Frost is a silent killer. I would even say it is a tender killer. It plays with you making your cheeks red and invigorates you in the beginning… Then human muscles begin to contract convulsively, trying to get at least one more drop of power. The frost is hugging you tighter, sympathizing and listening to the clatter of your teeth. At some point, it seems to you that you are warmed up. The heart beats less. The eyelids are getting closed. A person falls asleep, because this is the last chance to save the remnants of heat. There is no chance to wake up if the frost will not retreat.
The people fell asleep in such way the last winter in Krasnogorovka. Five frozen people were found at first. Then another eight people were found. We have seen their graves in the cemetery outside the town, where bullets and shrapnel mines fly sometimes, and we also saw the recordings in the accounting book of the morgue. “Found dead in her yard. She died (presumably) a month and a half ago.” “Found dead in his apartment. He died three weeks ago.” “Found dead on the steps of her cellar…”
The doctors keep silence about the causes of death in their records. You never know why could die an old man. And who will get to the bottom and do thanatopsy if the body looks like liquid jelly? My uncle died in such way in Lisichansk in January of the last year. He was a lonely elderly man. The door of his apartment was broken down when the neighbors began to complain about the smell. He was lying on the floor beside the couch. He was dead for almost a month. Right there, in the apartment, the body was gently put into the tight plastic bag. Then he was put into a coffin in that bag … He was buried in the bag…
The war is not a blue sky over your head. It is not silence. It is not the songs of thrushes … It is described in such way in the poems because the people don’t want to recall everything they will never forget even without the poetry. They will probably not remember the winter 2015 in Krasnogorovka. What for? God willing, the town will be restored. There will be drinking water, electricity, gas, heating again … And then, a year ago, there was nothing like that. The people could boil tea or cook soup on the fire in summer. But in winter … Frosty weather came but there were neither stoves nor firewood in the apartments. I remember we offered stoves to single women. Someone was looking at us with wild eyes.
– A stove? Why do I need a stove on the fourth floor? Do you understand what it means? The apartment will be in dirt and soot … Where will I get the firewood? Where will I keep them? In the corridor? In the hall? In the bedroom? Will I live day and night in the mud and in the smoke?
he people believed that the guns were about to stop firing. They believed that in a week or two everything will be repaired, the burners of the gas stove will light up, the radiators become hot… What were the stoves for? What was the firewood for? They lived through the winter in such way. There was frost in the streets. There was frost in the apartments. You were under three blankets in a coat and hat. You were dreaming about a cup of hot tea, about fire and about a picture on your wall, where the mother was standing waist-deep in the sea and keeping you, little girl, in her arms, and your back was hot from southern sun. There were many dreams. Only the people who have never waken up won’t tell their dreams.
We were there many times the last winter. We know what the medical staff had to write in their records of death. “Found … Exhaustion… Hypothermia …” “Found … Exhaustion… Hypothermia…” That’s the whole truth about the winter in every front-line town. There were empty executive committee rooms, empty rooms of residential complexes, gas pipelines damaged with shrapnel, supports of electricity transmission lines broken by shells, broken windows in fife-story buildings. And there were apartments that have become frozen traps. You would like to drink a cup of tea, but … how? And you would like to sleep holding a plastic bottle of boiled water in your arms. You would put such bottle near your legs and sides. You would probably get warmed. But there is no fire in your apartment. No! Boiling water, tea and soup became … a fantasy, a memory from another life.
Grigory Zhuk would freeze to death for sure. His legs fail to hold him, but his heart is still beating. Somehow he walks around his apartment with the help of crutches. He recalls Second World War from time to time. He joined the gunners at the age of 14 years old and went through the war with them. The war relentlessly tormented his youth but did not break him. The war found Grigory again in old age. It would kill him. It chained the elderly man with frost so much that he could hardly breathe and couldn’t get warmed under the heap of blankets and pillows. A social service employee did not give him to death. She decided that it’s not right for elderly people to die in such way. She was picking up the branches of the dry trees and making fire on the snow. She boiled water and poured it into plastic bottles and put them close to Grigory and put many blankets on him and went outside to pick up more branches.
