Slavs With Guns: A Dream Story

By Barabule Cutarescu

Editor’s Note: The entirety of this article is fiction and meant for entertainment purposes only.

No, you’re wrong. It’s not what you think. I’ve seen a great deal in my time. It’s unbelievable what one sees in such small towns, especially in Romania.

Traumnovelle, Arthur Scnitzler, 1926

Eyes Wide Shut

Hey, you there? It’s me again, a stronger, even more powerful Barabule Cutarescu, peasant farmer of the Moldovan hills. The last time I wrote to you from far-eastern Romania, I thought it entirely possible that it might be my last communication to you losers. Turns out I was wrong. Turns out I believed a bit too much of the Russian propaganda and assumed, just as they did, that the entire population of Ukraine, exhausted from brutal IMF-imposed austerity, would just roll right over, allowing the dreaded Red Army to advance all the way to Moldova. It seemed like this was going to happen for exactly two days, but I’ll get to that later. Just remember, before reading any further, that no one is immune from propaganda. A wise cat once told me that, only sometimes I forget.

Ever since Russia invaded Ukraine, my degenerate friends in the USA kept pleading for my hot take, given the sheer amount of bullshit discourse flooding their English language bubble. They claimed I was the only person to be certain the war was going to happen, that I’d written the only substantive English-language piece to deal with the implications, but to be totally honest, I was wrong about basically everything. Sure, I predicted some basic ass shit, but did Russia turn off the gas to Europe once they invaded? Nope! The oligarchs wanted those big bucks, not a quick end to the war, and not even my cynical ass could’ve predicted the EU would keep gobbling up that vital Gazprom product, forking over the same money used to purchase the same tanks and thermobaric missiles Putin’s currently pouring onto Ukraine.

Another thing I was dead wrong about (though I still can’t believe it) is that Russia gave up a solid advantage by postponing the invasion until after the 2022 Olympics in China, something the USA media kept barking about. Turns out all of that was true. So what’s up with that? Did the Chinese state need to see the Russian army perform some symbolic, self-sacrificial gesture in order to back them during the invasion (which they have, verbally)?. Either way, the invasion was put off until the end of winter, turning the frozen farmland into mud. Thing about mud is that tanks can’t really drive through it so good, being made of shit-tons of steel, and so rather than drive through a frozen chernozem, the Russian tanks were mainly confined to established roads where they could be picked off by USA-supplied javelin missiles. You can verify everything I just wrote, it’s true, and it makes no fucking sense, so obviously I got the winter part wrong.

Winter didn’t help Russia during the invasion, all it did was ensure people were freezing outside their Soviet apartment blocks after a rocket blew up their city’s gas pipeline. That part I got right, but only because it’s obvious, and you can verify that too. Entire apartment blocks would empty out to multiple bonfires to stay warm, only to flee back into their bomb shelters the second their hands warmed up. I’ll get to all that later, but the point I’m trying to make is I was wrong about a lot, only those dumbshit Americans thought otherwise, so they kept pestering me for my hot take on the invasion, assuming I was sitting in my little peasant hut going coo-coo on Twitter just like them. Never once did those e-girls suspect that I, your humble narrator, Barbule Cutarescu, had gotten myself into the Ukraine during the middle of a war.

I was mostly annoyed with my USA friends, even my closest, so I ignored all their emails aside from the actually good fundraising they tried to do. Once I got back home and read over the horrendously bizarre collection of texts known as the war discourse, I realized some of my friends were correct, I should probably say something, but as usual, I imposed a strict set of conditions before I’d agree to write anything. I told the editors of this atrocious blog that they must first sponsor a new film which would align with my future essay, to be titled Slavs With Guns. I gave them much liberty in the content, but the film had to 1) make us all look like meat 2) be explicitly anarchist 3) cause the film-makers to be erroneously labeled as russian bots, or the like. This final condition was the most important, because unless these losers were ready to push the envelope and pop some propaganda bubbles, they weren’t ready for what I had to say.

