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  • Writer's pictureThe Paladins

Fragments from a War Diary, Volume 2, Part #1

I’m sitting here mumbling and bumbling and grumbling as I realise these diaries are going to have to groan back into action. Yes, that’s right, and it means you’re going to have to read them as they pile up with all my relentless and unquenchable emotions inside as I return to Ukraine. I start the long journey back tomorrow; I’ve been on the other side of the world and I’ve started to forget about war and chaos and disorder but I haven’t forgotten the charm and cute qualities of the Ukrainian people and I’ve decided to go back.

I’m going to be honest with you: I was thinking not to do to it. Why should I? I’d been there six-and-a-half months and I’d started out pretty eagerly but then my pace had kind of slackened off towards the end and I was full of all these negative thoughts and my efforts are all wasted and I’ve done all I can and I was feeling pretty pathetic about myself. The whole volunteering lark seemed to be coming to an end for me as the work became repetitive and I saw the same cycle of things going round again and again and I was making some plans to move on. So I’d left all my excess clutter with a friend and said “you may or may not see me again” and I gave him my rucksacks full of all that steel-lead plate body armour and all this useless stupid stuff you’re never going to need anywhere outside Ukraine and I got on some long flights and I thought about not coming back. I dreamed of a sun drenched shack on a beach somewhere in the middle of nowhere where I could take it easy and write some diaries about something else and not be bothered with all this war.

After all, who am I? I’m just one voice and I go boring on about this bloody war and how important it is and I know you’re all sitting at home and watching the television with your plates of fried chicken and I know you don’t care about me. You’re not interested in the war because you can see it on the television and therefore it’s a long way away and you have you daily routines to go through. I understand all that and therefore my relentlessly filling people’s inboxes with all this stuff must really get quite dull but what actually I needed was some time off to decompress because sitting around in a war zone and waiting for things to happen is exhausting and only occasionally exhilarating. That last week I was in the frozen Saigon I couldn’t be bothered at all. I was sitting smoking shisha pipes and drinking coffee and smiling and chatting up pretty girls and this was why I was there: purely as a tourist. I wasn’t contributing anything to the war effort at all. And I knew I was burnt out. So I had to fly myself as far away as possible and take stock and review and that is what I did.

So when I was getting on my transatlantic flight and I got the note through that the Ukrainian Armed Forces wanted to talk to me about my application to join their ranks there was more than a little exhilaration. I ended up giving an interview above a series of noisy bars on a street in Bangkok late at night to a lady soldier in Kyiv who asked me the rank and file questions to make sure I’m not some crazy nutter. She didn’t mind the bar noise and she reassured me that there there is sense and order in the way the Ukrainian Armed Forces are going about their business. So I sent her my further resume and told her when I would be back in Ukraine and then I waited and I waited because I had to get Ukraine out of my system and something else into my system. So I drank some cocktails here and some beers there and I found myself a nice girlfriend here and I did a bunch of normal things I suppose although on the other side of the world and I tried to lose some weight because I’m too fat to fight right now and I made some success on that road too. And I waited and I waited. I waited for me, to be ready to go back. And that was about two weeks of waiting, and then I found myself thinking again about Ukraine.

I started reminding myself of what an important war this is and how we are fighting Russian aggression in Europe once more and I watched some talking heads on the internet speaking some rot about how Russia has no imperial territorial ambitions and some of these people are very respected talking heads and their opinions aren’t to be taken lightly. And I figured that once more I have some more work to do in Ukraine in order to support the people and the country and the goals of this the twenty-first century’s just war. I watched as the United States Congress slowly and decisively ground into action and passed the Ukraine war funding bill and I was encouraged with a renewed optimism. I’d never really doubted that that they were going to pass the bill but I like being proved right and in wars I consider myself something of an expert and I like it when things I say will happen in wars do happen.

This has to be a useful skill and there must be some more I can contribute to this my life’s passion which is the appalling wastefulness of human conflict and how to bring it to an end in a way that the conflict will remain permanently resolved and won’t just flare up again in a few years and that means not giving way to aggressors and instilling contemporary international polity and international law in the world. So I figure that I am going back to Ukraine to do some of these things. So far I’ve achieved a number of things: established an NGO, a newspaper, given my manual labour to causes on the front line and further back, and I’ve got to know Ukraine and it’s a place where I feel comfortable and at home and I understand all its unusual problems. So in just a handful of days, I’ll be back.

I’m racing out of here. I’m excited, I’m committed, I already have a lot of things I want to do. I realise I have friends in Ukraine and I miss them. I have an appointment with the Battalion Commander who will no doubt want to make sure I am a sensible person and his training can beat me into shape. It’ll be a bit odd to be under the command of a Ukrainian soldier a fraction of my age but this is probably only for the initial period while I get trained up. It’s all a new adventure and I have more to contribute; of that I’m sure. Also I want to keep a record of life in wartime Ukraine, to explain to the world what’s happening in the heart of Europe and how a society is both being wrenched apart by war and wrenched into the twenty-first century from Russian-Soviet primitivism by the necessities of the conflict they are going through. And I want to be part of all that and this is why I am going back.


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