One-Person Play by Volodymyr Serdiuk
Characters: An aged man.
Scenography: A part of a bar, chair, and table.
(Man addresses a barwoman standing in dark behind the bar.)
… Hello! It smells like coffee here! Do you still have coffee when it disappeared everywhere in Kyiv already?
Really? You DO HAVE coffee? That is big luck! In the other establishments now there is a serious problem with coffee – it is gone all over. Moreover, we do not wait for another delivery, unfortunately. Our city is almost blocked from all round – from the side of Vasylkiv Town, from the side of Brovary Town, from the side of Troyeshchyna, and from the side of Obolon Districts, there are battles everywhere, both near Vyshgorod Town and on the Warsaw Highway also…
Yesterday in Troyeshchyna district where I live traders distributed their goods to people for free. They were giving away vegetables, potatoes, and fruits. All of the sellers shared their goods for nothing: Uzbeks, Georgians, and Azerbaijanis, all distributed fruits and vegetables for free. Because on February 25, 2022, someone dissolved a rumor that Russians will occupy Kyiv soon. I asked a Georgian friend why he was giving away his goods free. “I must get rid of them totally as soon as possible,” he replied.
“You are a trader, this is your specialty,” I reminded him, “Who else will stand in the market instead of you?”
“I am a warrior now,” replied the trader, “Responsibility for the goods burdens me. It is a responsibility and respect for those who have grown these fruits. I cannot just leave them to rot. I will now give it to the people who need them so that they can survive the blockade of Kyiv City by the Russians.”
“And where will you go?”
“To the army.”
“To which army?”
“Do not you understand the Ukrainian language? To the Armed Forces of Ukraine!”
“Your Homeland is Georgia.”
“I know. However, my Homeland is Ukraine also. I once got married here; I already gave birth to my children. Ukraine sheltered me in my bad times. Now I will be able to repay my debt to Ukraine.”
“Ukrainians say: to fulfill your duty…”
“I’ll do it, Father.” – He stressed, – “Now it is clearly seen that we have a common enemy, and not only in Georgia and Ukraine. Russia is the enemy of Europe, and of the entire civilized World.”
… That day eggs from the Vasylkiv Town poultry factory were sold in Kyiv for half the price. The Russians bombed the local poultry farms, so people took the eggs wherever they could, closer, to Kyiv than to Kyiv.
I purchased four egg trays at once. The vendors helped me wrap the trays with adhesive tape and I carried them home.
I hope that by the time of the liberation of Kyiv by the Ukrainian Army, I will have enough of them. I only eat them once a day.
… No, this is the first time I pay a visit to you. Usually, I drink coffee near my house. Not close to my house – about one and a half kilometers away.
Why do I go there? First, my doctor ordered me to go for walks every day.
I asked, “Doctor, what is the purpose of this walking?”
He answers, “For the sake of your own health. Go for a walk every day.”
“But I can’t walk so easily, without a goal. I need a goal, doctor, to get out of the house. I’m already at the age when I don’t want to leave the house.”
“So you come up with a goal for yourself,” the doctor says.
“That is another problem for me!”
“What do you love,” the doctor asks.
“Coffee,” I say.
“So set a goal to take a walk to the coffee shop every day, which is away from you, drink coffee there, and return home.”
“What distance, should I walk?”
“Ten thousand steps. And it’s not around the house or yard, but with an accelerated step, in a good mood – because where you go, delicious coffee always awaits you!”
“May I have coffee?”
“Once a day you can. It won’t get worse,” he says.
Therefore, I go as he advised. In addition, since the beginning of the war, I have been calling these walks “my patrolling”, and “my shift”.
I go around the local area and look at what, where, and how. I patrol without weapons, of course. With a mobile phone and a flashlight. I also wanted to carry an electric shocker with me. I could also carry a pistol with rubber bullets. Then I thought to myself, “When I am going to start shooting at the Russians from a distance of ten meters I will be definitely dead. They will shoot me for sure with machine guns and behind the explosions of Russian racket missiles no one will be able to hear that there is such a crackle of machine gun shots.”
Is it more confident to be with weapons?
I doubt. I visited several warehouses and military registration and enlistment offices and asked at least for a Makarov pistol, if not a Kalashnikov assault rifle. They did not give me it.
“You are an old man already”, they say. Yes, I am already sixty-five. Although, I would still have managed to finish two or three Moscow invaders.
How did it end?
