Written by Dmytro H
Editted by Vosot Ikeida
...Continued from Chapter 2
Cars continued to come back from the 4th checkpoint. Not so many cars were trying to go ahead anymore.
When we finally reached the place where cars were waiting in the queue, we found it was kind of a very strange sight. It was nothing like the initial big traffic jam we had come through. Most of the cars were parked on the sides of the narrow dirt road in the village, with orderly space among them.
Something was fishy. It seemed like people weren't even attempting to drive up to the checkpoint and try to pass through. I guessed they were scared due to the stories circulating about the guy who got his car shot at for attempting to pass multiple times.
We parked our car at a distance from the checkpoint and waited. It appeared that all the stories we had heard were true; there seemed to be no point in attempting to pass through. Mom and Sister began consuming food in the car. Because what better way would it be to handle the situation than using up precious resources, right? But let me tell you, it had already been around 10-11 hours since we left our house. Somehow we needed it.
Dad went out of the car to talk to some other people who were also waiting. And by some random chance, one of the guys told him that he had seen or heard that a car carrying a child with cerebral palsy was allowed to pass through once. Based on this limited information, Dad and this guy came up with a hypothesis;
“MAYBE they were letting cars with sick people who needed urgent and specialized medical attention go through. After all, the hospitals in Kherson lacked necessary supplies and were almost useless.”
So, we decided to go with a plan of using our poor 85-year-old Granny as our only chance to pass. We made up a story that Granny had a hernia and she needed immediate surgery to be done. Actually she might really have it, though I’m not 100% sure. Because, in fact she offered this plan by herself when we were just getting out of the house, but at that time Dad denied it with a laugh, saying,
“That's ridiculous. We wouldn't need to go on to such extremes.”
At this point Dad went on foot to talk to the Russian soldiers and explained "our situation", before driving into the checkpoint. This was probably the peak of our scary moments of all the way of evacuation, especially after we had heard all the stories that cars were shot here.
Judging by the accent, the soldiers were real Russians, not any of the “collaborators” or traitors from the eastern "Republics" we met earlier. They had full masks, helmets, gear, fingers on the AK's triggers, all the stuff.
Well, so we drove up to them. First they asked to show Granny. Then they asked her to show some medical document that proves her condition. She actually didn't have it, or it was deep in the trunk. So she offered them to show her hernia and started to undress.......
Then the Russian said,
"No, no, f*ck this, OK, we’ll believe you!"
In retrospect, it was an even funny situation, but of course we were not in the mood to laugh. Then they started to check our passports. I was sitting on the left back seat, behind Dad. When the soldier came to get my passport, he turned to me and started to talk directly to me. In the previous 3 posts, it didn’t happen.
He actually used the pronoun "you" in the polite form that is also used to refer to plural persons. In our language, there is another "you" as the usual impolite form used to refer to a single person. So Mom and Sister, who were sitting behind me, thought he might be referring to them, and they started saying something to reply. Then the "interviewer" harshly said,
…Later, we joked that Dad also told Mom to shut up many times during the day when she was complaining or saying some silly stuff, but this time it was the guy with the freaking AK who said that.
So, our "dialogue" was something like this:
RUS: "Hey, You. YOU!"
ME: "Me??" (I was not sure he was talking to me at first seconds too)
RUS: "Yes, you. Where are you going?!"
DAD: "We are going to Cherni..."
RUS: "I'm not asking you, hush! Hey, where are YOU going?!"
ME: "Well, I'm going to Snihurivka with my family..."
RUS: "And then where?"
ME: "Well, in Ukraine, central Ukraine..."
RUS: "What's your 2nd name?!"
RUS: "OK, and others?"
DAD: "Same, we are all one family"
RUS: "Oh, OK, OK, good..."
Well, I am not sure if it went 100% exactly like this, but it was more or less so.
Then Dad made a short remark telling him that I also had a "white ticket", which meant a document that frees me from mandatory military conscription due to some health issues. It’s supposed to work only in peacetime, but I guess that Russians did not know. The soldier didn't even ask me to show him the white paper, although I had it ready in hand. After Dad told this, the soldier rapidly lost interest in me, so I suspected he wanted to make sure I would not go to the army and fight against them.
