By Lesya Litvinova, the “Frolivska 9/11” Volunteer Center
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine
A German journalist stumbled into the Frolivksa [Refugee Support Center] today.
An intelligent and experienced adult. Interesting to talk to. [He] asks non-standard questions, no offense to boys and girls, who usually come over to ask “how did you become a volunteer” and “tell a story that you most remember.” It is obvious that this person was genuinely trying to understand what is happening.
– So the state does not help you at all? (Well, this is a standard question almost everyone asks.)
– No. (Usually, they take this answer for granted.)
– And why? Do they not know about you? (Well, this is the question I personally do not know the answer to. They know, of course. In either case, the First Lady came for a visit, a couple of MPs, too, and all the social welfare officials willingly give my cell phone number along with a displaced person certificate.)
– Can you [really] live separately from the state? (God knows … [Supposedly] we can’t. But we do … And we even function well.) Two steps from us is Serhiy, our favorite “boy from the ATO,” who rocks [Lesya’s 9-month old daughter] Varvara in a stroller.
– And this uniformed guy with a small child – who is he?
I explain that he is a serviceman who is now being treated for another [brain] contusion and helping us in the meantime. Right now, he [works] as a volunteer babysitter for as long as I show the journalist around our warehouse.
– Can I talk to him?
– Yes, why not.
We switch our places. I – get behind the stroller, and Serezha [diminutive form of Serhiy] starts talking [with the journalist]. After a couple of minutes, I approach them to listen.
– What did volunteers help you with?
– What you do mean by “everything”?
– Well … Uniform, armored vest, helmet, food, first aid kits, sleeping bags, everything …
– And what about the state? (No, why would he talk about the state ….)
Serezhka is sincerely trying to remember something [about the state’s help].
– Weapons! – [he] happily announces – the state gave me weapons.
– Are you from a volunteer battalion? – The German is trying to collect his thoughts.
– No, – Serezhka is genuinely surprised, – the Armed Forces of Ukraine…
– And how does it happen? – inquires the journalist – did they just give you weapons and nothing else, and said, “go to war”?
– Well, yes.
Serezhka honestly does not understand why someone is surprised by this. I’m trying to look at what is happening through the eyes of a person from another country and I understand that it is impossible to put one’s mind around this …
Galina Almazova, the “Breeze,” drives into the yard.
– Do you want to get introduced to some amazing people? They pulled wounded [soldiers] from the frontlines.
The German already feels there is a catch.
– Are they also not state-funded employees?
I had no time to listen to the conversation then …
The journalist left us deep in thought, saying this in farewell:
– It seems to me that in your country, the people live [and operate] separately from the state…
I told you so – [he] sincerely tried to understand ….
Yes, separately. So separately that it almost [feels like we live] on different planets. The funny thing about [this predicament] – is that both we and this state want the same things. But we still do not intersect …. I will not talk about the assistance of certain individuals that are close to this government. It is an informal assistance, not a state assistance, but rather, in spite of the system …
No, of course the state takes notice of us. Calls us to roundtables, coordinating councils, expert meetings. The state awards us with medals, certificates, and other souvenirs. The state says how proud it is of us…
Only roundtables lead to nowhere. Certificates and other acts given “Because you are great” cause embarrassment for those who issue them. And [we] want to be proud of [these papers] in response, but we can’t …
So far, the only testament to productive interaction [between us and the state] – is my cell phone number in every social welfare agency…