Two years ago all of us got new neighbours. New moms with perambulators. New senior ladies in queues. New shop assistants in a shop nearby. They were internally displaced persons looking for peace in strange cities. IDPs who sometimes bore the stigma of “poorly-educated Donbas marginals”. The truth is they are different...
“For many years I had had one and the same dream. There is war and explosions all around and I save a little goat with a red spot on its neck...”
Danka, her youngest son, lives between the intensive care unit and home. He spends practically equal time there, though in recent months he is more often in hospital than in home. No one can say for sure what is wrong with him besides a general word “enteropathy”. The “lymphoedema” diagnosis is now confirmed, now cancelled. His little arms and legs look as if they were full of little balls of different diameter as lympha accumulates in soft tissues of his body. It accumulates in his lungs as well that is why pulmonary oedemas are a usual thing. Danka’s analyses correspond to the fourth stage of an oncological disease and doctors cannot understand why he is is still alive. Two-year-old Danka reaches for oxygen himself when it is hard to breathe for him. And he makes injections, using a syringe without a needle, himself into the place which hurts more today. He is an amazingly strong boy who has faced several clinical deaths but continues struggling for his life. His mother struggles with him. She is strong. She hardly ever cries and she even has time to console others. She has no time for depression or tears, she has a big family and an ill son.
No one provided them with any accommodation, of course, and she has to rent a flat. The welfare allowance which internally displaced persons get and the allowance she gets for Danka are not enough to pay the rent. Her older children, fifteen-year-old Inessa and sixteen-year-old Serhiy rush home after school. They are as good as their mom in recognizing Danka’s condition, and understanding when he is just crepitating and when he must be urgently taken to the intensive care unit. This is why they take turns in looking after him after school as their mother goes from one client to another doing manicures, pedicures and plucking eyebrows. She has several “own” clients who she visits at their homes and some more in a beauty parlour. It is easier to come to their homes as she can always shift the time of the appointment for half an hour or for the next day if Danka suddenly feels worse. It is impossible to do this in the beauty parlour so she can work only on those rare days when the boy’s condition is stable. The owner of the beauty parlour prohibited Oksana to tell the clients that she is from Donetsk and that she has an ill child. She can only smile and conduct a neutral small talk. This is what she does. She smiles frankly, however strange it may seem. She is amazingly light-hearted.
“I am fine”, she says sincerely, “I will cure him, I know this for sure. I have told you that I had had this dream for many years: I was saving a white goat with a red spot on its neck under shellings. This dream was before the war and before Danka was born. His tumor is exactly on that place on his neck. In my dream I always managed to save the goat”.
(Danka has died. - Translator)
Bohdan, Nastya, Mykyta, Romka and Veroska are the only treasures that Olya took with her from Makiivka. Actually, the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Ukraine had to evacuate them, but somehow it failed. This is why the first thing which Olya did when she arrived in Kyiv was to thank volunteers who helped her to leave the town.
Veroska was just a couple of months old at that time and she could hardly be seen among the sheets.
They stayed at their friends’ in military barracks for the first several months and then they rented a tiny flat on the outskirts of Kyiv.
In a month her husband decided that it would be easier for him to live in Kyiv with a local woman who had no children. Well, it happens and, it is sad to recognize this, but it happens quite often. Olya took her children and moved to Poltava. Money allowance is the same everywhere but it is much cheaper to rent a flat in Poltava. She would not mind even a country house but even for a strong woman it is impossible to live in the country without a man when you have five kids.
According to the Law “On rights and liberties of internally displaced persons”, she gets the biggest allowance possible which is 2400 hryvnyas per family. She also gets allowances for children. The general sum just slightly exceeds the one she has to pay for the flat. Olya has learnt the lesson her disappeared husband taught her for the rest of her life. She can count on herself only. No other person will help.
Her younger children are little and they cannot go to nursery school. They probably will not go there later as they have not had necessary vaccinations. Olya is scared of free ones provided by local hospitals and it is impossible for her to save enough money for paid ones. This is the reason she has problems with finding a job.
In the evening, Olya’s children go to bed and she goes to wash the landings and staircases. The maintenance office pays regularly. If no one helps her and she takes a bucket of water from her flat herself she gets one hundred hryvnyas a night. She must work quietly and be careful not to knock on somebody’s door as normal people sleep at night and do not want to be disturbed.
Olya is proud. It is practically impossible to persuade her to take money to support her family. She does it only if the situation is extremely hard. For example, when the Social Services Office confused something and she did not get allowances for two months. She ran out of all the storage of food during that period, including tea and sugar. She is grateful when people send her parcels with clothes and stationery for her children. But she never asks for anything. “I will manage everything myself.” She has lost all but four teeth during the last year and a half. You can tell yourself that tea is also food as long as you want, but you cannot trick your body. This is why Olya practically never smiles — she is ashamed. 15-Year-old Bohdan is the oldest man in the family. He carries out all the masculine duties and looks after the younger brothers and sisters as well. He has grown up during this period of living in somebody else’s flats.
Bohdan has a dream. He wants to enter a military college, to become an officer and to liberate Makiivka. So that their family will have a place to come back.
Lesya Lytvynova, migrants.zn.ua
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