What does it take to join the army when you are 57? Very little. Just an invasion. Like in the world famous “Bella ciao” song.
I have worked in a research institute, got my Ph.D. in Geography, then worked for an American chemical company, and altogether 17 years in the plastic processing and recycling industry – all that time practicing my language, writing, and drawing skills till I made all these kinds of creativity my profession. For about 13 years, I am a writer, screenplay writer, artist, and language specialist with a nice portfolio of really good projects, and certainly, many more to come. But later. Not now.
When I studied at Kyiv Shevchenko University in the 80ies, I attended the military department and finished my training as a First Lieutenant, with no practical experience of military service from then on. When the Russians invaded Donbas in 2014, I was enrolled in a reserve battalion but had never been conscripted till the 24th of February, 2022.
That day, the air in Kyiv was shaking because of the air defense work since 04 a.m., and the gunshots from automatic rifles were heard where the enemy’s sabotage & reconnaissance groups were trying to spread havoc. The exit roads were jammed. Subway stations have turned into bomb shelters. And all that was not a movie. It was for real, although, still hard to believe.
I just could not stay aside. I came to my local military enlistment office and enjoyed the shortest job interview I ever had in life. “Ready to go?”, a tired colonel asked. “Yes”, I said. That was it. For the two first months, I was a machine gunner in a new infantry battalion, and then transferred to artillery where I am a deputy battery commander. Still at the frontline. Still alive.
I took several strange things along with me to this war – pencils, albums, paints, brushes, and even a flute. I have been making sketches and watercolor etudes. Last summer’s rains and the incredible mud we were sinking in made me think of soil and clay from the trenches as new artistic means. Indeed, these materials, although quite difficult to handle, are very expressive and demonstrate good adhesion properties. Later on, I learned that ashes from the firewood can also be added to the restricted palette. Now I have got a series of interesting war etudes in this style and think about exhibiting them.
I also kept on working on some screenplays, expanding my portfolio, and collecting laurels. I wrote a couple of analytic articles and made blog videos about the war, its reasons, and its roots. I am perfectly certain that this war is one of the turning points in the world’s history – however, it is a separate topic.
Writing and drawing at war is not a problem. Concentration is. It is difficult to collect yourself and concentrate on this. There are too many things to think about in the first place, and certainly not enough convenience. The Internet is scarce, and the generators only work a couple of hours a day. But we try to keep ourselves civilized as much as possible under the circumstances. In our battery, we have got a shower, a kitchen, and even a washing machine. However, it takes a lot of effort to keep this civilized life running if you live in a forest line or in abandoned barns in the middle of nowhere, with too many things to be done in too little time, the enemy is close and artillery duels never cease.
We have been lucky so far. In our battery, we have only one dead and several wounded.
We are grateful to those who help and support us in our fight. I think we are going to win. We fight for our freedom and our future, while the enemy fights for their past – for the grandeur of their once-great empire. But we all know the winner when the future fights against the past. The future always wins because time is the strongest force in the Universe. But how much time do we have? That is what nobody can tell.