I honestly didn’t think they’d pull it off, but on the international day for anarchist prisoners, June 11, they released a truly horrible mash-up titled SEX & VIOLENCE: ULTIMATE CUT 2022 XXXXX. And when I mean truly horrible, I mean it’s fucking great, so good it was painful if not impossible to watch, mostly from laughter, but also sheer horror at this fucked-up reality. I know these freaks, and to me it was funny and non-editorial, but when I checked the screen-shots the editors sent me, I could see that not only were they accused of being russian bots, but also russian propaganda and orc subhumans. This last denigration, orc subhuman, really hit-home for me, because I know it drove my point across to these cretin Americans. It feels pretty weird to be called an orc subhuman, a sort of Tolkein/Hitler racial slur, and if anything, it conveys the madness of what’s actually going out here in the land of Slavs With Guns.

And Quiet Flows The Danube 

As I said earlier, I knew the war was going to happen, but it came at the end of winter on the morning of February 24, 2022. I was asleep, dead asleep, until my land-mate burst into my house and woke up me and my partner. Moldova and Ukraine share the same time-zone, UTC, and so it was around 8:00 AM that my entire anarchist commune fell deep into our screens, desperate to see what was happening.

In the days leading up to this, the Ukrainian army was actually shelling Luhansk and Donetsk, and while this might not legally have been a provocation, the shells were definitely flying east, and this is now thoroughly documented. Back then, sharing those videos was the same as just announcing yourself to be a Russian bot, but it was clear some people really wanted a war, just as they have since 2014. Shells flying into the break-away regions isn’t new, by the way, and the war has been going on for years, something else which has been thoroughly documented, but all of you fools probably don’t know anything but the propaganda you were fed, and just like Garfield says, no one is immune from propaganda. 

So let me be clear, under no circumstances were the break-away republics some innocent victims, but under no circumstances is your USA propaganda true. It actually does kind of suck to be a Russia speaker in Ukraine, and that was enough of a reality to trick those dumb, ignorant Slavs into supporting the insurgency and breaking away from the Ukrainian state. So yeah, go on thinking Slavs are a bunch of peons with no brains, and when you try to recall what was actually happening in the breakaway regions during the 2014 to 2022 period, maybe just stop, read the rest of this article, and then try again.

Anyway, after a long build-up, the invasion came, a massive assault across the country. I was glued to my screen for two days, waiting for the tanks to reach the Moldovan frontier, but like I said, that didn’t happen. It wasn’t like Crimea, the peninsula that barely resisted the Russian invasion of 2014, and the Russia forces stalled out pretty quick, making me realize I’d perhaps swallowed too many Commie Red Pills. With all the arms flooded into Ukraine in the 2014 to 2022 time period, it was impossible for the Russians to invade quickly, and despite some rapid gains, the west of the country was free of a land invasion, for now. 

With our fear of a militarized Moldova now evaporated, my entire commune set to work trying to contact our friends in eastern Ukraine, offering them up our houses and promising free rent for as long as they wished to stay. This was impossible for days, all we could do was wait and watch the videos of highways choked with cars-full of refugees streaming westward into Europe. The Russian state had inflicted terror across Ukraine with its air-raids and paratroop assaults, and as I learned from some Romanian comrades at the northern border, most of the people crossing over were wealthy Ukrainians. I know you think you know what I mean by wealthy Ukrainians, but all I actually mean are Ukrainians who can afford to have a car that won’t break down on the highway. So not rich, but able to flee, if you can try to make that make sense.

As the flood of refugees progressed, it became clear that Ukrainians are actually pretty smart, given most of the refugees chose to go to either Moldova or Poland rather than Romania. Why? Well, I’ll tell you. It’s because Romania is a notoriously racist shithole, and even the notoriously racist Ukrainians are intelligent enough to seek refuge with the notoriously racist Poles or the slightly-less racist Moldovans. Keep in mind these are all white people. That’s how much hatred exists out here, and Romania is truly ridden with racism. If you don’t believe me, just buy a train ticket, come on out here to Moldova, find some random peasant, and tell them they are a Slav. If you aren’t violently attacked, you’ll be told in violent language that Romanians are Latins, not Slavs, Latins!  Why would you be told this, especially given our Slavic features and heavy use of the affirmative word da? Trauma from the Nazis. That’s why.

