Saturday, August 04, 2007

In those two horrible weeks, I got used to waking up in the morning feeling sort of optimistic, hoping that a new day would bring us some positive results. This habit is hard to break - and now it seems to be breaking me. I wake up with this silly hope and then remember that it's too late, that it's all over. I feel beaten, both emotionally and physically. I hope for this stage to pass soon or I'll go crazy.


There's a newspaper kiosk outside our window. Papa used to go there every morning to borrow his papers, up until his last day. Over the years, the woman working in this kiosk has become something of a family friend: sometimes, we would take her some drinking water; once, we recharged her cell phone at our place; mama used to talk with her about cats and about her son's problems caused by his political affiliation; and she's also given Marta a few presents. When papa disappeared, she accompanied mama to Kontraktova Ploshcha to speak to the bums there. She also told mama that papa was good at saying his full name, despite his post-stroke speech problems: once, when she locked down the kiosk, there was a knock on the window, and when she yelled that it was already closed, he said it was him, Khokhlov Igor Sergeyevich. As we know now, he was still good at it after spending two nights at a bus stop God knows where - but it didn't save him. Every time I look out of the window, I see the kiosk, and I expect to see him there. It's such a torture.


On the way to the Botanical Garden on that last day, papa kept trying to offer his seat on the bus to some elderly women, and mama - as well as those women - kept trying to keep him seated. Me, I was so exhausted by the heat that day, that I never smiled to him when he and mama arrived to take Marta from me. This is just one of the things I can't forgive myself for now. He also tried to put his baseball hat on Marta's head - I guess he was worried she'd have a sunstroke - and I told him not to, because she hates hats and because his hat was too big and, well, not sterile.


I've got two phone calls from people who saw papa's Missing printout. A woman called yesterday from the Vydubychi bus station to say that someone had written at the bottom of the poster that papa was last seen in Obukhiv on July 18 - maybe we'd find it helpful, she said. I told her it was my mama's handwriting. A man called today to say that they'd seen a man who looked like papa at some forest - I didn't even ask where that was. It hurts like hell.


I'm all for reforms, David, but I really don't believe that raising that nurse's salary would've changed anything. Forgive me for being cynical, but I feel that people like her would invest their money in a nice car and then go parking on flower beds. Or worse. Once a bitch, always a bitch. There're plenty of examples here.

As for the cops, it's too complex.

The Kyiv ones would probably give you a million excuses for their lack of action during the first week. The car was broken, there was no paper to print papa's info and photo, hiring irresponsible and brainless village guys is the only possible way to staff a police station, et cetera. And we really should've known what country we live in, we really shouldn't have waited for so long to arrange that pressure from the above.

The cop who brought papa to the Obukhiv hospital was a nice man. Mama gave him 200 hryvnias ($40), and he wouldn't take it until she placed the money into his pocket. It wasn't a bribe, it was more like a reward - or charity. Not much, but a decent amount for a place like Obukhiv.

If only he had stayed there, to see what happened to papa later on. If only papa had given his name to the cop, not the nurse. If only the cop, or the nurse, had notified someone else, if only they had cared a tiny little bit more. If only this country's cops were using computers to record their info - but no, they had spent several days driving in and around Kyiv, distributing printouts with papa's info to various police departments.

And when Mishah was in Obukhiv the day before the funeral, arranging some paperwork, there was no electricity at the police station there all morning long. A usual thing, a cop told Mishah. And it's not the cops who really suffer from it, but whoever it is they've detained and locked down in the damp, windowless detention space in the cellar. Those guys are using lighters and flashlights and what not when the lights go out like this. Good thing civilization hasn't reached you yet, Mishah joked, or else you'd have those electronic locks that unlock every time there is a blackout. The cop laughed at this.

And we're talking about a town 45 km away from Kyiv, real close to where Yushchenko and others have their fancy homes.


The priest who read a prayer over papa's coffin seemed like such a nice man. He let mama cry on his shoulder, his voice was really beautiful, he told us we should be praying for papa even if we didn't know any of the "proper" prayers, and he also said I should honor papa's memory by telling about him to my kids, and to their kids, and on, and on, and on, and he also said we shouldn't get drunk at the pominki.

After it was all over, Mishah paid him what the folks at the cemetery office had told him he'd have to pay: the same 200 hryvnias ($40) that mama had given to that cop in Obukhiv.

"What? Is that it?" the priest asked.

Mishah said he'd been told this was the fee, but gave the priest another 100 hryvnias ($20).

"Well, if you don't have much money, then this will do," the priest said.

We've chosen not to tell mama about it.


  1. Your fathers spirit will be with you for some time - especially in your dreams.

    There is nothing wrong with enjoying this presence.

  2. Continued condolences.

    I placed a link to these entries on my blog, which is one directed toward students and professionals in the study of the brain and the central nervous system, given the exceptional narrative that you've written of these days and the benefit that my readers would gain from reading your narrative:

  3. s--t, d--n, f--k! I get rather upset by "priests" complaining about fees...

    I guess the most important reforms need to start from within...

    I hope your family can find solace somehow besides large quantities of alcohol. I hope you can forget the priest's indiscretions and remember his words. I hope your country gets more people like the cop and fewer people like the priest.


  4. David, we have one such priest squatting in the Kyiv City Hall. You know his name.

    He talks God, but the 24-storied Godzilla being erected right outside my window — night and day — is telling me he doesn’t exactly practice what he preaches.

    When I was in college, my father would have died of cancer had we not scrambled enough money to pay for his surgery. (It didn’t help to know that according to the Constitution the state provides for healthcare.)

    Veronica’s loss gives us yet another bitter example of how the system serves itself almost every step of the way. The only solace, if any, is that the pain she has suffered was not suffered in silence.

    Of course, there is no “magic bullet” in the pay itself. The pay should link people to performance. We start by hiring the right people, and then proceed by paying them the right money, and holding them accountable for the results. So far, the Ukrainian government does neither.

    To make it happen, we must shake up that "stabilnist" thing.

  5. One has to believe in the hope for change both within people's hearts and in the structures/rules that govern us and our conflicts.

    Change is possible and political change is only part of the equation, but an important one.


  6. not sure why, but it's reminded me of these lines from leonard cohen's "waiting for the miracle"...

    When you've fallen on the highway

    and you're lying in the rain,

    and they ask you how you're doing

    of course you'll say you can't complain --

    If you're squeezed for information,

    that's when you've got to play it dumb:

    You just say you're out there waiting

    for the miracle, for the miracle to come.

    maybe because i still feel as if i've been run over by a truck... and it has nothing to do with what i believe or don't believe in...