Well, like that – I also went to the district police stations. I shouted there: “The President promised to distribute weapons to everyone so that they could only show a passport with a local residence permit!”
Did I seek weapons for myself more actively?
Sure, I did. I myself walked for the machine gun at the address in Kyiv – Polar Street, No. 1, as soon as I heard the announcement of President Petro Poroshenko on television. However, the message was broadcast in the evening, it was already dark. Therefore, I went there in the morning. The city transport was not working, and I was walking. Still, by the time I reached Obolon District walking, a Russian military armored column had already traveled around the territory of that plant, and I got to the center of the battle before I even reached the factory warehouses on Polar Street. I fell, and whimpered past the wall, for the shooting there broke out in earnest.
A Russian armored car moved the car of one pensioner. Some Russian soldiers were dressed in uniforms from the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
What: “What, what”?
Do you ask what happened to the pensioner? Pensioners are immortal. That pensioner climbed out of his flattened “Zaporozhets” shabby car and joined a group of local Ukrainian bandits who had already beaten Russian soldiers, put them on the ground, and disarmed them! Cossacks, one word! What can I say? Armed guards from the nearest warehouses came in, Ukrainian National Guardsmen – and the rest of the Russian Soldiers were killed right there. Everything happened surprisingly quickly and in our favor.
That day, I was convinced that Ukrainians would defeat the Russian army and repel the armed invasion of Russian invaders.
So, day after day everywhere in official institutions they answered me: “We heard,” they say, “we ourselves heard the President’s speech on TV but for us personally, direct instructions have not yet been sent. You go home. Staying at home there will be more benefit from you.”
I say, “I’m already patrolling my area. Twice a day and twice a night. Give me at least the phone number of some of your officers on duty so that I can tell them when I will find something suspicious. This war is popular. All people should make their efforts to achieve victory as soon as possible.”
They gave me their telephone number. As I found suspicious marks on the sidewalk, which were not there yesterday, I tried to inform the police – because what if they were the signs of the aiming points for the Russian missiles? There, with fluorescent paint, some painted some kind of a big circle and arrows. They say it glows. Maybe rockets hit houses, focusing on such signs.
What happened next? Autoresponder asked me to press another button, you know. The inability to get through happened. The impossibility to connect to my officer happened. One cannot speak to the machine, right?
Uh, because they gave me a common police phone number. I just can imagine how many hundreds of calls go to the general police phone number every hour.
Did I give up? No. I am a cunning warrior. I took two kilograms of apples, and a couple of carrots, and went to the nearest police station. I wanted also to carry coffee in a thermos to them, and then I thought about it – what if they still think that I had poured some poison on them there? They will not take it. Because there have already been cases of poisoning of our soldiers by Russian traitors. Then I only carried them apples and carrots.
Police officers asked, “Why do you bring us this?”
I say, “On the night watch you will chew, it will drive away sleep. I did this before the exams when I was studying. When you cannot sleep at night, because tomorrow morning you have your exam – you chew hard – your head shakes, and drowsiness passes.”
You can still use nuts for the purpose, but I did not have nuts then.
Of course, they gladly took my gift after such a professional explanation. For two days I delivered gifts to them, until the shift supervisor said, “Okay, old man, I’m giving you a combat phone.” This way he gave me a piece of paper with a phone number.
“And who’s going to answer me there?” I asked.
“I will answer,” said the shift supervisor, “personally I will answer you.”
“So it’s really a battle phone?”
“Really,” he says.
I tell him, “I know discipline – I won’t bother you once again. Only in the case of emergencies.”
“Call and call,” the captain replies. “As you are already on duty with us…”
“As you are already patrolling, you can count on the immediate arrival of a mobile group on your call.”
“By my warning,” I emphasize.
“Yes, we are already with you, like our own. Don’t be shy,” the captain laughed.
…You have delicious coffee here. Thanks. No, I am not on patrol right now. I am returning from the territorial defense headquarters of our district. They enlisted me for the TRO.
Of course, they took me! So far, they have written me down to the reserve #112 Separate Battalion of the Kyiv Territorial Defense.
The nickname I was given is “Mushroom 9.”
…You may laugh. Laugh, please. This is not because I am already an “old mushroom”, but because the platoon to which I joined is a platoon with the name “Mushrooms”.
To make it even funnier, I will tell you that those headquarters officers there are without imagination and fantasy, well, in general! When I submitted the questionnaire to the headquarters, well, they were about
– Do I have a driver’s license,
– What weapons I can operate,
– Whether I served in the army,
– In what position do I serve,
– What where and how much?
