Is it patriotism yet?
- My mother must have gone mad. – a 20-year-old soldier of the National Guard says. – I can’t sleep anyway, and she comes every hour to see if I’m in bed. “There you are” she says, “Didn’t go anywhere? Good.” She comes to me and strokes my hair. Once I jumped up as she opened the door: “It’s not the separatists, it’s your mother” I told myself every night.
My girlfriend is out of her mind too, I think. She goes to my colleagues’ funerals and cries. Look there, she’s in the funeral photo. – he opens up the National Guard fan page on his smartphone. A ceremony in a small church in some Western Ukrainian village; women in tears surrounding a coffin. – See? There she is, that’s my Ira. She didn’t even know the guy. – he shrugs.
They found their way during the Maydan. They kept on calling on each other. - Ira and I, we sit in the kitchen and watch TV. My dear sonny boy, just be careful. Take care of yourself, come back to mama. They’re shooting out there.
After Maydan, he came back for a bare week. No-one understood him. Everyone asked him to tell them something about Institutskaya. What’s there to tell? Dead bodies.
Every one of his thoughts were crossed by the Hrushevsky black line. He noticed that he referred to things from half year ago as “before Maydan”. Before, during, after. Before the Maydan, he had no problems falling asleep. Doesn’t know, doesn’t remember now. Before Maydan, he would throw beer bottles to the rubbish. Now he understood he must keep them… for Molotov cocktails.
He decided to rebuild his pre-Maydan life. It turns out that the university were very understanding – sure, since you’re the Self-Defense guy, no problem. Take your time, pick any date you like for the exams. Well done, geroyam slava.
He sat at his desk with a pile of books. A thought hit him – so much nicer it was, sitting with the friends at the tent… Stood up sharply, thought he heard gunshots in the street. And his helmet was lying there, waiting… Enlisted to the Guard, he signed a three-year contract.
In the East there’s blood and death. Everywhere. Dead civilians, dead friends. A rotting body of the separatists lying next to their post, which they could not remove due to constant shelling. The road through the night.
Again – had no idea what to say when asked to tell what it was like. He tried to tell funny things. He relayed a tale about how they drank pool water for two weeks, and then received humanitarian aid with bottles of Coca-Cola in it. His mother burst into tears again. And this coming to his bedroom, night after night… Made up a story, said he was summoned to the front early.
Ran away from home and to the Maydan. Preparations were underway for an alleged assault. - The Guard? What Guard, eh? Nonsense, sonnyboys! The real battle’s here, in the capital! – a former tent-mate assured him, his breath heavy with alcohol.
In Kyiv he understood – all that was left for him was Ukraine. Ukraine told him clearly what to do. Ukraine was sunflower fields and no stupid questions asked. A dead friend’s memento knife. The fight for the East. He’d like to stay in the army. Who knows, he might become a Sergeant-major one day.
I look in his child-like eyes and can’t help but think: is it still PTSD, or perhaps patriotism already…?