Strong and stylish – obviously, it is all about Olga. She always looks like a star in any situation. The sense of style is natural for her. Olga is always elegant in her clothing, manner of speech, ability to self-introduction. Despite when saying an “elegance” I think of Audrey Hepburn, but it would be too simple for characterization of Olga. I would make a parallel with Victoria Beckham. Olga is beautiful and strong, morally and physically, demanding to herself and others and the one called a self-made woman.
We know each other for a long time since my career in interior design. At the beginning, Olya seemed to me as strict, serious, and even harsh. After I have to know her better, I realized that this woman is simultaneously liberal, strict and tender.
Olga was successful in research of the balance that is rarely met among others businesswomen. She perfectly combined her private life and business. Loving and faithful wife, kind and carrying mother. Olga was in time everywhere: participated in business life, visited glamorous public events, spent weekends with husband and daughter, took sports activities, and was informed on the last fashion tendencies. Olya also gave warmth to her kitty called Channel. The cats were always Olga’s weakness.
Olga’s life was bright, full of energy and well planned. She did not like spontaneous and irrational things, always preferred order and predictions. Warned means protected – that is how Olya was thinking, confidently planning the next day, week and month, directly following her time-management in her job and private life.
Maidan events of 2013 did not leave indifferent any citizen of the Ukrainian capital, and Olga as a true patriot of her city and country was one of the first who has started to participate actively first in peaceful, and then in storming meetings. She and her husband, friends and colleagues actively supported the ideas of Maidan 2013. Olga’s first tears appeared in the day when the students were beaten on the Maidan. As having strong feeling of fair since her childhood, Olya could not stand anymore after she read the news about first attacks. As many other participants of the Maidan and ordinary Ukrainians, Olga could not realize that into her usual and so planned life a war will impact, and with it a chaos, fear of loss and pain will come.
Then the military activities has started on the East of Ukraine, all men of the conscript age began to receive summons. The first days of the war were like a game. Nobody took it seriously and for a long term recognized the things happening there, conscripts were not afraid, moreover, they did not really care about their safety at -zone, until the death came and started to take away the soldiers from their life one by one.
Serhiy received his summon when Olga was not at home. He signed it. He could not make it in another way. Even if his wife was at home she could not convince him not to take it. Since this moment Olga’s life has changed cardinally. When Olga came back home she noticed in Serhiy’s eyes that something was wrong. His view was calm, but full of cold determination. When Olga entered home he gave her a hug, but this time it was stronger than usually. Once Olga heard about the summon, she could not stop crying, but she did not dare to stop her husband, being simultaneously proud of him.
Olga realized that the decision was made and Serhiy made his choice. The woman also realized that she can lose her husband, lose forever. In one moment she screamed: “I will never let you go!” but then came down and started crying. In this moment Olga understood that she was like pressed and her body converted into absolute pain. Her legs and hands were hard, as the lead, the muscles ached hardly, the skin was hypersensitive, the heart tore apart because of the separation, that was close. Olga was hardly breathing she frantically grabbed air, but it was not enough for her, all her inner organs were hurt, even her hair was hurt. All night long Olga could not sleep, she tenderly stroke Serhiy’s hair and observed the details on his face.
Olga did not know that there was no summon in real and Serhiy was a volunteer. It was a choice of him. War is a war and it touches everybody and each. Serhiy was always in love with Ukraine. Meanwhile he did his choice. This choice defined his future way, life, and the days to come. Serhiy had a strong self-confidence, confidence in Ukraine, in his people, and that Ukraine is his motherland, and it will arise and reborn, as Phoenix from the ashes. Freedom or death – it was his choice. “If I am doomed, than not just for death, but doomed for opposition to death” (Franz Kafka). Serhiy did not want just sit and wait, be silent and observe when his motherland dropped in blood and was screaming for help.
In the next few month there supposed to be meetings, trainings and wires. Suddenly Olga recognized that her hands do not obey her anymore. Not only hands – her thoughts stopped as well. In one moment they randomly scattered in her head and Olga was not able to concentrate. For several days Olga has packed Serhiy on a war. She was confused even to think about all this, but she was not able to say it loudly. It was not planning of the vacation, rest or even camping – no, it was a preparation to war. It all was not a joke, neither in dreams, nor with someone else. All this was happening here and at this moment. She had to buy everything: a uniform, body armor, boots, helmets, and other gear, pick up personal things and medicines.
In the most difficult situations and working moments Olga was always calm, she could confidently examine the problem from different sides and resolve it, but not this time. Nowadays Olga felt badly. It was not stress, but it was shock. Olga’s life tore into two parts: before and during the war.