Then Dad threw out his last ace at them. He showed the medal he got while serving as radio operator in the army of USSR in 1985. He intercepted some transmission that helped root out NATO snitch somewhere in the army. And that "You can't talk about this in Ukraine now!". Ha, ha, these bastards are super sentimental towards their damn empire…
In this way, we were finally let through. It was just one car in thousands. More precisely, I guess they let through like 10-20 cars only among 1500-3000 or so. And soon they would probably close this route for sure, because of the fake "referendum" to make a pseudo republic, like in the eastern part of our country.
So, if we were not persistent enough or waited a few more days, maybe we would have lost the chance. It's like we got through the closing hourglass hole.
Moving Through the Frontline
Thus, we continued on this dirty challenging road, and there were tons of burned down military machines along its sides, - APCs, trucks, even one multiple rocket launcher. One truck was not burned, but thrown upside down by an explosion or something. I guess it was Russian machines. Also we remembered the mines sign, so we were moving through the actual frontline.
Then we moved through the small pontoon bridge. There was no checkpoint on it, but there were 10-15 Russian soldiers. I guess they were regular soldiers with poor equipment guarding the bridge from destruction. Then we came closer to the actual Snihurivka village(*1). There was a super serious and spooky checkpoint, which was supposed to be the 5th one, but we had never heard of it.
They wore black uniforms and had pure Russian accents so we guessed it was FSB-RF(*2) troops or maybe some Special Operations forces. They were really suspicious and checked our trunk for the first time, which hadn’t happened at other checkpoints.
"How the hell did you manage to get through? Nobody is supposed to be allowed to pass!"
We mentioned the "sick granny" story again. Then they responded with,
"Oh yes, yeah."
I suppose they were verifying if the previous checkpoint was allowing people to pass in large numbers.
*1. Snihurivka (Снігурі́вка) : A village with a population of about 12,000, located 55 km north of the city of Kherson, in the Mykolaiv Oblast of southern Ukraine. Because of its location at a strategic point of transportation, it was the scene of the battle between the German and Soviet armies in World War II. In the current Ukrainian war, it was recaptured by Ukraine after a fierce battle in November 2022. After the recapture, the bodies of 27 civilians were found there, and it is recorded as the site where civilians were massacred by the Russian army, along with Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv.
*2. FSB-RF（Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation /ФСБ ) : Commonly known as the FSB. The security agency responsible for fighting crime in the Russian Federation. Its predecessor was the Soviet-era KGB (Committee for State Security of the USSR).
After this, we finally got to Snihurivka, which was totally occupied by Russia. There were some trucks and many 2-men patrols.
There was one funny situation here too. Dad drove to one of the armed patrols on the street, opened the window and asked them before they could ask him anything
"Hi, can you tell the way to Bashtanka? It is our first time here, so we don’t know anything.”
Bashtanka(*3) is the next city, which was under Ukrainian control.
It seems he was a bit shocked from this casual familiarity and couldn’t even say anything for a few seconds, then said “The first time for us too" and conveyed some vague directions, which turned out to be correct later on. I think this happened because all of us in the car were on a kind of “autopilot” after the stress of the previous checkpoints.
*3. Bashtanka (Баштанка) A village with a population of about 13,000 in the southern Ukrainian province of Mykolaiv. There is a Ukrainian Air Force base nearby; on April 20, a hospital here was shelled by Russian troops.
Then we drove along a long canal and it seemed to be a real "no man’s land". There were some Russian collaborators dressed in Ukrainian uniform, speaking with an East Ukrainian accent. I was sure they were from the "Republics". They asked us only how we were let pass the checkpoints, and when they learned the reason was “sick granny”, they also let us pass.
Then only 3.5 km from them, we met the first genuine Ukrainian troops, but it seemed it was not a checkpoint but some forward recon squad or something. They were wondering how the heck we got through too.
13.5 km later, we met the first Ukrainian checkpoint. They were happy, we were happy too. They were also wondering how we got through because they had the info that nobody was let pass.
Lodging at a Religious Center
After a few more checkpoints, we got to the first relatively big Ukrainian city, Bashtanka. But the thing is, it was already 19:00 at that time. The curfew would start at 20:00, so there was no time to get to the closest relatives to sleep at night. They were located in a far away city. So we stayed at some protestant religious center that was taking in refugees and giving free food, drinks, and sleeping space.
When consuming the free foods, a strange thought occurred to me - I had now officially become a refugee, much like the ones we had often seen in the news from Syria and other war-ravaged places. Well, it turned out that the food wasn't entirely free, as they had almost all the refugees attend a semi-obligatory religious propaganda speech.
