War and man - a twisted relationship in which one cannot exist without the other. Hard to say why I wanted to open that door, but I felt I needed to make more sense of it. No matter the cost or mental health. In any case, I packed only the bare essentials, arranged contacts and flew off to Ukraine to pick up some stories...
I was not interested in the battlefront.
Nor did I need to take selfies in a bullet-proof vest, even though it may be the cool thing to be doing now on Facebook. The rules were clear: the world does not need more pictures and my kids need to have their old man around. That’s why I set out for the hunt and took it behind the curtain, so to say, into the relative safety of Kiev, Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk where there was neither peace nor war – where the morgues were full, but no shots were fired.
There, roaming the streets, you could see these unhinged individuals, back home from the front and all happy to have survived but already burdened with this hunch that making it out of the trenches alive was perhaps not the end to their misery. “How can anyone enjoy ice-cream and think of slapping a girl's buttocks when people are dying not even a hundred kilometers away from here!” Mental asylums were getting crammed the same way that cemeteries were. Domestic violence was born out of an inability to process the horrific experiences; there was alcohol, drugs and regressions that spun out of control. They now fought the incapacity to become part of society again and their values were falling apart. What was the point in anything when the grips of apathy were getting ever tighter?
A drama of the absurd indeed.
It was in cafés, in McDonald’s and in huge shopping malls that I was writing down the stories, surrounded by a flow of typical consumerism that was in no way thrown out of kilter by war. Sometimes my eyes brimmed with tears; other times it made my gorge rise. But mostly I did not want to think about them and just jotted down.
Their eyes gave away what words could not describe.
Though heinous in its origins,The tragedy is not brought to its end through gradation nor culmination. Its absurdity and insufferableness lingers in confrontation - “I may have survived but how am I to live on?”
War breeds stories. Thousands, hundreds of thousands of stories man unwilling to ask and listen wouldn’t even dream of. The more important it is to bring them to light and talk about them.