– Was it active service?
– I had to indicate the phone number, and who to inform in case of my possible death.
Well, and all sorts of such tufts. I happened to talk there with one elderly gentleman-volunteer, similar to my age. I asked him about his affairs, and complained about the shameful name of my combat unit – “MUSHROOMS”!
Then he answers me: “Mushrooms” is OK! Here, I was recorded in the platoon “TICKS”!
What bad luck for the boys! How they would then tell their nearest: “…I used to serve in the “Ticks” platoon, my dear granddaughter…”
Is it not funny? Why?
Because ticks suck blood?
Logically! They can suck a lot of blood from the Russian invaders!
Mushrooms, then what?
Mushrooms could be poisonous. Exactly! Right, my daughter! Death to the Ruzi invaders!
Oh! I feel your respect me now. Do not tell me, “Coffee is free now!” Please, do not. I am still able to pay for coffee myself!
Do you do it with respect for I enlisted in the Ukrainian Territorial Defence?
Good. But only this time. I cheer you with this coffee cup because it will not do saluting sitting. That is, they do not salute being armed or with their bare head.
You have a very good place here. Gamarjoba!
How this is only possible: “… you don’t know what Gamarjoba means”? This is in Georgian. So what if you are not Georgian? Do you speak Georgian? You don’t speak the Georgian Language? Nevertheless, you do honor Georgia? That is enough. That is commendable.
“What does Georgia have to do with you?” – Look, there you have the Georgian Flag in your place.
How can you ask “where”? There! On the wall!
Yes, it is the Georgian Flag. Here is the cross of St. George on it. Central. It symbolizes Jesus, and the four smaller ones are dedicated to his four Evangelists. Those small crosses under the auspices of a large central one symbolize the unification of all the lands of Georgia under the auspices of Tbilisi Capital City.
This is the real Battle Flag – because it is painted in blood. Like the whole history of Georgia… Yet, those red crosses, are Courage, Justice, Love, and Unity.
Georgians – they are like that!
“Gamarjoba” means “I wish Victory to you, my friend!” What a wonderful combat greeting. If all Ukrainians could greet each other this way every day, we would have long ago defeated our enemy.
“Gamarjoba, genatsvale!”, “Win, my soul!”
… So this, you say, your boss decorated the hall with the Georgian flag? It would be interesting for me to talk to him.
Is he not in Kyiv now? No? I understand that life has scattered us. Yes. And that damned current war. I apologize for saying so. Do you say he has been living abroad for a long time, and you have never seen him personally? What? Even now, he sees me on his own computer screen. How wonderful it is!
(Phone is ringing. The man picks up the phone from the bar.)
… congratulations. Your café has good coffee, thank you. Still, excuse me, I wonder what exactly connects you so much to Georgia that you honor their flag, sir.
… It is Shroma who taught you to respect Georgians..?
… My war schools were Tskhinval and Kodori… There we learned quickly because at the beginning it was difficult to recognize who was the enemy – and who was not. And later then it was easy to distinguish – all those who were against Georgia stood for Russia.
Yes – Sakartvelo. I apologize. Sakartvelo.
Sakartvelo forever! And the combat unit of the UNA-UNSO “Argo” is my family.
I am Lelyo by my nickname. Oh!!! So it’s you Nail! We have not met, but I have heard a lot there and then about you. We fought hard. Glory to the Nation!
“Death to the Enemies!”
I served a prison sentence in Ukraine after returning from Georgia.
For “mercenary” and “participation in illegal armed groups abroad.”
At that time, the Russian FSB really managed our Ukrainian “internal bodies”, unfortunately.
How are you? Are you staying in France? Wonderfully. Someday, as soon as the opportunity arises, I will come to Paris. Will you show me the city? Okay? …But do not regret so much that you are not currently fighting in Ukraine against the Russians. Now half of the World helps us to fight back against the Russian army. There are Georgian volunteer battalions on the territory of Ukraine. Georgians fight for Ukraine too.
…You say the years bend our backs but confirm the idea that raised us all to previous battle: “After Georgia, the Russians will definitely attack Ukraine. So we must help Georgia now defend its independence with our weapons in our hands!”
Yes, so happens – the enemies have come to Ukraine. Now they will not run away from us.
Thank you for being alive.
I wish you Victory, brother. Gamarjoba!
©Volodymyr Serdiuk. 2022. Kyiv, Ukraine.