Not long before the department, Serhiy proposed Olga to escape and leave in the suburbs. As before, Olga was preparing the bag for a picnic, and close friend gathered. For her it seemed that everything happens in some slow motion. As usually, she and Serhiy left the house and set in the car. On their way Serhiy joked and behaved like nothing was happening – no summon and war, no separation. Olga was driving and only her glasses saved her, masking her tears. The tears fell on her cheeks, than on her heck and breasts. Olga listened to Serhiy, than turned the music louder, so he could not hear how she cries and swallows her tears. On the one of the crossings, when it was red, Serhiy tenderly took Olga’s hand, kissed her and said: “Everything will be fine”. The picnic has passed easily. Everybody had fun, was swimming and having rest. Few hours left before the separation.
Later on, everything began. Military registration, heat, long days in lines. There were freight train to Mukachevo, expectations, divisions and chaos. In two days Serhiy returned home, the order was “to wait”. Olga did not have time to relax, but in few days they received an order from the recruitment to come in full equipment. The 12th battalion was waiting for Serhiy.
Then Olga’s life turned upside down. She never liked movies about war, and now war was a part of her real life. Woman’s mornings began with a glass of water and reading news. Then Olga sent SMS to Serhiy and after she was waiting for reply, which defined her mood and entire day. When the reply was “ok” or “good” Olga happy went to work. A short word of two-four letters made her happy. When the SMS was late, than every minute Olga was watching on the screen of her phone. Woman was checking the phone’s sound or missed calls from Serhiy, turned out the music in her car, always keeping the phone nearby. Her excerpts were not enough. Olga could not wait longer for Serhiy’s call. She began to worry, cheat herself, her mind had drawn horrible pictures of wound soldiers, explosions, mines, that flew with a terrific whistle. Olga was calling to Serhiy and waiting… Mostly, her panic was useless and on the other side of the phone, she heard a calm voice. Serhiy was always joking that he would not take Olga into intelligence, because for the intelligent endurance is the main thing.
Olga signed on to all groups connected with the ATO. Time after time, she exchanged her messages and news with the other wives of the soldiers. Once on the page of her friend Olga saw familiar silhouette. It was her Serhiy, he was sleeping peacefully in the chamomile field on the camping carpet.
Expectations became an integral part of Olga’s new life. She was waiting for any news, even the smallest, but such a long expected. She was waiting for every morning, before yoga. When she received a message from Serhiy, her yoga was productive. When Serhiy did not reply, than any asana could not help to relax at all. Olga’s sign was always chained to the phone, maximum volume, nerves on the edge. Even in shavasana, Olga was as a taut string. She was waiting, at night, every day, waiting every minute.
First few days after Serhiy departed to the ATO-zone, Olga was just not able to stay in place. She send her daughter to her parents, trying to understand herself and realize how to live in further. At work everybody were watching with understanding into her eyes, but Olga did not talk. She understood that everybody, including her relatives, friends and colleagues were trying to support her, but she wanted to stay alone. She wanted to close herself from the entire world, stop listening to all these cheering and encouragements. Olga needed a power to live with this, breathe, and work. Only Olga by herself was able to find this power, necessary resource not to break, not to give up, but to stay support both for her husband, who was walking on the verge of death, and for herself. The world proclaimed the state of war.
Serhiy was calling rarely and in most cases was talking to Olga by SMS, trying in this way to protect her from truth, which he was trying to hide. For a long time different explosions and shouts, Serhiy described as trainings, trying to protect and come down Olga. He did not talk much, but Olga caught every intonation of him. If his voice was calm, Olga felt good. Often his voice was cold and irritated. Intuitively, Olga felt her husband and trembling after each, so-called, colossal explosions and Serhiy’s order: “Fire! To the cover!” The loud and scary booming of cannonade answered on the other side and the connection was lost. Olga’s hands were shaking. In the window of her car Olga saw peaceful city, people, who were hurrying up on business, everybody was alive and ran in their own direction. It was absolutely another reality, the parallel reality, peaceful and kind, Olga’s phone shew the echo of war “Bang-bang-bang”.
Olga realized that each phone call could cost Serhiy’s life or life of any other soldier, but she could not stop calling, and Olga learned to wait. To wait for a long time, be silent, pretend that everything was good, make business, work and smile, and look good. As before, Olga could control everything and was strong. Nevertheless, suddenly she realized that she cannot keep it anymore, she cannot not stand up. A doctor with an empathy gave her a long receipt and directed Olga to the medical store for soothing cocktail, which color and taste reminded more like poison than medicine. Olga saw this green bitter drink, reassuring herself that useful things are not tasty.
On internet forum, Olga communicated wıth the wives of other soldiers. They maintained and cheered up each other, exchanged news, gathered and sent packages. Olga became a professional in military ammunition and other military equipment. She ordered the sights, binoculars, telescopes, and night vision. In addition, she consulted other women recommending proper resources in optical stuff purchasing. Olya was in touch with various online shops, native and foreign ones. She learned all suppliers, prices, received discounts, found partners and friends. In the evenings Olga was online until late night, the bookmarks of her browser were about military topics, removing fashion-pages, clothing and accessory.
