Buy me a Boy

How much do you value my freedom in dollars?


I remember this one guy who liked exploring abandoned villages. He would stay overnight in empty houses, record it, and upload the footage to YouTube.

While on one of these excursions, he tried to enter a house. But as he approached he noticed signs of life. There were people living there – an elderly couple.

The roof of the house was so crooked it seemed ready to collapse. The couple were living there without electricity. They were friendly and eager to interact. The old man proudly showed the unexpected visitor his old books and dusty tools. When the video came out, users started asking to organize a fundraiser to help the elderly couple.

A bit later, the sudden visitor returned. He brought some food and vodka. The old man had begged for vodka. It also turned out that the old man’s leg was very numb.

Soon, a third video came out. The regional authorities had seen the previous videos and became concerned about the situation. They provided the couple with housing and medical treatment. It seemed like a triumph for the blogger and his subscribers. Together, they managed to change the lives of two helpless people for the better!

In the end, not everything turned out so bright.

While the old man used to be eager to communicate, he became quiet and sad. It was evident that the elderly couple was happier when they were in their crumbling house in the abandoned village. But what could be the problem?

We base our judgements of others on ourselves and often think that what’s good for us is good for others, too. But is that really so? I wonder, did the old folks regret letting the stranger with a camera into their humble home?

So, where’s the answer? It’s in the dark corners. In the dusty window sills. And in the deep wrinkles. It’s an everyday mystery. The kind that makes people feel better living in an abandoned village than among others.

Today, missiles are launched from the town where my grandparents live. I asked them if they would prefer their town to be Ukrainian or Russian, and they said they didn’t care. They just want the military to stop shooting missiles.

When we donate money to warring countries, we need to know exactly what that money is being used for. It’s absurd to say you’re against war and then buy bullets for the military.

Wish for peace, prepare for war. This phrase benefits only militarists. Why? Classic writer Anton Chekhov knows the answer. He wrote that if a gun is brought onto the stage in the first act, it will inevitably fire by the third. And life, as we know, imitates art, so there’s something to fear.

In two years of war between Russia and Ukraine, I’ve seen a huge amount of fundraising for the military. But not everyone wants to fight. And those who don’t want to fight have been trapped in Ukraine for these same 2 years. Their homes are being shelled by the enemy army. Outside their homes, they’re hunted by the police and representatives of military commissariat. Leaving the country as an 18 to 60 year old guy is prohibited.

In the early days of the war, those guys could leave Ukraine for $500. Today the price for one Ukrainian guy to leave is around $10,000. But so far, I haven’t seen any fundraisers for that.

This piece is a part of  a series, The Mining Boy Notes, published on Mondays and authored by Ilya Kharkow, a writer from Ukraine. For more information about Ilya, see his website. You can support his work by buying him a coffee.