A long time ago, there were these people called the Nazis, who perhaps you’ve heard of. They decided that the Slavs (you know, that homogenous group of people) were fit to be enslaved, exterminated, or made to undergo Germanization (ie: rape). When it came to us Romanians, it seemed really important to not be Slavic at the time, so obviously the most Slavic part of Romania became a hotbed of fascism. That seems to be how it works, but I’ll come back to this.

Since you’re an ignorant pig-dog from the USA, I have to let you know about these mountains called the Carpathians. They’re really beautiful and big and filled with old-growth forests, if you can imagine such things existing in Europe. For centuries and centuries, these mountains have been a natural impediment to invaders from the east, and within the last millennia, those invaders were Slavic. The region where I was born, Moldova, exists in the foothills and plains that extend east from the Carpathians, eventually leveling out into the great flat fields of Ukraine. 

My region has been historically overwhelmed by Slavs in the past and the same goes for Wallachia, the region which hosts Bucharest, capital of Romania. All this to say that only the Transylvanian vampires behind the Carpathian Mountains can maybe claim to not be completely Slavic. Aside from them, the rest of Transylvania is filled with Hungarians leftover from when the mountains were the eastern border of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Beyond those mountains, it’s always been a horde of Slavs with knives in their teeth and head-fulls of vodka. So, again, how did the most Slavic regions of Romania become rabid fascists, given the Nazis wanted to exterminate them?

In my opinion, it stems from the Peasant Revolt of 1907, where the whole of Moldova rose up against the landlord class. For this they were slaughtered. 30,000 people died in the Paris Commune, but five times this number were massacred in the Peasant Revolt, and the trauma from this obviously festered. Some of the landlords the rebels had driven off happened to be Jewish, so when the Nazis came around with their anti-Jewish propaganda, what little rebellion was left in Moldova got usurped by the Nazis, who hoped to create a Slavic ally at the gates of Bolshevik Russia. Despite all the chaos, evil, and death the Nazis brought to little Romania, there are still millions of us who fervently maintain we are Latins, not Slavs. After all, the word for house in our language is casa, even though the word for yes is da

Okay. Hopefully now you understand why most Ukrainian refugees went to Poland instead of Romania: anti-Slavic racism. It’s simple. That’s why, when I eventually got off my ass and into the best of our communal trucks, I drove down to this southern crossing for myself, eager to see this historic event: Slavs seeking asylum in Romania. I can’t tell you exactly where I live, but the only direct route from southern Ukraine to Romania is a ferry crossing over the Danube River, so I went there. I didn’t drive down there just to see the refugees, not like you fucks. No, I went there to pick up my friends, and I waited there for three days, stuck in a little river-town called Isaccea.

This place has been conquered and held by everybody over history, it’s even got some Islamic influence thanks to the Turks, but when I was there it opened its ancient gates to the fleeing Slavs who boarded ferries across the river in Orlika and were allowed safe-passage into free and democratic Romania. Back in the day, in my lifetime, desperate Ukrainians and Russians used to swim this fucking river and hope they didn’t get shot by Red Army snipers. If they made it, if Ceaușescu was feeling benevolent enough, they were allowed asylum in the slightly freer state of Romania, which was also communist but semi-autonomous from Moscow. That’s the association I always had with the Danube River, similar to the one some of you might have with the Rio Grande. If you don’t know where that is, try looking at the border of Mexico.

While you’re at it, try to imagine how I felt when Romanian soldiers were welcoming hundreds of Ukrainians, all of them safely loaded onto the ferries by helpful Ukrainian soldiers. In my criminal mind, I thought, this would be a great time for other refugees to sneak into the EU, but as I posted up there by the crossing, all the faces I saw were white, and by the second day, this minor flood of refugees became a trickle. Not one of them was black or brown, and I didn’t witness any of the horrors taking place up at the northern crossings where non-white people tried to cross into Poland or board a train with the Ukrainian refugees. I just saw it all on my burner smartphone, videos of overt racism at the border going viral before being labeled Russian propaganda and allegedly debunked by the hippest CIA assets.

