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Dmytro Zhurhur

'My childhood was killed in the war'

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Dmytro Zhurgur, 14 years old

Kharkiv Educational Facility – School No. 24 of Kharkiv region, Kharkiv city

Teacher Rudchenko Julia

In the essay contest "One Day" his work took 2nd place

My childhood was killed in the war
Dmytro in 2014
My childhood was killed in the war
Dmytro in 2021

And again September… It is raining... Colourful autumn again is swinging with tree leaves in an autumn waltz…

And for the first time in all the years of my usual Kharkiv reality, for some reason particularly now, I am just desperately trying to remember that one day. I close my eyes for a moment and try to find, at least in the remote corners of my memory, which, unfortunately, is also cruel sometimes, some fragments of children’s feelings, which I probably did not really want to recall because they are too painful, too bitter…

So much time has passed, and what does it mean, it would seem, just one day? Just a certain period of time, a bright moment of a happy childhood of a seven-year-old boy who had just finished first year of school in the most beautiful city on Earth – his native Donetsk, surrounded by love and care of his parents, and cherished by his dear grandmother with her whole heart and soul?

Or maybe one day is a step to eternity, a moment of terrible misfortune that suddenly bursts into the lives of millions of people to change their destinies forever, to teach them to really value what they have never given special importance to before…

Peaceful blue sky… End of May… I am seven… I am fond of music, I attend a theatre group (drama club), and a joyful anticipation of summer holidays is ahead, a trip to the seaside with the family, interesting travels and discoveries…

But then that terrible word “war” came in (back then it was not fully grasped and comprehended), which hung as a black cloud over my future, the future of my family, my hometown, majestically native slag heaps of coal mines, the wides of the mighty coal mining area Donbass, which will forever stay in my heart, no matter where I live, no matter which ways I would have to go forward tomorrow.

For some reason particularly now, poetic lines with poems by my favourite Lina Kostenko are coming back to my memory:

When my childhood killed in the war

Lost the stars in the horoscope

Respect to you, Ms. Lina, for the depth and sincerity of your poetic word, but that is not the key idea I am actually talking about… Rather about my childhood… About the experiences of seven-year-old Dmytryk, who one day saw with his own eyes how the shells exploded, felt how scary it could be only when in the bright blue sky, which until recently attracted with its grandeur and inaccessibility, he heard the roaring of planes (it turned out that they can also mean trouble and grief).

And then he realized that he would never return to his home, would not run into his cosy classroom on 1 September, from where he started the path to success, would not smile at his favourite first teacher, would not see more of his classmates…

And then there was a new reality... In a new place where there are no explosions, where others do not pay attention to the planes that cut through the sky with their mighty wings, and do not feel fear when those planes descend low, heading for landing, or fly up from the tarmac of Kharkiv airport (and you seem to still feel it a long, long time until you realize: there is nothing to be afraid of)…

And then you would forever lose your grandmother, who would die at the age of 57 from an incurable disease due to the first stresses and griefs. Did the war take her away? Would her fate have been different if she had not been forced to flee her hometown under shellfire, leaving behind her nest, like a bird, and leaving behind the graves of her family members… Or was it just a terrible coincidence?

One day... It seems so far now, but also so close at the same time… Did my childhood “lose the stars in the horoscope” too then, when it was killed in the war?

Would I then, if not for the war, have had to feel some cold breath of Kharkiv autumn, which left in the past the happiness of my family, which should have always been together? Should it have been different?

Would my parents have not divorced then? Is it again just a coincidence or the influence of that one terrible day that would thwart the whole life, divide it into a happy peaceful “before” and a controversial “after” with the tastes of grief and losses? I do not know. And no one probably knows that…

And what is ahead? The breath of the winter that can become stunningly happy and devastatingly tragic? That is again not what I am talking about. But rather that we should all learn to value peace, to cherish it like a nanny-bird guards its baby birds in a nest and protects them from predators, and to live on, even though there are such bitter memories, but also for a reason that somewhere, in the hustle and bustle of tomorrow, there is our blue-coloured future…

When quoting a story, a reference to the source – the Museum of Civilian Voices of the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation – is mandatory, as follows:

The Museum of Civilian Voices of the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation

Rinat Akhmetov Foundation Civilian Voices Museum
Donetsk 2014 2021 Text Civilian's stories children 2014 moving safety and life support children internally displaced persons Shelling of Donetsk Separation from loved ones 2021 Essay Competition 2021
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