Grigory survived. He survived! He swears:
– I went through the war – he said. – And I’m now called a fascist because I am Ukrainian and love my Ukraine. Look at me. Do you see? Here they are, the current fascists. Have you remembered?
The person who saved Grigory doesn’t want to tell her name. She doesn’t want even to talk to me. Who am I to her? One of the people from Kiev that failed to cope with the question of the war already for a year. And this is winter in the streets again. There is frost again. And there is still no gas and heating in Krasnogorovka. It is great that electricity was finally turned on. The voltage is weak and jumping, but electric heaters rescue the people anyway. Ten degrees over zero in the apartment is not the same as two degrees below zero.
The same people live in winter in Krasnogorovka but … they’re different now. Trouble taught them. Everyone is happy to get a stove. Firewood is worth gold. Simple human kindness is valued more than gold, when someone can share water, bread, warmth of their stove with you. And the ice of human hearts is more terrible than shells, when someone comes to steal or rob justifying themselves by war and misfortune.
want to talk about good. Love is stronger! The trouble walks around the earth only for the sake of the people to see good and love in themselves.
Kindness starts with small things. There are two friends. They both are elderly disabled ladies. Ekaterina Kulikova has poor sight and hardly distinguishes silhouettes. Valentina Gorelova hardly walks as her legs ache. They are sitting in an apartment near the stove and smiling.
– It is easier for us to survive together, – Valentina says. – And it is good to have someone to talk to. And it is warmer to sit together near the one stove. We need less firewood. And we are not afraid of getting sick. Nobody would learn if I would get sick. So we sit together and tell each other our life stories. We hope to wait for spring. Do you know what the elderly people think? We will live for another year if we hold until spring.
They are not relatives but friends united by the trouble and the war. It is the strongest and the most faithful friendship. The hearts of the people are glued to each other by kindness in troubles. This does not pass and is not forgotten.
Other people live at the distance of hundred steps from the place these elderly ladies’ home. They live by kindness. They deliver drinking water around the town. They unload and chop firewood. They install the stoves in the homes of elderly people, distribute medicines and food… They are common people. Most of them came to the Lord just recently in the situation of trouble and war. They came to God, because they have seen that the people – even the strongest – can be relied on not always and not in everything. Only the church didn’t live them in trouble. Only the church helped them in the most difficult days for Krasnogorovka. Now the Lord taught them to love. He involved them into His Church…
The people live at the distance of hundreds or thousands of kilometers away from Krasnogorovka. They are in the same river of goodness. They pray about Krasnogorovka, donate money, food, clothing … They make stoves and store up firewood. They deliver all that to the front line in order not to leave the people of Krasnogorovka alone with the war.
I see it all and I can’t help wondering. I’m amazed by the constancy of “Emmanuel” Association Partners. They continue to help and give out everything taking from their families and their kids year after year. I’m amazed by Galina Kucher. How can a woman carry so much human trouble on her shoulders? She goes to the places with the biggest needs, where even strong men cry easier than roll up their sleeves and help to cope with the troubles. And she goes anyway… And she helps anyway… I’m amazed by God. He stands in the midst of hatred and blood to hug, feed and warm … For the people to see, feel, remember and tell their children that Love is stronger!
Nobody was frozen to death in Krasnogorovka this winter. The trucks with the stoves and firewood continue to come to this front-line town. They come to Krasnogorovka, Maryinka, Trehizbenka and other towns. Thin streams of good merge into one big river … Spring melt all that was frostbitten. Just do not wait for it. Go and bring spring to people.
Gennady Novikov, the press-center of “Emmanuel” Association
We just remind that “CBN-Emmanuil” continues to help the people from the South-East of Ukraine.
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