At the restaurant
Relaxed and satisfied, Lyoha enjoyed the long-awaited Tandoori chicken curry, traditionally washed down with Kopparberg strawberry cider. As you can see, he wasn’t misleading Vinodh about his love of Indian cuisine. Olya, Lyoha’s sister who sat opposite Lyoha, was concentrating on the king prawns served to her just a couple of minutes ago with some kind of salad. Her husband Kevin ordered himself just a plain curry, washing it down with beer, and their little son Oliver, who has not yet turned a year, had to sadly stare at the giants, sitting fastened on a high chair. From time to time, distracted from the conversation, each of the adults, including Lyoha, made faces at Ollie to help him pass the time and not be completely bored in the restaurant.
Previously, Lyoha was absolutely indifferent to children, he even slightly disliked them, but since his nephew came to this world, everything changed. He began to see in them (although so far, only in his nephew) something warm, sweet, and even angelic. Taking another sip of cider, Lyoha made a face at Ollie. Ollie, sparkling with his grey eyes, smiled back, and Lyoha was simply taken away by his innocent and defenceless smile. Lyoha muttered to himself—Oh, dear Olliechka, I hope nothing bad will ever happen to you, God forbid, fate will not offend you … and at the same time, an inner voice reminded Lyoha that those captured Russian boys from the video who are now maimed and brutally tortured by Ukrainians were once also the same angels as Ollie. They were no less loved by their mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles, their own children. … And how all their hearts must bleed now. His inner voice continues to whisper— … don’t forget that Ukrainians, their mothers, their fathers, their children now have the same suffering; moreover, they suffer and cry quite likely also in Russian.
Lyoha’s mind registered this argument, but the heart remained deaf to it.Yes, they are brothers, but 8 years ago they turned out to be descendants of Cain. They need to be dealt with before any reconciliation with them!
The first half hour of the conversation was essentially small talk, Lyoha had not seen his sister, Kevin and Ollichka since the beginning of February. They’d spent the last few weeks in Gibraltar, where Kevin had his own waterfront villa, and in an age of remote working, Kevin now liked to spend at least part of the winter season there (but what kind of winter are you talking about in South East England?). They discussed Gibraltar, discussed Spain, discussed England, discussed Ollichka’s progress (how he walks, what he now eats, what he is able to say in English and Russian), they even discussed COVID, but did not approach the hottest topic. Britons are typically sensitive and cautious, and Lyoha and Olya were already up to date on the topic as they talked frequently with their parents on the family chat on WhatsApp, and would not have told each other anything new. However, when it came to dessert, Kevin, slightly drunk, decided to speak out—like, you know, he feels sorry for Russia, again she was unlucky with the elites, tyranny, Stalin, Tsarism, the Iron Curtain, Imperialist Mindset, 1984, ….
Lyoha held back, held back, even smiled politely with the corners of his mouth, and then interrupted Kevin and said to him in Russian, looking into his eyes:
– Kevin, VSHIVY TY MUDAK, ZAVALI YEBALO, POSHYOL NA HUI SVINYA, I VAPSHE ZATKNIS, BLYAD! (Kevin, you lousy asshole, shut your trap, fuck you, you swine, and just shut the fuck up, cunt!)
Since Kevin met Lyoha’s sister already in England, and since in terms of foreign languages he was a typical lazy Englishman, he did not understand a word Lyoha said. He did not even bother to learn the curse words in Russian.
- Kevin: Sorry, Liosha, what did you say? Olya, could you please translate?
Lyoha’s sister tensed up, and although she shared Kevin’s position, because, unlike Lyoha, she grew up as a typical ‘Moscow liberal’ (she was younger than Lyoshka and spent her formative years attending a prestigious school in central Moscow while living with their parents at Rostovskaya Embankment, barely remembering life at Tekstilshiki). Not being a fool, she decided to immediately put an end to an absolutely unnecessary (especially in front of the child) and potentially problematic dispute:
- Olya: Basically he’s saying, Kevin, that you’re too remote from this matter to give any valuable judgement.