Again, I didn’t see any of that at the Isaccea ferry crossing, which is a bit out of town, meaning I had to drive into the port each day. On the third morning I waited there, just a few groups of people staggered off the boats and through the inspections. Over those three days, I talked to as many people as I could, and the majority who crossed into Isaccea were wealthy Ukrainians from the port of Odessa. Very few elders were on those boats, and it was clear the peasants were staying put in the tiny enclave we still call Bessarabia, a part of Ukraine that’s historically been part of Moldova. It’s bounded by the Black Sea, Romania, Moldova, and Transnistria, only this last border is closed by Russian soldiers, making the refugees go around, either south or north. As the war progressed, few people chose the southern route, the place where I impatiently waited for my friends.

It truly was the sketchiest crossing. The closest bombs had fallen less than 300 kilometers away and there were only two roads heading west from Odessa, one of them across a bridge (which has since been destroyed), the other through a fucking swamp and into Moldova, the single sliver that hasn’t been controlled by the Russians since 1992. I call it a fucking swamp, but that’s unfair of me. It’s actually a beautiful river delta teeming with birds and other wildlife, a wonder so gorgeous that Romanians, Moldovans, Ukrainians, and Transnistrians all unite in dumping toxins into its waterways. 

With the Transnistrian border closed along the entire Ukrainian frontier, there was only the tiny Palanca crossing into the Republic of Moldova. Most smart Ukrainians chose this crossing if they were stuck in the south, given it allowed them free transit into a safe non-EU country, but the determined few pressed on through Bessarabia to the crossing at Isaccea, one which allowed them free transit to the EU via Romania, but as I said, this didn’t last for long. More than Kiev, the Russian army wants to seize Odessa, because once they do, they can finally connect Russia with Transnistria. People figured this out, and given the bombs that were still falling in and around the port of Odessa, most people chose not to flee that way. Some of the last to do so were my idiot Ukrainian friends.

In their VW Golf, four of them and some of their bags made it through an active warzone all the way from Kharkov, and after selling their car to a recently wealthy Ukrainian police officer, they finally made their way into my arms and the safety of my covered truck. I was expecting five of them, and when I finally asked about our missing friend, the good humor quickly vanished, and for a moment I assumed she was dead. Luckily this wasn’t the case, she was in a tiny village southwest of Kharkov, but I knew right then it was going to be me who’d go get her. If her closest friends couldn’t pull her out of there, that left only Barabule Cuterescu, the Moldovan potato.

Roadside Picnic

I couldn’t think about my missing friend for a while, being preoccupied with getting my non-missing friends settled into my peasant village where they were welcomed like royalty. This might sound dumb and white of me, but all these racist, conservative local peasants dropping their xenophobia to welcome strangers made me break down weeping in the village bar, because the only reason my four friends were being treated this way was because they were my friends, because our little anarchist commune has actually had a positive effect in these Moldovan hinterlands. I wish you could have seen my friends getting food literally stuffed into their mouths and liquor poured down their throats, pampered and feasted like babies until they passed out against the wall. All the leftover food came with us back to the commune, a sort of housewarming gift, because the entire village knew these Ukrainians were here to stay.

As proud as I might be of this verdant shithole, none of us can be openly gay here, and I’ll have a lot more to say on this subject at the end, trust me. For now, let me just say that while my friends slept and ate all those leftovers, I was glued to the internet hoping for a message from my missing friend, who will hereafter be referred to as Maryuska. She didn’t send me one, so instead, I saw the Russian army hammering towards Kharkov, their tanks and planes raining down missiles on the city itself while the troops drew dangerously close. My friend was almost 100 kilometers away from the front-lines in a strategically unimportant village that was itself 10 kilometers from the nearest major road, but as I saw day by day, these strategically unimportant villages were being erased by the war, leveled into dust by both the Ukrainians and Russians. 

I was still mildly infected by the Russian propaganda, so I assumed it was only a matter of time before they overwhelmed Kharkov and the surrounding countryside. I thought that if I wanted to go save my friend from imminent death, I would have to risk imminent death and drive directly towards an encroaching frontline. As you can see, I freely admit this urgency came from me, so please remember if you chose to read ahead, because this urgency was enough to convince my partner to come with me on an insane journey, one that first led me south to the seaside mob-town of Constanța where I was forced to deal with the worst people on earth. And by the worst people on earth, I mean literal scum. That’s how much I love my friend. 

