Another evacuation. Our way home leads over the broken roads of Sivershchyna. We drive slower than usual, because we have 94-year-old Zinaida on board
Another evacuation. Our way home leads over the broken roads of Sivershchyna. We drive slower than usual, because we have 94-year-old Zinaida on board, and every pothole causes her pain. Despite her high age and the dramatic situation (she has just left her home) Zinaida smiles and begins to speak. I purposely avoid the subject of war and ask her about her family and her former life, but unsuccessfully. Zinaida, born in 1928, comes to talk about it on her own. She remembers how the Soviet soldiers forced her community to dig trenches, how she let her cattle graze near these trenches and how one of her cows was once shot.
I can’t help but notice the beautiful Ukrainian that Zinaida speaks. It is like I am surprised every time I hear the Ukrainian language in Donetsk region. On the one hand, I am a victim of the stereotype imposed by Russia; on the other hand, I reinforce it myself.
Zinaida chose the Ukrainian language
Zinaida’s mother was a Russian who moved to Ukraine after her marriage. Zinaida’s father was from the Kyiv region and spoke Ukrainian. “Mom, why don’t you speak our language?” asked Zinaida when she was a child. As I listen to her story, I feel more and more compassion for this woman. She has consciously chosen the Ukrainian language – and the Ukrainian identity – not because of, but despite her family and social circumstances.
From time to time, a smile flits across Zinaida’s face as she remembers her lost family: her mother who died at an early age, her father who remarried and started a new family, her husband who died 30 years ago, and her son who died far too young.
“Will good people take care of me?” asks Zinaida about the home where she will live from now on. “Yes, of course they will,” I answer confidently. But how will I know? My part of the task, to bring the woman safely out of the war zone, is done. Her fate going forward is in the hands of people neither she nor I have ever met. I can only hope that Zinaida will spend the rest of her life in peace, surrounded by the love and care she deserves.
We Ukrainians have enough reasons to hate Russians, the list is endless. But the suffering of our grandparents, their lost peace of mind instead of a peaceful old age, take a special place on this list.