Actually the pastor himself was quite cool. He played and sang two songs on the guitar and even used scientific arguments to support the benefits of religion, which was kind of funny.
However, it must be said the amount of nonsense that he told was much more than the entertaining stuff.
The overall rhetoric was that even if you did nothing wrong, you are the only one who is responsible for the horrible diseases of your children because of "sins" getting passed down through generations of your ancestors. Who would believe such nonsense?
Anyway, there was no free bed left, so they gave us the sleeping spaces on the floor and seats of this giant propaganda hall. Of course Mom and Sister went on huge protest, even after major hardship we came through. So Dad arranged with the main organiser-priest who asked a local resident to provide us with overnight accommodations. The rooms on the second floor were freezing cold since nobody lived there and they didn’t really need to heat them. After all, they weren't expecting any visitors.
Mom and Sister would have surely overslept as usual, if it hadn't been for the sound of multiple rocket launchers bombarding the area at around 7:00 am. It seemed dangerously close, serving as an effective alarm clock. We hastily departed without even stopping to grab more of the free food and drinks from the church.
Arriving at Grandpa’s Hometown
After passing through more than 9 Ukrainian checkpoints, some of which conducted even more thorough inspections than the Russian ones, and traveling a distance of 260 km, we arrived in the medium-sized village of Lesky(*4), located southeast of Cherkasy(*5), in the heart of Ukraine. We stayed at the house of one of my Grandpa's former classmates. Grandpa had left this village when he was 9 years old.
*4. Lesky ( Леськи ) : A small village with a population of less than 4,200 located in Cherkasy.
*5. Cherkasy ( Черкаси ) : The capital of Cherkasy Oblast, located in the center of Ukraine. The population is about 300,000. About 150 km south of the national capital Kyiv.
She was around 73 or so. Now I had to deal with two grandmothers, my own and this unfamiliar one. Double the impact of aging-related issues and the chaos they bring. They even casually discussed their desire to die quickly and not be a burden to others while slowly deteriorating. It was quite depressing. The first day was also incredibly cold because a part of the house had not been heated due to it being not inhabited.
Overall nothing was clear still. There was info that the "referendum" would be held earlier on 27 April. Another info told us that either Lviv(*6) or Kyiv would be hit with nuclear weapons. Nobody knew what was true and what was not.
*6. Lviv (Львів) : A large city in western Ukraine. It has a population of 830,000. It has long flourished as the center of Ukrainian culture, and this area is said to have the fewest pro-Russian factions in the country.
Reflections on Myself in the Warzone
Then came my own 30 years’ anniversary “party”. Ironically, I accidentally stumbled upon a very cool web anime called “Turning Girls”, on YouTube.
It was shockingly relatable to my own situation. After this point I began to notice my body starting to slowly but steadily disintegrate. Various health problems started to pop up one after another.
Since I ran out of money long ago, I could only hope to get it from my parents to try and address these body problems. But I was not sure if that’s at all possible, because I was too awkward to go to see doctors, as it likely happens to hikikomori. I could go there only when I am accompanied by parents.
I tried to do some freelancing programming. I got contacted by one customer directly, and fulfilled his contract, which I am not sure if I did it in a good quality or not. But I couldn’t participate in a highly competitive rat-race for posted contracts, so nothing more came of it.
Too much competition. Total failure, Again.
Recently, I learned that the school I had attended in my hometown was destroyed by repeated enemy bombardment and it couldn’t be restored. I felt like my whole past was destroyed.
So, all those are my stories.
Now, what am I?
I am a super asocial hikikomori in a country that is in a war of almost WW2 scale for more than one year, with abandoned home, destroyed memories, failing body, too disillusioned about the world and no place among the normal, social humanity.
There is no future. Isn't this funny? I think it's a super hilarious situation. Even totally made up stories wouldn't reach this level of cringe comedy.
I don’t really know what to do. I can’t really escape into fictional realities, in peace, at this point, as I reached the critical mass of problems. My mind is mostly empty. I tried to pursue many other skills besides programming, like electronics, drawing, 3D animation, music, writing, learning Japanese language…
But I abandoned these interests because I realized I wouldn't be able to reach a sufficiently professional level in all of them. If I truly wanted to reach it, I would need to be immortal. If I can't have them all, I'd rather have none...
Oh, I have to tell you, I have no intention to seek any “professional help”, so called. I think that psychology is a pseudoscience and a fraud, as well as just one of my many disillusionments.
......To the Japanese Version of this article