This next part might hurt your brain, but I don’t give a shit. My friend is a woman, but on her legal documents she is identified as a man. Because of this, she was legally required to join the Ukrainian armed forces at the outbreak of the war, which she preferred not to. In addition to the danger of this refusal being discovered, if I wanted to get her out of the country, I had to get her a false Romanian passport (given all men were barred from leaving Ukraine) and to do this I had to deal with the lowest type of human there is, and I’m talking people who are actually maggots, even if they wear Ray-Bans. 

You might be asking yourself, gee, how does one forge a modern passport good for admittance into the EU? There’s several ways, but the easiest one is using the actual Romanian passport of an actual Romanian citizen who is being coerced or held in the illicit sex-trade. This stolen passport is then rented out for the right price, and that’s what I drove to Constanța to get. Keep in mind, I have no proof of any of this, I was simply given a passport with a picture of a woman who looked almost exactly like Maryuska. Given the situation at the border, my white-skinned friend could easily slip through with this terrible document, and for this I paid the monsters 5,000 euro, no questions asked. Judge me as you see fit, but again, I truly have no idea whose passport that was. I’m just trying to be realistic and imagine the worst.

With this document securely hidden away, we drove through the nation-state of Moldova and crossed into Ukraine in the town of Palanca. The Ukrainian border guards couldn’t believe we wanted to drive all the way to Kharkov in our truck, and now I’m forced to do a gender-reveal, if you hadn’t already guessed. These guards couldn’t believe two Romanian women who spoke perfect Ukrainian were going to drive a truck filled with food and supplies into a war-zone to save their friend stuck in a village. They were so baffled that they only agreed to let us in if we paid a cop to escort us east. This transaction was all discussed openly, and we were eventually directed to a cluster of cops standing around their police cars, most of them from Odessa. They’d been paid to drive rich people to the Palanca crossing, only now they were waiting for some rich patron to pay their way back, and given we were the only fools with a little money heading east, the most senior of these pigs accepted our 1,000 euros to drive ahead of us all the way to Kharkov.

He was a real piece of shit, he sped off before we’d started the engine, but we found him waiting at a stop-sign for us. After that, we cruised down the M15 highway towards Odessa, our red truck following behind his blue, rotating siren lights. We had to pass through a few checkpoints with our escort once we skirted the edge of Odessa city, but after that we were hurtling north on the E95. I never expected to ask a cop for protection, but let me assure you that without this fool we would have been killed by the psychotic Ukrainian soldiers at the checkpoints, who are ready to fire at any looters, saboteurs, and deserters. There’s plenty of examples of innocent people getting killed at these checkpoints, with the worst one involving an ambulance, but thanks to pig-man from Odessa, we made it to Uman that night in one piece, although we had only an hour of freedom before the nightly curfew. Remember, it was martial law, and still is.

My partner and I slept in the lobby of a hotel, our backs upright against a wall, and I have no idea where pig-man went, probably to spend some of our euros. In the morning, I went on a short walk and saw the small urban city of Uman was carrying on as normal, even selling coffee and pastries, the whole point of my walk. While I was out, I learned that Uman had only been attacked once so far, a random series of airstrikes at the beginning of the war that killed one person and injured dozens. Thousands of the residents had already fled, but most of the 80,000 inhabitants had stayed, and as I said, several were still selling breakfast.

Our bleary-eyed escort eventually showed up around 9:00 AM and we were on the road by 10, now speeding east on the E50. Everything was calm until we neared the Dnieper River and the checkpoints grew more constant, our pace slower. Up ahead of us was the strategically important city of Kremenchuk, home to much vital Ukrainian infrastructure like refineries, reservoirs, and thermal plants, so we lost a lot of time proving to each checkpoint moron that we weren’t Russian saboteurs, we were impatient women trying to rescue our friend before she was killed by the Russians, or worse. We were eventually allowed to cross the Dnieper, only by then it was almost curfew, the perfect time to get shot by checkpoint guards. Our escort had enough sense to get us off the road, and I’ll never forget what happened next.

