2014 was a very difficult year, a year of discoveries, a year of events and great changes.
I don't remember exactly where it all started from. In my native Donetsk, they said that everything started with the Maidan. For me it all started that one day when I heard and then saw a jet plane.
Back then I was working as an electrician at "DonetskHorSvet". The men and I arrived at the location - "Victory Park" in the center at the waterfront. A new park was getting built there, and we were making the lighting. It was a usual working day. Nothing happened until lunch, we dug holes, laid cables, put up supports. At noon, we sat down on the grass to have lunch under the sun, with a view of the artificial lake in the park. Suddenly, the pleasant sky burst open with a roar.
Like thunder, but one which did not stop. We froze, looking at the sky. It was blue like the sea. Without a single cloud.
Looking into the blue, we tried to see what it was that was still flying there.
But fear already started to make our skin crawl. For about half an hour we tried to see what was tearing the spring sky above us. Someone saw a plane, maybe it was a drone. We tried to make assumptions. And when we had almost decided what it was among ourselves, a loud explosion sounded. It was then that I realized that everything was very serious.
We quickly packed our things, simultaneously calling our loved ones, jumped into the car and drove to the base.
This very day was for me the beginning of the war. Now I know that was not the case. That the news about Slovyansk went past me. And something just flew over my head, like a downed Boeing, in the tragedy of which everything was, in my opinion, "ambiguous". I was in no way involved in the situation. The news passed me by, I evaded it. The beating of activists, the seizure of administrative buildings — I saw all this directly, but I could not understand what it was all about.
I was disturbed by the dispositions of the people, their strange hatred of those they had never seen (Westerners),
and their closeness and involvement with russians, whom I had not seen before either.
We were Ukrainians. In 2012, we cheered for the national team of Ukraine. We stood with yellow and blue flags in the rain in the fan zone! We shouted "UKRAINE" and did not know that in 2014 Donetsk would turn into an epicenter of hatred for its Ukrainian.
The first years were very difficult. I lost everything: friends, family, home, job.
I didn't lose them physically, I lost them mentally. We were in different informational and cultural fields —
I lived in Lviv, they lived in Donetsk. Everyone around was shouting about the war with russia,
but in Donetsk they believed that it was a civil war.
The first years I thought that everything would end quickly. Either Donetsk and Luhansk would become part of russia.
Or the Ukrainian military will push out the radicals and everything will be as it was before. I really wanted the war to end. For them to stop shooting and bombing.
Each blamed the other side. Provocations were getting spread in social media.
In the first years, I learned to perceive information critically. There was so much of it around, from, so to speak, "official sources", which was superimposed on a total distrust of the authorities, that in the midst of everything, my reaction was to withdraw completely into myself. I didn't watch or read the news. I drew, but I drew without reflecting on the events.
I tried to dive into myself and get those handfuls of “me” in there.
All art is gathered around me and around my feelings.
I did not assign themes to the works, I did not name them. I just created them, involved in real hypergraphia.
And what was happening around me?
Life was boiling around. War was happening around. A terrible hybrid war.
Viruses from it clung to me and plunged me into an even greater abyss. I didn't have a tool to overcome it at that time.
I lived in Lviv for a year and a half and did not learn Ukrainian. I knew it, understood it, but could not speak fluently. Actually, I didn't really want to, because then it seemed to me that russian was my native language. That I have to carry it with me, that it is my culture. The culture of the thug-Donetsk collaborator, well lubricated by russian propaganda.
I carried with me more destruction than life. But I didn't think so myself.
I was a pacifist. I was against guns, against war. I put up large "Not War" leaflets around Donetsk, and I heard voices directed at me speaking about venality. But I did not understand them.
I met my Ukrainian-speaking wife, moved to a Ukrainian-speaking village near Kyiv region. But even there I didn’t start speaking more Ukrainian. Because Kyiv was close, because almost everyone in my circle spoke russian. Almost everyone listened to russian music and watched russian movies. Only over time - in long years - the seed of Ukrainianism germinated in me. I started listening to Ukrainian music. First "Kurgan", one album, one song.