Olya looked into Lyoha’s eyes, and from the sparks in her eyes, Lyoha realised that he had to quickly agree with his sister. Kevin could be an asshole, maybe a dumb asshole, but he is Ollychka’s father, and Ollychka is an angel.
- Lyoha: Indeed, indeed, Olya. Sorry Kev, you probably get that we’re all quite anxious.
Kev nodded in understanding, and after five minutes the conversation turned back to a related topic, where Kev shared his amazingly valuable opinion that now politics in the Western world will return to calm and equilibrium, as now stupid populists will not win anywhere! He was probably tempted to say that the reason is “that Putin has become the ultimate Hitler, which means that the new Trumps will have no one to look up to,” but he restrained himself. After finishing another tirade, he put on his mask, embroidered with rainbow colours, and went to the toilet.
Making sure that Kev was out of sight, Lyoshka grinned slyly at his sister.
Olya said: Lyosha, thank you for controlling yourself!
Brother responded to her: That’s alright, what are your plans for Easter?
At Lyoha’s flat
While smoking a joint on his balcony for a better night’s sleep, Lyoha listened to an American podcast of the dissident rightists, who took the noble position that they consider what’s happening a tragedy —”essentially Whites killing other Whites.” Unfortunately, it was now much harder to listen to their “analysis,” and after another remark like “Eastern Ukrainians are drawn to Russia, and Western Ukrainians are drawn to the West,” Lyoha decided to switch to something else.
No, it’s nice, of course, that at least these guys are still rooting for Russia, and despite their love for the moustached man, they consider Azov and Ukrainian nationalists to be ‘fake fascists’ (because what kind of real fascist will have the support of the US, the EU, global LGBTQP+ community, and even the ADL and on top of having a Jewish president?), but, as you know, their knowledge is outdated by at least eight years, and no matter how pleasant their Russophilia sounds, in the absence of successes at the front, listening to their praises of our country and Putin is tantamount to deceiving oneself.
As a result, Lyoshka eventually moved back to consuming predominantly Russian historical and political content, which he deliberately tried to avoid while living in England for the past ten years. Not because of some kind of self-hatred, but simply because he believed that he was building a new life in a new place, and therefore the problems of his new society should concern him much more than those of his homeland. Lyosha tried to think of himself as a “White European,” but in the end … it appeared that he remained who he always was—just a Russian, for better or worse, that’s it.
Lyoshka’s red eyes were starting to stick together from looking at the hard faces of the greying Soviet or pro-Soviet (or most correctly pro-Russian Autocracy) gentlemen on his laptop’s screen. Everyone used to laugh at them for almost thirty years, calling them “stupid dogmatic sovki,” however, in the end, it was them, and not some fashionable synthesizers of “Westernism,” nationalism, and liberalism, who turned out to be right, trumpeting all these years that “we must build back our autocracy like during the USSR; don’t rely too much or not rely at all on the Western goods, their supply chains, their technology and even the internet! What if we go to war with them one day and they cut us off from everything in one click?; and even saying that “the West might do the unthinkable—expropriate the 1990s expropriators of Russia, if that would suit their plans one day.” And these guys were considered insane for not believing genius theories that countries with McDonalds don’t go to war with each other.
Lyoha was gradually falling asleep on the sofa. It was a little after eleven, but then suddenly the dialogue of the elderly gentlemen coming from his headphones was interrupted by a call.
Who’s calling? — Lyoshka mumbled. Ahh, Kolyan, alright, then I will pick it up, fine.
- Lyoha: Hello Kolyan, why are you still not asleep, isn’t it 2 am back in Moscow?
At the same time it was still not too late here in London, and Kolyan was a close friend from the brightest years of his life. They talked about these years with each other more and more, concluding that the time period between 2009–2012 seemed to be a lost paradise. No Ukraine, no sanctions, no Brexit, no Trump, almost no racial issues, no viruses, no wars… either in the West or in Russia. Just live for yourself, finish university, find a career or start your own business, find a girlfriend, find a hobby—and live your life just like everyone else. Ha! How dull, unexciting, boring, predictable and static the world seemed at the time.