Olga was communicating with others volunteers who helped while purchasing tools and ammunition. The management of the company maintained the soldiers in different ways so after work Olga and her colleagues stayed to divide the supplied warm clothing, shoes and later they sent it all to the ATO-zone. At the end of day Olga’s hands hurt because of the large amount of the packed helmets, boots, jackets and vests. For Olga it seemed that she got used to that. She limited her expenses spending the majority of the income on ammunition for soldiers. Olga resigned. In some moment she realized that she cannot change anything. She used to controlling everything, but not this time. She was not able to change something, so the one way was to accept it and to resign.
First time Serhiy came back home in three months. Olga was looking for a long time into his eyes, they became different. No, there were no fear inside, but she saw despair. A human gets used to anything, even to the war. Sephiy did not talk, he did not say anything and every time went back. Despite many soldiers stayed at home. Somebody made such decision by himself, somebody was convinced by his relatives. How can we judge them? How dare we to judge the one who saw death by his own eyes? The ones, over which had the dangerous shots flew, the ones, which came young and healthy, but returned without limbs and blind? The ones, who was laying for a few days under the hot sun with the raw wounds and who lost his mind after the terrible hail of fire?
For Olga it seemed that the native city became unknown for Serhiy. Or, perhaps, Serhiy became unknown for his city? For him it became unusual to sleep in a clean bed linen, after the hot shower, without any clothes, without weapon. It also became unusual to go outside without a weapon. He had to make himself not to watch in the green bushes and leaves on the trees, do not search there any basis, but just go and not look back.
Serhiy indifferently observed happy people who drank their coffee in restaurants and discussed football game or the weather, a movie of the car brands. Serhiy was listening how they laugh. Everything seemed weird and unreal, because there all was different and all people lıved in another world. There was no tomorrow and no yesterday. There was only today and now. Whether tomorrow and the day after tomorrow will come nobody cared because there was no sense. The one could have a funny conversation with his friend in the morning, discussing something fascinating, and in few hours this person had been passed away.
The separation lasted more than a year and Olga used to expect alone. News and expectations in the morning. Job, sports, expectations. Night, expectations, hope. Olga tried to interact herself, going shopping, but lost any interest very fast and got cold to it. The job, yoga and her cat saved the woman. The cat felt Olga’s condition and each time tried to pull it with her soft fluffy body. People said cats could to treat, and Olga really became easier.
Serhiy came back home… However, did he really came back? Physically he was at home, but his thoughts were still there. As before, he did not speak about war despite Olga asked him. Scout makes his job even in the rear. Serhıy did not speak and did not sleep at night. He got up and screamed something, but did not remember it in the morning. Olga calmed him down tenderly. She knew that Serhiy sees a war in his dreams. It was with him even here, in peaceful city. War was in his mind and soul. His dreams were disturbing. He saw wounded soldiers, there were no water, and the radio did not work, the howitzers and mortars beat, he saw whistling mines, the hail cannons that roared continuously. He saw a tornado that sweeps away everything in its path alive. He saw captivity and death.
The horrors of war left a deep furrow in Serhiy’s mind and stayed there forever, and nothing could changed it, any happy peaceful life, any material stuff, any trips. It is impossible to forget everything about war.
Olga has also changed. Olga — is an old name of ancient Valkyrie, which imposes a special seal on the name-owner and fills it with the special mission in her life. The feeling of justice became stronger. Olga’s reaction on any unfair thing became more severe. She became very impatient to lie, to meanness, to negligence. She hates rudeness on the road when the car comes in front crashes garbage or cigarette butts. How came that her husband put his life in risk and the others sons, husbands and fathers die? For what? Everybody got used to war and to death very fast. Nobody is wondering when seeing a person in uniform, and the ones who returned from “that place” have no attention anymore. The government does not care anymore about soldiers, the capital citizens do not care, and the politicians do not care. The blood traces on Maidan dried up and blurred too fast. A war is a death. It takes the best ones and I does not care how many children people have. The one thing only comforts the heart – it is a hope that all this is not in vain. The way, which began on Maidan 2013, will bring Ukraine to something better. We want to believe in that and we want to live with this thought.
“A war is not always –
A victory, I believe — not far the time…
And we will smile to our happiness silently,
And silently will be sleeping at nights,
Covered in warmth and the smells of spring…
And after spending the last way of those who passed away,
We will believe and will love,
Fulfilling our life with the tailwind…” (Eugene Shevchenko).
PS The drawing for the story is done by Olga’s daughter Lisa.