Kyiv. March 24, 2022

“I really want that chocolate, but no, I can do without it.” “It doesn’t hurt that much. No need to go to the hospital.” “Don’t take that water. They need it more.” “What do you mean — get some rest? They won’t make it without me.”

Our life is not as horrible as theirs. We are not in the trenches. My loved ones are safe and sound. Electricity is available. Grocery stores are open.

All my friends, close and distant, often (in fact, all the time) talk about a deep sense of shame. A shame to live when others are dying; a shame to eat when people out there are starving; a shame to desire something when so many people have no desires whatsoever.

Psychologists call this feeling “survivor’s guilt.” Well… I would not be so sure. We are “survivors” at this moment. The minute I am writing this line.

All my friends, close and distant, often (in fact, all the time) talk about a deep sense of shame. A shame to live when others are dying; a shame to eat when people out there are starving; a shame to desire something when so many people have no desires whatsoever.

At this moment, we are not in the trenches, and the electricity is available. It is curious, though, that the soldiers defending us on the frontlines sometimes (not all the time, I hope) feel guilty too: for doing something not well enough; for not being on the battlefield; for being alive; for not doing more.

I am not thinking about the normal/abnormal state of mental health against the backdrop of a large-scale war with the cannibals.

I am thinking about them, the cannibals “repeating their grandfathers’ heroic deeds” and their slogan: “I am not ashamed.”

Fuck you. Our country is choking on the feeling of guilt for all the could-haves and should-haves, while the I-am-not-ashamed hashtags stick out of the abyss of hell.

Not ashamed to kill, loot, rape, and piss their pants after being captured. Not ashamed to know that they target their missiles and drop their bombs on civilians. Not ashamed to be happy about getting a fur coat looted from an apartment whose owners were most probably murdered. Not ashamed to lie; not ashamed to curse; not ashamed to threaten the whole world with a naked ass crowned with the nuclear button.

But now I understand why.

The feelings of shame and guilt indicate the ability of the brain to process difficult emotions. It has not been established yet whether cats and dogs can feel shame. Well, it’s clear with the cats. At the house where a cat lives, everything belongs to the cat — it is its two-legged slave who must be ashamed. It gets more complicated with dogs. They are believed to pretend to feel shame or guilt. At least, they can fake it.

But Russians? No. In the surrounding world, some animals can feel shame, but plants, minerals, and products of human labor — cannot. A rock, a rose, a tank cannot feel ashamed. Can a Russian be a rose? Definitely not.

Their bragging about being shameless resonates with what Kyivan prince Sviatoslav said (or is believed to say): “The dead have no shame.” It’s just that the prince said that in a heroic context, not in today’s shitty circumstances.

But the idea is good.

They are not ashamed because they are dead.

Dead.

So, the Ukrainian army not only defends us all — they bring word and deed to the common denominator. If you, an I-am-not-ashamed one, are dead, you belong to the cemetery of Russian warships.

Author — Olena Stiazhkina, historian, writer

Translator — Hanna Leliv

Illustrator — Victoria Boyko

Editor — Maryna Korchaka

Program Directors — Julia Ovcharenko, Demyan Om

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