Incredibly devastating events in Ukraine: every few days we hear about new tortures, deaths, arrested, wounded, abducted from the hospitals and missing people… I translated a very touching piece by a friend, Ukrainian poet and essayist, Andriy Bondar:
WHEN THEY COME FOR ME
I constantly catch myself on thinking bad thoughts. Perhaps a threatened animal would have thoughts like these. If of course those are thoughts at all. I am not an animal, but I cautiously watch out for suspicious cars and read traces on the snow, and I change my email password several times per week. It makes me laugh. But I’ve known for a while, it’s not fear. Fear is when your heart starts racing, your hands tremble and your teeth chatter. It’s nothing like that. It’s something else. It’s a strange mix of human and animal sensation, something like a self-preservation instinct. It materializes as one single wish – to protect your territory, your close ones and your dogs.
I often imagine this scene. How they would ring the bell and enter my apartment. Would bossily look at my books and my kid’s toys searching for such interesting things as weapon, heavy drugs, the ingredients for Molotov’s cocktail, balaclavas and baseball bats. How they would find only a Maglite flashlight and after having thrown the batteries on the floor, would carefully study its insides. How they would rip Varvara’s toy unicorn with a knife and pick the pieces of the synthetic filling. How they would start searching between the pages of my books. So the day after they could brag that they held a book in their hands. How they would check the spices in the kitchen and look in the garbage bin. Dump digging is, in the end, their professional style.
I realize I have to arm myself. With kindness and patience. And with a smile. I have to smile. Even if they knock my teeth out. I have to smile showing the holes between my teeth. Today they can do anything – arrest you without an order, dump you in the forest, torture and kill. But they cannot comprehend one simple thing.
In 1937 my grand-grandfather was taken away and tortured by the same thugs. Right in the middle of Christmas Eve dinner. They came and took him away. And if they think they can now rule over people’s lives just like they did back then — let them come. Laughable, weak, fat shadows. I would smile. And so would my daughter’s toy unicorn.