Julia Buyskykh: Why is the Russian army fighting women and kittens?


From the editor: Julia Buyskykh is a historian and anthropologist from Kyiv. She works as a researcher at National Academy of Sciences (Institute of History of Ukraine) and The Centre for Applied Anthropology. Her story is the odyssey that starts on the first day of the war in her native Kyiv and proceeds further and further to the west.

During the first days of the full-scale invasion the Kyiv residents experienced missile strikes as well as street fights against multiple saboteur groups in particular at Obolon and Beresteyska areas. However, the military together with National guard and territorial defense units succeeded to restrain them. Heroic defence of the nearby airfields in Hostomel and Vasylkiv made landing of the Russian paratroopers impossible. Kyiv despite pessimistic forecasts of the Western military experts did not fall. But nobody could guarantee it in the end of February. This uncertainty and hope are reflected in Yulia’s diary.

Translated from Ukrainian and Russian.

February 24

Multiple explosions are heard in Kyiv at Troyeshchyna area. Until today, I have never allowed myself the thought that this can happen.

We are praying. The war has begun.

I have learned the new notion – anti-missile defence. It appears that from 5 till 7 in the morning I heard our anti-missile defence hitting down Russian missiles. Thanks God, my dad and grandmother won’t hear it.

February 25

It is the war.

I would have never ever imagined myself saying this, but: I am grateful that my dearest father passed in 2020, and he doesn't witness how his country of birth Russia is outrageously attacking the place he called motherland – Ukraine.

I would have never ever imagined myself saying this, but: I am grateful that my beloved granny passed in December 2021. This loss is still so fresh and hurting. But she is in the other better world now. She survived the Nazi occupation in Kyiv during the WWII and this war would have killed her.

My mother, me, and our cat are in Kyiv. Yesterday which seems already as a week ago, I took my documents, money, a few things and photos, and a pen drive with all my work for the last 12 years, and came to my mom's place. I've sent the manuscript of my book to my dear friend just in case. To preserve.

My mother, me, and a cat inherited from my granny spent the last night in the nearby underground car parking. We got frozen there. But safe. Many people were there, with children and pets. At 3 a.m. when another wave of Russian bombing started, we heard it so close. Poznyaky area is not far from us. Poor cat was shaking. The dogs were screaming, and the kids crying. But! The men were so brave, keeping themselves and calming women and kids. They were staying near the parking entrance, together as a chain, ready to face anything, even without any weapons.

We went home at 7 in the morning. Tried to sleep, unsuccessfully though. I went for a walk nearby, and it was such a contrasting experience to see that blue pre-spring sky, sun over there, feel its warmth, listen to the birds and air alert alarms simultaneously. First green grass. Explosions somewhere in the North direction. Men staying near the district administration, calm and strict, saying that they would protect their homes. From the Russians. That was the first moment during those mad days when I felt tears in my eyes.

We will survive. I pray and hope for that.

I am overwhelmingly grateful for all those friends and colleagues writing me from all over the world, including those brave friends in Russia, who go out and protest against this war. My heart is melting because of the greatest support ever from Poland and Lithuania. Every person suggests to shelter and host us, with the cat. That warms my heart. It is so good to know that there are you, who care. Perhaps, those times when we used to talk about the books and the fieldwork will return again.

Now we are staying in Kyiv. My mother categorically doesn't want to leave the city, and I am with her.

Thank you for being there for us. For helping us. For your prayers and empathy.

I have always been convinced that Love will save every person and the world. My life started because of love, I live for love and from love.

Sending my love for you.

February 27

For a few nights Kyiv has been shelled. Thus, we don’t sleep. Today I have managed to sleep for the four whole hours for the first time since the morning February 24. The sounds of air raid alarms, the sounds of Russian shelling, the sounds of our anti-missile defence. One learns to distinguish the hues of sounds: near or far away. The windows are taped and barricaded with cardboard, blankets and pillows. My granny said that they used to do like this during the WWII when Kyiv was conquered by the Nazis. Could my mom and me ever think that survival strategies of my grandma and greatgrandma will come in handy? At home, we have a supply of toilet paper, candles, and cereals made by my grandma last autumn. She survived the war as a kid, therefore she always hoarded certain products, just in case, for a rainy day. And there it is. Me and mamma are thinking about her again and again. We thank God that He took her already in December and she is not experiencing war once more. What would my great grandfather say? He fought together with the Russians against the Nazis in Stalingrad. What would he say observing the Russians attacking his city where his granddaughter and great granddaughter live? Thank goodness, he died in the end of 1990s and does not see this shame.

I am checking on my friends and colleagues and reading that there is street fighting in Kharkiv, what is happening in Mykolaiv, in Odesa, in the North… I am praying. Here is the old breviary that belonged to my grandma. Here are prayers written by her hand. Here is a Psalter. I am reading Psalm 90 and my voice is shaking. Mom is repeating after me “amen, amen, amen”.

In the evenings, we don’t turn on the lights, rather light the candle. In front of us, only one window is lighted. The whole house is black.

The cat is afraid of the loud sounds. He is squeaking and hiding when hears the sirens and explosions. At night we are hugging each other, this way it is easier to make it through the night for the three of us. The cat is hiding under the armpit and shaking. Why has the Russian army come to fight us – women and kittens? I just cannot get it: why do they obey him, why do they carry out the orders of the person who is sitting in the bunker far away, who does not care about them? Why are they coming to the foreign country and killing us? Were they really pumped with propaganda? Can’t they think on their own? And what about their parents and families? And why? Why?

It's good that daddy is no longer with us. For him – ethnical Russian – this would be a double tragedy…

God willing, we will survive this.

In the first place, every human being is the light, a spark of the divine love. Because life is such an incredible priceless gift. I am so grateful for incarnation in the human body, for everything that live has already given me. For emotions, feelings, for the beauty of nature that I am able to contemplate. Even now the birds are singing. Despite of the sounds of shelling. Why the light inside human beings is turning into a chasm of darkness? Into a beast of the mind and the soul… It has been happening during the whole history of the mankind. I am fond of the ancient Greek historian Thucydides and his History of the Peloponnesian War. It seems to me that to some extent his thoughts and conclusions can be applied to the current situation. Alas.

With a God’s help, all of us will survive this war. We will defend Ukraine, our Home. God willing, the hatred won’t destroy us inside. God willing the light will prevail over the darkness. In any sense.

Senast uppdaterad: 2022-04-11