It is impossible to say “Goodbye!”

Having a separate place at a Ukrainian cemetery is considered to be a luxury today. To bury a person following the rites we had before the outbreak of the great war is mere luck. You should be lucky to get to a farewell ceremony with the deceased or perished person to say goodbye to him or her.

– People are buried in blankets, we just put four boards together, — says a man living close to Kakhovka HydropowerPlant in Kherson region.

Russian invaders are controlling it as a strategically important facility. It is, in fact, impossible to understand what is happening there until the territory is liberated.

I have never thought about life through the prism of a follow up summary. What does a person want to finally get as a summary? But I have heard many times from men (men, not women) I know that each of them wants to leave an imprint, to be remembered. To this show that life has not been spent in vain, if they managed to do something for their name to be mentioned when they are already not here.

The older generation born in the wartime tended to measure the results of life by the number of children and grandchildren coming to bid farewell to the person leaving this world. Those who managed to build families after World War II, make their children educated, have actually revived life in the country. And the more fruits the branch of the genealogical tree has — the longer the funeral procession line is.

I loved my grandmother who was born before the war in 1938 and lived through evacuation, mastering of new lands, loss of her father and husband the most out of the people who taught me how to live. Her songs and sayings, her manner of keeping her house clean, and her thoughts, always in good order, were a sample for me to follow. I liked looking through black-and-white photos in her old album. In this picture she is together with her family. In the other one — with my grandfather. There are many pictures of her children — three daughters and one son. One of the daughters is my mother. I liked looking at the pictures trying to find some common features in our faces and seeing that there had been a time when my grandmother was very young.

I saw her last in the summer of 2021. That time I gathered an incredible number of strawberries in her garden. She liked sitting in the yard and talking about life. And the sessions of the Parliament — the Verkhovna Rada — always came as the background in her house.

She is no longer here.

The day when my grandmother left us reminded me once again that war is ruthless to all values that matter for us. It is not possible yet to reach the occupied territory of Kherson region where humanitarian convoys and civilians are shot at. That is “dangerous to death”, with no exaggeration. And the summary of my grandmother’s life could not be measured during the farewell ceremony since her children and grandchildren are dispersed across different sides of the frontline.

I have been thinking about my memories for several recent days. The stories of my grandmother’s life are still in the old, worn-out album that is lying somewhere in her cabinet.

— Please, take the album so it does not get lost, — I ask my mother. — I will take it later.

I believe that one beautiful day I will go to my grandmother’s estate, step over the threshold to sit in the yard. Then I will take flowers and go to her grave to finally say “Goodbye!”

21 October 2022

It is impossible to say “Goodbye!”-1

Author: Svitlana Stretovych, Ukrainian essayist, program director of Litosvita

Translator: Halyna Pekhnyk

Illustrator: Victoria Boyko

Content Editor: Maryna Korchaka

Program Directors: Julia Ovcharenko and Demyan Om Dyakiv Slavitski