Essays On War

Yuliia „Taira“ Paievska. Call Sign „Fash“

Call Sign „Fash“

One day this whole world will scatter into atoms and disappear in complete silence, and then our everyday affairs will have no meaning.

But as long as the world still exists, our every action, our will, and even our thoughts influence the development of events and change the future.

Each of us can change history.

You know, it was a dark day.

But before it were years of your impeccable service.

When I touched your stiff fingers, forever white and cold, the only thing I couldn’t do was cry…

Your world was gone.

When finding myself next to death – so very close – and closing human eyes that have lost their living luster, I always feel how behind the thin veil where a person was at that moment, the whole universe that was built by them during their life has also perished.

And each time, my muscles reflexively tense up because I seem to expect that everything around me–whether it’s the shore of Azov, a dugout, the interior of an ambulance, or just the walls of a hospital–will crumble to dust, the air will explode, and the end of the world will come.

It may be happening, but on our side of the curtain, we don’t see any of it. Do sensitive people catch the echoes of that disaster…?

And here, essentially, nothing changes: someone declares their love, someone gives an order to destroy the city, someone is born, and someone dies–just like you died then.

You said that you would not leave the Azov Sea region.

Under no circumstances.

That you would die here.

At this point.

If anything, you would simply lie down in this earth and strengthen it with your will and blood.


And so it happened.

All I could reproach you for was that you did not take care of your health.

And maybe with evil and very funny trolling of some Russian-loving grannies from the villages on the line, when you took them to the Mariupol hospitals to save them from advanced stage pneumonia, or when you rescued them from their homes that were damaged by missiles. I always wondered what a miracle it was that those houses and old women survived.

The houses resembled their „owners“: some also had a roof leak. And they were stubborn: they stood, despite the enemy shelling, and warmed their equally stubborn „hosts“, who did not want to leave the doomed villages.

Yes, the grandmothers of the Azov Sea region are stubborn.

You too, bro.

You too.

Your nature is the spirit of your land.

These steppes with needle grass and poppies.

With snowdrifts and impassable spring mud, when the greasy black soil clings to the mud in all seasons and strives to squeeze out the 8.1-liter miracle of the American car industry, pull it into itself, hide it deeper in that channel, in the cache, for no one knows why a huge SUV is lying on its back in the Azov steppe…

You could hold the whole front with your stubbornness, and sometimes I thought that was exactly what was happening.

Spring was already peeking through the frost.

Shadows stretched out under the sun, which was beginning to warm and burn gaps in the settled snow.

The birds of prey sat on the tops of the surviving trees along the tracks, unmoved and focused.

They eagerly waited for the prey, and the thirst for blood seemed to sound in the clear frosty air.

It was physically tangible.

A week before that day, we decided to go around the positions to check the possibility of evacuation routes after a heavy snowfall.

We came early to see the battalion commander.

The snow that had fallen the day before showed the line between the two opposing armies, and the battalion commander rejoiced like a child, raising the Maviс drone and looking at the trails, fresh tracks, and artillery dumps on the enemy positions that had appeared during the previous night.

The enemy ran nervously, raised their heads, and shot Kalashnikov magazines into the white sky as if they had an unlimited supply of ammunition.

The battalion commander couldn’t help but smile behind his neat and clean beard with specks of grey while watching this video.

The more the fools run around, the clearer picture we have of their location, forces, and means.

The enemy has plotted something.

Our boys sat politely on the slopes, and the snow around was impeccably clean. As if the positions were completely empty.

Silence on the line.

It’s too quiet here.

When it’s so quiet, I start to get nervous.

We warmed up at the battalion commander’s position and drove back, careful not to lay fresh tracks on the virgin land and to not to give away our positions.

We went to the base.

We were already basking in the warmth near the small potbelly stove and enjoying a rare moment of stable internet, electricity, and delicious coffee sent by the Ukrainian diaspora in Rome, when the walkie-talkie gave out the code.

Summons and long bloody work for the whole day. And then we washed blood from the cars and rejoiced that everyone was brought from there alive.

We gave the debriefing, drank more coffee, went through the medical equipment, and you went to your strongpoint, forgetting your brand new knife and gloves.

I planned to bring those things to you on the way to Mariupol the next day.

But the next day you were gone.

Your phone didn’t answer that morning.

And we rushed to the cars.

The war drank you dry.

All your pain, love, devotion, focus.

All the years of your life, your experience, your stubbornness.

Your world exploded and shattered into thousands of feelings, memories and hopes.

I sat over the body for a long time, freezing to the bone, waiting for evacuation…

I was flipping through the journal you kept carefully all these years. The journal of saved lives, saved destinies, healed souls.

Only you didn’t save yourself.

I went through the things that are dear to you.

Your medical arrangement.

The warmest memories.

Your most insane heroic deeds.

And I could not cry.

I only kept repeating: Well how, tell me, could you leave your positions?

Why didn’t you report?

Death did not seem like a sufficient excuse to me then in my despair…

I still can’t cry.

All I have left of you is your knife, which you enjoyed like the battalion commander enjoyed fresh snow that morning, and which you forgot in my position when you went on that journey, which turned out to be the last…

And the mittens that burned later in one of our evacuation vehicles during the blockade of Mariupol.

And memory, of course. And lifelong gratitude for the science of going to the end and standing your ground no matter what.

You stayed on your land.

Ihor Nadolko.

Call sign „Fash.“

Translated by Yulia Lyubka and Kate Tsurkan