Then Palindrom, Yuriy Bondarchuk, and soon my entire Spotify was completely filled with Ukrainian content. But at the same time, I listened and watched to russian content. Oxymoron, Slava KPSS and other dirt. I assured myself that this is the opposition, that Varlamov, Lyadov, Navalny, Noise are all oppositionists. That they are pro-Ukraine, and I see nothing wrong with watching and listening to them. Oh well.
For some reason, I was sure that russian was better! That we do not have Ukrainian-speaking content. That all these “versus”, meet ups, that all this is only in russia. That we can't do that. In particular, Navalny's channel,
who was conducting an investigation.
I asked myself the question: why don't we have such things? And in fact we did! I just didn't look for them, I munched what was served to me on a silver platter. By doing so, I harmed myself and my country. Because I earned money for russian bloggers, because I earned views for the occupiers. And in return, Ukrainian speakers remained without support.
When quarantine started, it was a different time for me. The work stopped, the running stopped. Reflection on life and further actions began. This moment can be denoted as the one that made me stop and look around.
I was sitting at home, I had time. There was time to think, time to do something, between work. I picked up “The nation of vegetables” book. Since that time, I realized that I am a "tired vegetable". And almost everyone around me is the same, only with a difference in qualifications. Since then, I started listening to Ukrainian bloggers and Ukrainian music. To think in the Ukrainian range without trying to look beyond the "curb".That was the first push. But still, I stayed on the daily course.
I already started collecting books, I subscribed to Ukrainian cultural figures’ Patreons, I started collecting Ukrainian art, began to read books about the Ukrainian Executed Renaissance, about the Sixtiers. I began to fall into Ukrainian culture. It captivated me, took me completely.
I wanted to look at Ukrainian art, I wanted to create Ukrainian art.
But the culture of the past would not let me go.
I was still focused on myself, my family and work.
Life was whirling around me. It was always around me. Loud cases of activists, Sternenko, Handziuk — all this did not сoncern me. I began to hear, but did not hear well enough.
The best example (I didn't realize it at the time) was my godfather. He went to protests, blocked pro-russian channels. And I jokingly called him "a nazi". I repeated pro-Kremlin methods, although I did not comprehend it myself.
I did everything to provide for my family. To live alone and live through my family.
And he lived through his country.
I thought egotistically, and he thought globally.
I was thinking about how to create comfort in the family, and he was thinking about how to create a normal country.
I was planning to go to a protest so many times - for LGBT support, for saving Kvitkovy dom, for closing 112 TV channels, for Sternenko. But I always did not have enough time - I worked, painted, was busy.
And only now... Only after February 24 did everything fall into place.
I understood everything in one day. In one moment. Everything I did before no longer made sense.
All the paintings, all the books, all my possessions and all the money. None of this mattered now. The only thing that mattered was what the godfather did.
He took up arms, as he intended, and went to war. And I looked at him, but I could not utter a single word, because
I understood that he was going to defend our country. Going without questions and hesitation. He is going without all these ambiguities and reflections..
He goes despite the fact that many people did not understand him, many people judged him, called him a "Nazi".
He's going... And I'm staying. I’m staying, cowardly and shyly lowering my eyes.
I was wrong, I did very little. And only a great tragedy could convince me otherwise.
The day before, my friends and I started finalizing last year's project. We painted a mural in Kyiv at the "Artprychal".
The working season was starting, my friends and I hadn't seen each other for a long time. Good weather, we discussed plans for further work. We had already booked ourselves clients for 2 weeks, and a good season was planned on.
I didn't sleep well at night, something was constantly troubling me.
Have to leave tomorrow to pick up my wife from the hospital. I thought out a plan in my head: what time to leave, how to get there, how to plan everything better. She has been in and out of hospitals for 2 months: first appendicitis, then corona, then she laid down with diabetes.
On 02/23/2022 at 11:36 p.m., I wrote her a letter ( I found it only now):
" I really can't be without you anymore.
How much I need your support.
I don't even read anything, not the news, not about this emergency state.
