My name is Jane. I am a photographer from Ukraine. The war caught up with me when I was in my village, Cherkas’kiy Tyshky, with my grandfather and grandmother. We were occupied instantly on February 24, 2022, at 6 a.m.
15 kilometers is the distance that separated our village, which is under occupation by Russian forces, and Kharkiv, which is held by Ukrainian troops.
My village, which is between Kharkiv and the Russian border, is still under occupation. I managed to escape, but I spent twenty days there, which I will describe in this weekly column.
I do not know how to articulate it better, but there are no complete monsters stationed in our village. They do not bother children and women—so far. Though, I know about 15 men who have been captured while going to get humanitarian aid, as well as everyone who served in the ATO.
But this story is not about that. It’s about absurdity.
It was a nice, frosty morning on March 8th. The sun was shining; the snow was gleaming colorfully, blinding me. I woke up at dawn, as usual. I went back to the house, and it was flooded with sunlight. I made some delicious coffee, which I received in exchange for a bar of chocolate, and went to see my relatives, to wish them a happy March 8th. I had a bouquet of flowers, which I had bought on February 23d, so I brought it with me.
There were four blockhouses on our street. Each had two soldiers. When I passed by them, they wished me a happy March 8th. They wished me health and told me that everything was going to be okay. You know—the Russian soldiers that occupied my village and bombed Kharkiv every two hours. They wished me health and told me that everything was going to be okay. I was losing my mind, trying to understand it. I still can not understand how it’s possible.
Later, an even more absurd situation happened. At one of the blockhouses, soldiers asked me to give them a mobile phone to make calls. They told me they had not spoken to their relatives for more than a week, and they wanted to let them know that they were alive. I was looking at their faces and could not understand how they did not realize that they were responsible for this situation, in which their relatives could not call them. They were the ones who bombed telephone towers and ruined power plants.
But I just said that I did not have a mobile phone, and I walked past them. Soldiers continued to wish me a happy March 8th, and I whispered back to them “burn in hell”. My brain did not get that absurdity. I thought that in real life, situations like that did not happen. But it was real life—the most real of all.