This is a short story inspired by the current events in Ukraine. It was written by the author of this blog, Nassem Al-Mehairi.
All I ever was, was a doctor.
At least, that is what I had always thought.
My childhood was one of pain, suffering, and poverty. I was born in 1990, in Kherson. My father, forced to fight in the Red Army against his will, was there when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. My mother always told me my father died bravely, taking fire while saving his fellow soldiers, but, for some reason, I always doubted her.
My mother, born in Krakow, Poland, in 1965. She is a Pole to the bone, hating the Soviets, wanting to smash my father’s head in when he died for them. Her father, Andrzej, was in the Polish Army. He survived the German Invasion in 1939, only to be sent to a German prison camp.
My grandfather was Jewish. He worked at a grocery, handling produce, in Krakow. When the Germans seized Poland, he had to become a card-carrying member of the Nazi Party to protect his family. When it got so bad, where people were being lined up against the fences and shot, crimson blood flowing down the street wherever you went, he sent his child, a son, to Kiev. In 1944, a betrayer gave up Andrzej to the filth Gestapo, and he was sent to Bergen-Belsen. He told me stories of his time there, of the suffering, he having to see women be stripped and raped at the will of young Nazis from Berlin. When the British liberated the camp, you could see his ribs, the obvious oppression these, these dirt, caused on my grandfather. A few weeks before the camp was liberated, Andrzej, he told me once, met a young girl who wrote a diary of her hiding in a “secret annex” in Amsterdam. She died only a few weeks before the freeing of the inmates. After the war the only option left to him was to become a poor farmer in Ukraine, and had his daughter, my mother. His life was taken in 1969, when he was brutally run over by a tractor by his own wife. My grandmother, distraught over her killing her husband, shot herself the year after. The destruction, she set fire to her house before it, and when the flames reached her room, she put the barrel to her temple and pulled the trigger.
My mother was an orphan at the age of 5, and her only option was… Wait, I must be boring you with all this bland family history. Well, I am so sorry. I’ll just get to the part that sells.
I was born on May 4th, 1990. I lived for but 2 years in the Soviet Union, and do not remember any of it, but it would affect my life until the end.
I remember, for all of you looking for only the hardship, to laugh at my pain and mock it, the first event that led to my fate was on my computer in November of 2013. The President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, was in power, and I had always known he was corrupt, but never truly knew until I visited a secret chat forum. My friend Yuri had told me about it, about how those who opposed Yanukovych could connect with each other to take him down. I was sitting in my living room, in Kiev. As my computer started up, I took out a lighter and flicked it 3 times to light my cigarette. As I inhaled and exhaled the smoke, I typed in the URL Yuri had given me, along with the password. As I scrolled through the sight, I was amazed by what I read. One said,
“The Kremlin is ruling our country. We are Ukrainians, not Russians! We must exterminate the President now!”
One, cooler head, said,
“We must unite together to protest Yanukovych siding with the Russians. We are going to protest in Kiev, and die if we must.”
I was a doctor, working in a Kiev hospital. I knew that, because of the President’s brutality, he would kill anyone who rioted against him.
Until February 19th, there were no real riots in Kiev. But on that day, one that will live in infamy, the city of Kiev turned into a battleground. Molotovs were thrown, and as their blasts woke me in the darkness of night, I ran to the hospital. I knew the day of reckoning was upon us, and as I ran through shotgun fire raining down, I rushed in through the front door of the hospital.
I ran over to the secretary, and said, “Any injuries yet?”
She responded, “Yes, Maksym, but they are outside still. We cannot get them inside.”
I knew what I needed to do. I walked back up to the front door. I looked out, with the night sky illuminated by the fires raging through our historic city. I saw a man, clutching his chest, laying on the ground. I looked to my left, then right, and ran out. I crouched down next to the man groaning, and took his arms. I dragged him into the hospital, and yelled, “Get me a cot!”
As I picked him up, the secretary had set the cot down next to me. I laid the man down on it, and ripped open his Western-made shirt. I took a piece of gauze, and held it to his wound, gushing blood all over my hands. He said, very quietly, “What… what is your name?”
I said, “My name is Maksym Nowak.”
He, spitting up bile, said, “Nowak…What was your grandfather’s name?”
Confused, I said, “Andrzej Nowak. Why?”
Devastated-looking, he said, “My…my grandfather, was your grandfather’s friend. He was the one who gave him up to the Germans. I…I am…sorry for the disrespect my family inflicted upon yours.”
I always knew this would happen. The Soviet Union repaying its sins on this night in Ukraine, and the family who betrayed my grandfather doing the same. I could do nothing but continue, silently, to try to save his life. He died there, with me never knowing his name.
All I could do, was collapse. Karma truly always happened. Even on a dark night as a revolution to change the world was occurring. I went out, my mind occupied on that. As I looked for my next person to save, I felt a bullet hit my throat and throw me to the ground.
I thought, this was karma too. A sin took the man in the hospital, and my father’s sins against the Afghanis killed me. Or was it my mother lying about him? It didn’t matter. I was dead no matter which.