July 26, 2015
By Yevdokia “Dunya” Sheremetyeva [littlehirosima]
Translated from Russian by J.Hawk
[To read Yevdokia Sheremetyeva other dispatches from the Donbass and Crimea, click on the littlehirosima tab above the title.]
Yesterday we were in Rovenki. In the home for the elderly. I was ready for the worst.
I knew the place is in bad shape. I knew about the bedsores, the all-pervasive smell of urine, lonely old age, and pain.
I knew about its old, crumbling walls, old equipment, and difficult situation.
I knew, but I wasn’t ready for him.
Lesha here is a space alien.
–How old are you?
Younger than me. And there’s nobody in the room other than the elderly, some of whom are suffering from dementia and don’t understand what’s happening around them anymore.
Lesha smiles his pretty smile.
–Lesha, take the shirt. We also have disposable diapers and sweets.
The smile disappears. Such an attractive young fellow.
–How am I going to put it on?
Oops. I’m trying to think of something to say.
–Maybe I’ll sit next to you?
Now Lesha is embarrassed. But he smiles from ear to ear.
–Lesha, where are you from?
–From Bryanka. And what’s your name?
–That’s what they call you?
–That’s what they call me.
Aleksey Razinkov, born 1986, broke his spine at a construction. The building collapsed and that’s all she wrote. His life was over.
Hospitals, operations. Disability.
His parents died long before that in an accident. He has nobody to help him and take care of him.
He’s alone. Used to live on the fourth floor without an elevator.
There are cousins, nieces, but he has no contact with them.
–Lesha, are your friends visiting?
–Since the war started nobody came even once. Seems they all moved away.
All single disabled for whom nobody can care for are assigned to the homes for the elderly as soon as they turn 18. That’s how we met him here, in Rovenki. It’s a death sentence, especially for those whose disability is only physical in nature.
But Lesha is a different story. Four years ago he dated, hugged girls, and danced. And he worked, took care of himself, and loved life.
And now he is surrounded by old age, illness, and lack of will to live.
–Lesha, do you need anything? We’ll try to think of something.
Lesha thinks, smiles. I can see he’s embarrassed, it’s awkward for him.
–Maybe clothes, shoes?
–Yes, I need shoes. Except I have problems with my heels. From laying down so much.
Something clicks in my head–the guy could use a simple computer, any computer. And the internet. That would be an entirely different life.
–Lesha, how about a notebook? I can’t promise but I’ll do what I can.
But I’ve already decided–I’ll do everything possible.
Lesha just lit up, he couldn’t believe his own ears.
–Seriously? A computer?
We didn’t spend a lot of time with him. The elderly were walking around, next to us someone was moaning in pain.
The holes in the linoleum floor were making it difficult to concentrate.
A thought flashes through my head–I will leave this place, I can leave this place.
But he can’t.
It feels like a parallel universe, a different world. Which nobody wants to notice.
Which is terrifying to see and understand. And it’s better to pretend that it doesn’t exist.
But it does exist. Right next to us.
And then Lesha, beautiful and bright-eyed, says:
–Zhenya, could you do something for me?
Lesha quickly memorized all of our names.
–Could you take a photo of us with my phone?
–Well, then with our phone too! But you have to smile, otherwise no way.
So we smiled. I smiled. And he smiled.
I smiled the best I could.
I found out afterwards that Lesha may soon have an operation in Lugansk. He has some problems with bedsores on his back. We already promised to drive him down there and help with the analyses. The home for the elderly doesn’t have enough money or capabilities.
They promised to provide me with the details later. Lesha himself was embarrassed to talk about it. He didn’t ask for anything. But I insisted.
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