Monday, December 06, 2004

Just off European Square and really close to Maidan, there's a cute little boy sitting on the ground, in everyone's way, with a plastic cup in front of him and a tiny puppy staring out into the cold from the inside of the boy's jacket. The protesters walk by constantly, and every time I passed the little boy, I saw someone throw some cash into his cup - and even talk to him.

I always give money to the old people and to the crippled ones, but I never give to women with infants or to the little kids. So I kept passing the boy every day, without reaching into my pocket, and it hurt terribly.

But a few days ago, my colleague decided to take a picture of another little boy (who we mistook for a girl at first). He happened to stand with his mother just a couple of meters away from the homeless boy and his puppy; his mother was wrapping a piece of orange cloth around her son's sleeve; they were both dressed well, the way people of some affluence are; the boy was incredibly cute.

Somehow, I noticed that the homeless boy was watching us with interest - and with some jealousy. Or maybe it wasn't jealousy, maybe I was just feeling too sorry for him. Either way, I decided to distract him. I crouched next to him and began talking, while my colleague was photographing the other boy and his mother.

I asked about his parents - he didn't have any; I asked if he lived in the street - no; where did he live then? - with his grandmother. He spoke Ukrainian but kept swallowing some sounds: I couldn't make out his or his puppy's names, but he told me his age - 7 (though he looked 5 or 6 to me). I gave him a little money, five hryvnias, and told him that he should go to school, that he should tell his grandmother to send him to school - because at school they'd be feeding him and he'd learn so much that he'd be able to make lots of money, a lot more than what he was making now, begging in the street. I don't think he understood what I was saying. At one point, when the flash went off on my colleague's camera, the boy got excited and, pointing at the other boy and his mother, shouted happily: "Look, he's taking another picture of him, the second one!" When I got up to leave, he was laughing - like any other kid, it seemed, though not many kids would feel like laughing if they had to sit on the ground all day long for a whole week.

The boy who was going to Maidan with his mother was 11 - though, just like the orphan boy, he looked younger, 8 or 9. When we asked him why he supported Yushchenko, he pretended to think for a moment and then said, in a totally serious, adult, way: "I guess I'm just following my instincts."

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