact the curious “hostel” in Kramatorsk via my new friend N———, who was kind enough to telephone them for us and explain that yes there would be three large western men arriving on Tuesday evening and they would appreciate delicious dumplings being served up to them on each of the three nights they are staying there. This extraordinary living space, that I never thought I would have the privilege of staying in again, is overwhelmed with the idea of our coming to stay once more. They remember me and they are very excited. They have no idea who we are or why on earth we might want to come to Kramatorsk at the same time as the entire Russian Armed Forces but I suppose it really doesn’t matter to them. We’re just another bunch of crazy fools because those are the only people who pass through Kramatorsk with any frequency.

Perhaps they imagine that if/when the Russians do arrive then the presence of three bulky westerners will deter the Russian tanks. Unfortunately I don’t think that is a likely eventuality. I think we’re likely to turn on our tails and run if we see tanks with “Z” driving down the high street in central Kramatorsk. But before that happens, there will probably be a lot of deafening bangs and fighting in the outskirts as the habits of this war, particularly in the Donbas, are to fight for every single building street by street. Hence it takes weeks or months just to overcome one suburb and the fighting is incredibly slow-going.

I woke up this morning too early, vaguely concerned that it was more than a little strange that we are going to Kramatorsk when the whole of the rest of the world is heading away; but I figured that someone has to do it and if we’re really going to get a good impression of what’s going on now in the Donbas and whether the Ukrainian line of trenches and defensive positions is going to crumble then we’ve actually got to go there. For all we know these various border battles we’ve been reading about in the press are mere skirmishes and Kostyantynivka remains relatively safe and Chasiv Yar and Ivanivske just received some incoming artillery and remain safe enough places to wonder around. There’s only one way of finding out and that is to go there and look around. Anyway N——— made her contribution to the war effort last night by helping out with the eccentric staff of this eccentric place in Kramatorsk and all we need to do today is finishing our chaotic packing and get on that damned train.


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