I don't even want to get into it all!
Just trying to calm down.
I'm waiting for you to come and tell me everything.
I don’t know. I'm just not independent!
I need your support. I can't without you)"
At 5:20 I woke up because I thought I heard explosions. But half-asleep, I tried to calm myself down, thinking I misheard something.
But at 5:30, explosions started again. I got up with a clear understanding that a full-scale war had begun.
It could not be anything else. I already heard these explosions in 2014, I already experienced all this.
But unlike in 2014, I already had a family, I had a child. I had a collection of paintings and books. My creative heritage.
I had something to lose.
I started to pack.
I checked Twitter, called all my relatives.
There was a slight concern in everyone's voice, but it seemed to me that no one understood the seriousness of the situation.
My wife's sister (who lived in Bucha) called and told me not to worry, because now there will be panic, traffic jams, that I should not go anywhere, and she will leave for Tonya (my wife) soon. Because it was closer for her.
I agreed. Maybe I perceive everything too sensitively?
But there was only one thought in my head: "A full-scale war has begun. The explosions were to get the maximum number of people out of the cities. It's only a matter of time before the fighting starts in the city and its surroundings."
While I was thinking about all this, I began raking the basement.
It was cluttered as always. A pile of unnecessary things, glasses- jars. It takes time to turn it into a safe place. For now,
I had time.
At 7 o'clock the wife called and said that she has to wait until the doctor comes and writes out a note of discharge from the hospital. That seemed ridiculous to me if this was a full scale invasion. But no announcements were made then, the TV was silent. My panic was turning into schizophrenia. I just seemed like a madman, shouting something and spreading panic.
There were no explosions. The situation seems to have stabilized. I tried to control myself, cleaned out the basement.
I took out cans, gathered things together. Brought 3 beds in.
At 11 o'clock, my wife's sister called and said that she would take her to her place - in Bucha, until something was clearer. Because she still has a lot of things to do for work, and in general: "you can't survive one day without her?". I realized that
I would not survive without her for another minute. Panic turned into a breakdown.
I jumped into the car and hit the gas all the way.
Leaving the village, I saw two APCs heading towards the city. It was another sign. Everything is not simply serious. This is a full-scale war with all its consequences.
It blew me away. I drove along the highway at 150 km per hour, cutting everyone and shouting. I shouted at everything: at myself, at my wife's sister, at my wife. They don't listen to me! Everything is fucked! How can you behave like that in such a situation? War, damn it!!! This, damn it, is a full-scale war! With planes, with missiles, with a lot of tanks, occupation of territories, violence! This is a full-scale fucking war!
I screamed with all my strength. Screamed so loud that my voice was hoarse in 5 minutes. I started to cry. Not even crying, I was completely sobbing. I was in pain, physically in pain. And very scared. In 2014, I didn't feel all the pain. Everything was very vague to me.
But here and now everything was clear. They came to kill us! They came to destroy us.
I couldn't see the road through the tears. I heard nothing but my scream.
But I pressed the gas. I pressed as hard as I could. I was driving into the war! Into hell itself.
About half an hour later I managed to control myself. I was approaching Kyiv.
My wife was already in the subway, we were constantly in touch. Checkpoint, subway. I waited for my wife on the platform and tried not to cry. Because there were people around. Everyone was scared, everyone did not know what to do and where to go.
I stood and waited. 10 minutes... 15... 20…
Here she is, dragging her bag, smiling, and I'm crying. I am crying because I am glad to see her. Glad to hear her. Glad to be able to hug her.
Now the main thing is to get home through all these traffic jams.
But the way back was already easier. She was there. Next to me. I didn't feel so helpless now.
What was February 24, 2022 for you like? Did you believe that a full-scale offensive would begin? Where are you now? What do you do? What do you think about your future now?
How did you experience war in 2014? What do you remember from that? How old were you? How did 2014-2015 go for you? Please tell this story in detail.
"Where were you these 8 years?". How has this time passed for you, what changed
in your life since the events of 2014? What has influenced you the most during this time? Please write in detail.