Kharkiv War Diary, Part 3/38

Sergei Gerasimov is holding out in Kharkiv. In his war diary, the Ukrainian writer reports on the horrific and absurd everyday life in a city that is still being shelled.

“I came to terms with it. I prayed that I wouldn’t be killed.” A freshly enlisted Russian soldier is bid farewell at Omsk train station, November 10.

Alexey Malgavko / Reuters

Russians, who hate Ukrainians, believe in fake news and are willing to act fully on their beliefs, are the same nation as thirty years ago when they happily marched forward on the road to democracy and universal human values. Then something changed, and the dictatorship’s owl wings eclipsed their sun again.

The Nazi solution to the “Jewish problem” is in some ways similar to Putin’s Russian solution to the “Ukraine problem”. Nazi propaganda also demonized the enemy and uninhibited soldiers, but Hitler survived at least forty-two documented assassination attempts (many went undocumented), while no one actually attempted to kill Putin. All the stories about brave Putin escaping bullets or bombs are most likely fake. Putin managed to turn his people into slaves. They dare not protest.

Slaves or Supporters?

A dictator always distorts the mentality of the people he leads, but in different ways. For example, the people ruled by Joseph Stalin were not slaves. Even though he tirelessly exterminated them, they remained his collaborators and supporters.

Or when Kim Jong Un leaves the shore in a ship, soldiers throw themselves into the water (some nearly drowning) as they try to stay close to their leader for as long as possible. They behave like his humble lovers. When Comrade Xi Jinping, who will now rule until the end of his life, recently had the former Chinese party leader Hu Jintao expelled from the Great Hall of the People during the General Assembly of the People’s Congress, nobody moved. The people ruled by Xi behave like parts of a great machine.

But the people ruled by Putin act like slaves, lining up in front of the cage containing the raging tiger of war, ready to feed the beast its own guts just because they have been told to do so.

I’m watching a video about one of the first mobilized soldiers captured by the Ukrainian army. He suffers from seizures and sometimes doesn’t feel his arms because he has a two-inch cyst in his brain.

He calls it “freedom”

He is a graphic designer and somehow connected to the production of baby food.

He says that all Russians he knows are truly free, but only in the small community. As far as the big picture is concerned, they agree that nothing can be changed. He calls it being free.

“Did you want to join the army?” the journalist asks him.

“No of course not! You forced me. It’s the joke of the universe that I’m here.”

He waited for a medical proficiency test, but then realized there wouldn’t be one. Then he knew he was done.

“And what did you do then?” the journalist asks.

“I came to terms with it. I prayed that I wouldn’t be killed.”

When asked why he didn’t just refuse to take part in all of this, he mumbles about social ties and indulges in other nonsense, but it’s obvious he can’t protest in Russia any more than he can breathe underwater. No matter what the journalists say, he agrees, even though a few seconds ago he said exactly the opposite.

Another mobilized soldier becomes hysterical even before being sent to the front.

“We’re just meat! Meat! They will kill us! They’re going to kill us!” he says to the head of the military district administration and weeps.

“You have five minutes to say goodbye to your relatives,” says the commander. “Then get on the white bus.” And that’s it for the hysteric. It’s over. The obedient slaves get on the bus and go to the front. The priest waves his censer, chants something and blesses them to kill and be killed.

Of course, not everyone is as obedient as they are. Hundreds of thousands of Russians have fled the country to escape the war. This is also typical behavior of slaves: they run away whenever they can. Those who are denied this sometimes mutilate themselves by asking their friends to hit their wrists with a heavy hammer or by jumping onto their ankles from the stairs. However, that’s not how free people should behave.

To person

Sergei Gerasimov: what is the war?


Sergei Gerasimov: what is the war?

Of the war diaries written after the February 24 Russian invasion of Ukraine, those of Sergei Vladimirovich Gerasimov are among the most disturbing and touching. They combine the power of observation and knowledge of human nature, empathy and imagination, a sense of the absurd and inquiring intelligence. Gerasimov was born in Kharkiv in 1964. He studied psychology and later wrote a psychology textbook for schools and scientific articles on cognitive activity. His literary ambitions have so far been science fiction and poetry. Gerasimov and his wife live in the center of Kharkiv in an apartment on the third floor of a high-rise building. The NZZ published 71 “Notes from the War” in the spring and 69 in the summer. The first part is now available as a book on DTV under the title «Feuerpanorama». Of course, the author does not run out of material. – Here is the 38th contribution of the third part.

Translated from the English by Andreas Breitenstein.

Series: «War Diary from Kharkiv»

After a break, the Ukrainian writer Sergei Gerasimov has continued his war diary. From the beginning of the fighting, he reported on the horrors and absurdities of everyday life in the center of his hometown of Kharkiv, which is still being shelled.

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