We have already died in the name of God. Maybe we can just hug today?


As long as a person has the strength to act normal, then he is  normal. But where does one find this strength? How does one not go crazy in such a challenging time?

Psychologists advise to write down thoughts in stressful situations. Why do we need a plot when reality turns out to be more radical than the boldest literary experiment? By organizing our thoughts, we take control of them. This helps us see that in reality, things aren’t as frightening as they feel

But what about in wartime? 

So, check it out! I present you: my notes.

Note #1. Ukraine partially withdraws from the Convention on Human Rights. In reality, this happened on the first day of the war when Ukrainian men were forbidden to leave the country. 

*Article 157: “The Constitution of Ukraine cannot be amended if the amendments involve the abolition or restriction of human rights and freedoms”

Note #2. Refusal to provide consular services for men abroad. They’ve been threatening us with this for a long time, and now it’s happened. 

Note #3. My last couple of months in Ukraine, I exclusively used rented bikes to go outside. The streets were mainly populated by women, kids, and the elderly. I needed a bike to quickly escape at the sight of the military or police. 

Note #4. I have a buddy who was raped by his stepfather as a kid. We are the same age. It’s hard to believe, but even now he maintains a warm relationship with this man. I often think about him when I talk to Ukrainians about the current situation. 

Few support forced mobilization, but many support Ukraine as a whole. Yeah, the fact that the stepfather raped the kid was a bad act, but the rest of the time he bought him clothes, paid for sport clubs and took care of his mom. This situation is unpleasant to analyze, but I feel like there is something in common between my buddy’s personal story and the 2-year forced mobilization in Ukraine. Not talking about it is an attempt to ignore the obvious.

Note #5. Have you noticed how people around us have changed? We’ve changed ourselves. We’ve all acquired a list of questions that we now ask everyone we meet to immediately determine whether this person supports Russia or Ukraine, Palestine or Israel. 

At the same time, the qualities of the person themselves interest us to a lesser extent. We rarely accept neutrality. We need specifics. Other times, I want to know what kind of tea my new friend likes and which Radiohead album is their favorite.

Note #6. Even during the war, same-sex partnership has not been legalized in Ukraine. Nevertheless, gay people also go to war. At the same time, homophobic headlines occasionally appear in the news. Some commanders believe that there are no gays in the Ukrainian army. 

Meanwhile, exhibitions dedicated to LGBT people in the army are opening in Ukraine, but they are disrupted by hooligans, gained the support of local politicians.

Note #7. Once in Kyiv I was caught by the police. They started frisking me, as if having a penis made me a criminal. They found nothing illegal. Then they took my phone and started browsing through my messenger chats. Yep, in Ukraine, this is already a common occurrence. 

What a criminal I am. Ha ha ha. They found a few nudes: mine and my sub’s. Photos of feet and white socks. Kinky chat about of my belts collection. Stern men with weapons slowly and methodically viewed all of this. I saw disgust on their faces. I saw them trying to suppress a smirk. And yet, the sudden permissiveness, absolute power over me, made them continue to view chat after chat. Again, and again. Until they found my chat with the dentist to whom I had sent a photo of a broken filling.

Note #8. Before the police and military caught men near the metro. Now they do it right in the stations. They stand behind the columns and wait for the train doors to open. They are not satisfied with your private chats, now they need all of you. You are forcibly taken out of the metro and put into a car. Medical examination. Distribution. Congrats! You have become a soldier.

Note #9. Judging by the videos on the Internet, I have increasingly seen instances where elderly people fight with the military to prevent them from taking another guy off the street. A positive trend. But still, there are too few random videos to compile serious statistics.

Note #10. An amazing substitution of concepts. Why is our main value not human rights, but the desire to offend our neighbor so as to remain unpunished? By pushing our neighbor to war, we do not save ourselves from war, as it might seem, but we put all of society in a vulnerable position. 

When a homophobe comes to the defense of a gay man, and an academic finds a common language with a worker, the government will not be able to so easily split society into enemies and heroes, right and wrong citizens. But today, medals are given to those who bring death, and fighters for peace are declared traitors. Anyway, these days will pass. We will have to learn this lesson. But we can still reduce the price we pay for it.

Perhaps for some people, following the advice of psychologists to write down their thoughts helps gain control. As a writer, I work with words, and sometimes I feel trapped by this topic. I justify myself by believing that a good writer is capable of transferring an individual’s tragedy onto a societal level. I hope that in my texts, I manage to accomplish this.

Nevertheless, most Ukrainians I’ve talked to recently believe that it’s better to stay silent. As long as you don’t express your opinion publicly, you’re safe. Remember my photo of the broken filling, after which the police returned my phone? When I came for a dental appointment, the dentist said to me, “If it hurts, let me know, and I’ll stop.” And indeed, if we remain silent, how will anyone know that we’re in pain?

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.