And so Lyoshka’s and Kolyan’s conversation went round and round again about their youth, the pills they then swallowed, the boys and girls with whom they hung out with. In the end they returned back to the most obvious and hot topic, where both comrades shared historical parallels that each of them sees—’If they won’t pull their shit together soon and we don’t win … then we are going to end up in such a mess, disaster and shame…that our homeland and even our nation may cease to exist!’—one was talking about the example of the three partitions of Poland during the eighteenth century, and the other one was talking about the annihilation of Germany and Volksdeutsche of Europe in 1945 (“But this time, it will be us on the receiving end”).
The guys chatted for about forty minutes, and at twelve o’clock in the morning in London, Leshka ran out of strength, and said goodbye to Kolyan, so he could go to bed—tomorrow is a workday after all.
He lied to his friend, of course, and still browsed the internet for about a half an hour after they ended their call.
Ah, let me check on our Ukrainian friends and how are they doing—and Lyoha went to their You Tube and Telegram channels.
Russian war correspondents in Mariupol have recently shown a pagan temple with”wooden idols that they have built there. People say there were “larpers,” but clearly nationalistic Ukrainians were serious about what they do and they seem to be really good fighters too, unlike most Russian nationalists who continued to hide their fat bottoms on the other side of the screen, preferring to “fight” online rather than in the army.
But, as always Lyoha could not keep watching the Ukrainians for more than a few minutes. Yes, the Ukrainian language still sounded sweet, melodical and somewhat ancient Slavic to his ears but hearing it for the tenth time again from Ukrainianized Russians (a ‘Kyrylo’ Budanov, an ‘Oleksiy’ Danilov, a ‘Yevgen’ Krupin), who when the camera is turned off and they are in the trenches are still talking to each other in Russian, that “all Russians are fucking sub-humans and deserve to lay in the ground,” was pushing Lyoha to switch them all off and wish they would die soon. It did not matter how cool they looked with the Black Sun on their uniform or maybe a naughty Hakenkreuz tattooed on their skin compared to the Russian forces with their Soviet Flags, bearded Chechens and slit eyed Buryats. If you wish me dead, I wish you dead and I don’t give a fuck about your “based” aesthetics.
Lyoha finally turned off You Tube on his laptop and went to brush his teeth while staring in the bathroom mirror looking at the ugly face of Stalin from a 1930s Soviet poster stuck on the wall. “I know our moustache man was hardly a Russian nationalist and he buried lots of my people, but since the other moustache man was appropriated by the Ukrainians, and as they ALL hate our moustached man because he fucked them all over: their moustache man, the Ukrainians, the West, the Poles, (((Russian intelligentsia))), “Nazi” NATO shills; as an enemy of my enemy, Uncle Joe is my friend now!’—told Lyoha to himself when sticking the poster in his bathroom—the one that was bought long ago back in Moscow as a mere joke.
Right before closing his eyes and going to sleep Lyoha made himself check his work emails on his phone for a couple of minutes. Just a habit, you know.
He was pleasantly surprised to receive a number of emails from his colleagues with regards to his name change. A few Americans, a few Brits (including a couple of Blacks and Indians), a Frenchman, even a Pole and a Czech wrote to him all in the same manner—hoping that Lyoha’s family are doing well, expressing their worry about the situation and offering support to Lyoha. Each saying that they either worked in Russia for a few years or have some other attachment to Russia or Russians, and that they hope the situation will work out soon.
And how can I hate these English, Americans, Europeans if there are genuinely good people like these amongst them?…Argh…I can’t even really hate the Ukrainians…Is that bad?… Am I fucking terpila [pushover, a derogatory term coming from the prison world deriving from the verb ‘terpet’—to endure] like the Ukrainians call us? But what about the Western normies who are being pumped up with hate towards all things Russian every day? And how these good-natured Westerners might even change their position should their government actually declare a war against Russia? God, how entertaining it used to be to read about, watch and discuss those historical, bloody and heroic epochs, dreaming about living in them, but not actually living in them!’
And so ended another day of the war for Lyoha, that went on for only a month and a half, but felt like eternity.