We assumed he’d be leading us to another hotel, but instead he pulled into the drive of a peasant complex outside of Kremenchuk. I watched him knock on the door of the main house, briefly speak to the people inside, point at our truck, and soon enough we were being hosted by a giant Ukrainian peasant family, who fed us so well I know the pig-man had told them we were rich. With food prices so high, with their being food prices at all, I knew something was up with this feast, but maybe I was wrong. Either way, the next morning I handed the mother of the place 100 euros, which she tried to refuse until I said I’d give it to her husband. After that, she grabbed it without another word and then wished us luck before we pulled away behind pig-man and his rotating blue lights that kept us from being gunned down like dogs. Trust me, it was as weird for me to live through this as it is for you to read it, and if I haven’t made my point by now, I felt I had no choice.

We drove unobstructed the next morning until we reached the outskirts of Poltova, another strategically important urban city, and after a dozen or so checkpoints we were back on our way into the farmlands of Poltova Oblast (or county), the region where Maryuska lived. The only thing was that pig-man forgot we had to turn off the M03 highway, or maybe he didn’t forget, but we never saw him again. We waited by the side of the highway to see if he’d come back, but after a while we just kept going down a maze of farm roads until reaching a little village near a frozen river. This is where Maryuska lived, only when we pulled up to her house she was definitely not happy to see us.

Fathers And Sons

Maryuska grew up outside of Kharkov but came all the way to Iasi, Romania for university which is where she met us freaks. She’s a psycho squatter-punk with an advanced education just like the rest of us, but along with an unfortunate number of women, she decided she needed to be with a shitty man. This happened in 2014, when Kharkov got overwhelmed with fascists, and she clung to this anarchist he-man who brought her out to his childhood village where they built a house and sank into an extremely abusive relationship. He was her protector, of her body and her identity apparently, and this toxic dynamic became terminal after the declaration of martial law and the enforcement of military conscription for all able-bodied males.

Her boyfriend was in Kharkov during the invasion and was forced to join a Territorial Defense Unit while his women friends fled the city. Paranoid that Maryuska was planning to leave him in secret, this piece of shit called home and said he’d tell everyone who she was if she ever left, and this was the only reason she was still near the frontlines in an isolated village. Even without her passport, us criminals could have figured something out, only Maryuska’s abusive lover was keeping her trapped next door to his relative’s houses as the Russian tanks got closer every day. So all of that is why when we pulled up outside her front door, Maryuska was pissed. At that moment, we were playing with her fucking life.

The anger was in her eyes, not in her words, not at first. She cried in joy in her loudest Romanian and gave us both big hugs for all to see through their lace curtains. Our license plate was Romanian, any passing snoop could see our truck-bed was filled with supplies, so all seemed to make sense, just a bunch of peasant women protecting each other while the men were off shooting guns. 

Everything changed once we were inside. Maryuska said a lot of stuff that hurt me, but I realized she was just yelling at her boyfriend. She said I was always acting like the protector, that I was doing this all for myself, not her. I waited for her to slow down, then I just told her she was wrong, that anyone who would blackmail their partner wasn’t a partner worth having, and if she couldn’t see that, something was wrong. Luckily my own partner was there to stop me from saying anything else, and she told Maryuska our plan, even showing her the passport. That’s when our poor friend’s armor cracked and she was ours again, not his, only it wasn’t that simple. When her tears vanished, Maryuska claimed the entire village was spying on her, and now she was sure to get a call from the piece of shit stuck in Kharkov.

Having no choice (again), we created our Plan B, short for Plan Bitch, and it involved us digging in for the onset of spring and the sowing of crops that could very well be squashed by tank-treads or vaporized by a rocket. Yeah, I know, moving to the Ukraine in the middle of a war, the war, some might say, but what do you expect from a moron like me, especially when my friends are involved? So that’s what we did, but first we distributed our supplies through the village in person, introducing ourselves as the wild Romanians and putting on all our abundant charm. We spread it far and wide that we didn’t want our friend to be alone with her boyfriend gone, and in the process we learned the entire village admired her bravery, given all her young friends had already fled Kharkov. Unlike them, Maryuska was a loyal woman and truly devoted to her country.

