by Andrea Nicastro
The heart couldn’t handle it. Like the story of Aylan, the little Kurd who drowned off Turkish beaches in 2015, Ilya’s is a slap at the humanity of politics and the shame that we adults cannot defend it
FROM OUR REPORTER
LVIV – The spotted stuffed animal with the big, shiny manga eyes is still there, in the basement where he spent eleven months trying to keep his tiny owner company. Dirty, mangy, he too has tried the life that has forced upon him the madness of adults that a pink and fuchsia spotted teddy bear will never understand. They are important, powerful men (and women) who decide that war is necessary and must be waged to the point of turning a wheat field into a bombed country and a city into a heap of rubble. They are also those adults (moms and dads) who are looking for a space to survive the hell that has opened up on earth. Escape is not always an option, they say. Reasons that a stuffed animal certainly cannot understand, things like work, money for a rent, defending a house, maybe taking care of grandparents.
They have often looked at Ilja and his stuffed animal in the last few months, which they have spent in the dark. She is six years old, Ukrainian from Donbass, blonde hair and blue eyes. Of Chinese origin he, a cross between a jaguar and a unicorn, son of fantasy. Both could have led different lives. If she hadn’t been born right in Avdiivka and he wouldn’t have ended up in that container destined for Ukraine. She would have grown up. Perhaps he would have aged in the memory box to show up at the birth of Ilya’s daughter. A future that no longer exists. The pale mistress, wrinkled like so many children of that age, loving, shy, curious about a school she never attended, is no longer there. His little heart broke. The grown-ups say out of fear. They are now discovering that it is not good for a six-year-old girl to spend 11 months in the basement, that it is unhealthy not to sleep because of the noise of the bombing, that the shaking combined with the walls shaking off the dust when shaken by explosions is not displayed. Ilya’s death from fear was announced yesterday by the Embassy of Ukraine to the Holy See, one of the few places in the world where there are adults who think differently about the need to fight. Ilya cried, trembled, asked for help with his eyes, and his big-eyed stuffed animal comforted her. But that wasn’t enough.
In the battle of Donbass, fortunately or because even the big ones learn something, now fewer civilians are involved than in other battles of this invasion. They were either persuaded to evacuate (a word Ilya did not learn) or had time to escape. However, the little girl’s family had stayed. We don’t know why, but we can feel the ache in their stomachs that they feel now as they make up their daughter’s small body, close their eyes, seek a moment between one bomb and the other to bury her. Ilya didn’t know it but basically the older sister of Aylan, 3 years old, the little Kurd who drowned off the Turkish beaches of Bodrum in 2015. He fled the bombs in Syria to find peace in a Europe that didn’t want him. She remained on the front lines of the war between Russia and Ukraine for 11 months. He, she, their games, their canceled future are a slap in the face for the humanity of politics. Their disappearance is the shame that we adults cannot defend them.
Jan 14, 2023 (change Jan 14, 2023 | 3:57 p.m.)
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