This is where the story veers into nightmare land, so maybe take a break. All the village women came by the next day, a couple dozen of them, and now I could fully see how I’d made life objectively worse for Maryuska. The village women now had a perfectly good excuse to check on the Romanians and make sure we were okay, allowing them further access to the strange woman their village boy had brought back from Kharkiv. No sooner had the last of them left than that same village boy called the house over the landline, our only connection to the outside world. Maruyska hardly spoke, all we heard was silence from her bedroom, but suddenly there was a frenzy of Ukrainian oaths and promises, and as I guessed correctly, she was telling the dirt-bag she was loyal, that she wasn’t going anywhere with us.

The call was over in two hours, only we didn’t talk about it. We just made a big pot of borscht and drank and smoked all night. In the morning we ate more borscht, just like we would for lunch, and in between these savory, purple meals, a hundred eyes were on Maryuska’s little peasant hut. Every time I parted the blinds, I saw a pair of women staring our way, their heads wrapped in colorful scarves, only sometimes there were even five of them, all wondering what was going on in our earthen home. It was still winter, there was very little work to be done, and as the days passed, the bulk of our time was devoted to cooking, reading, and figuring out how the fuck we’d get Maryuska out of there, only it took weeks to convince her this was necessary.

We eventually figured a few things out about her he-man anarchist savior, the rest we had to piece together. Since they’d left Kharkov in 2014, Maryuska’s boyfriend was the only one to regularly go back to see their old friends, intentionally keeping her in isolation. She’d make it to the city maybe once a year, sometimes more, but as a good Slavic woman she needed to take care of the farm while her man was away on business. I’m not going to say he wasn’t a good thief and criminal, he was just a sick fuck like the others, his brain permanently disfigured from a thousand contradictory emotions and urges. From what I gathered, he’d been detained in Kharkov at the start of the war and told he could either go to jail (where he’d be drafted anyway), or he could enlist right then and stick to his assignment, having a valid address in the city. Not liking jail anymore than the rest of us, he was recruited into a Territorial Defense Unit, and his job was to stop looters in Kharkov, which he now had to call Kharkiv, with the Ukrainian spelling.

He was a Russian speaker just like Maryuska, a language which was now de facto forbidden on the street unless one wanted to be harassed and potentially tied naked to a pole. Same went for looting. If they caught you, you’d be lucky to just be tied to a pole. To top it all off, the infamous Azov Battalion was openly recruiting in the city square, only this stopped once a Russian cruise missile landed right next to them. That happened a few days before we got to Maryuska’s house, and every night after that we could hear the shells and missiles falling on Kharkiv, a relentless bombardment that didn’t stop the whole time I was there. For the first few weeks, I kept muttering about how Russia was going to shut off the gas flow to the EU, ending the war, but that didn’t happen, so I just shut up and listened to the bombs.

600,000 people fled Kharkiv before I arrived in Ukraine. A few of our guy friends were still there but all of the women were gone, cowards according to some. As I mentioned, every male who was stuck in the city had to carry a gun or help distribute supplies or something officially useful. It should tell you a lot that Maryuska’s boyfriend wanted to carry a gun, given the only potential targets were looters and Russian spies, but he definitely wasn’t alone, and as the Russian army drew closer to Kharkiv center, all of the Territorial Defense Units amped themselves up for the big showdown, one that never arrived. Instead, Russian airstrikes leveled 600 buildings in the city and killed dozens of random people who were too poor or otherwise unable to flee.

As a reward for being super-patriots and remaining behind, these people were forced to pay rent, just as they were forced to pay for food, and even with the threat of death literally occurring on a daily basis, these poor souls were still forced to think about this thing called the economy. I’m not making this up, there were even neo-liberal ghouls already planning what kind of luxury garbage they wanted to throw up over the ruined proletarian housing. Kharkiv was already pretty miserable and bleak, but it only got worse once the war started, and the longer it lasted, the worse Maryuska was going to be treated.

We didn’t hear much from her boyfriend that horrible month of March, just a few short phone calls to let her know he was alive and make sure she was still at home. Never could this fool imagine we were almost ready to leave, planning for every possibility and scenario, including him telling the Ukrainian army we were Romanian spies working for the ex-communist PSD who had kidnapped his girlfriend. This was a real concern, and without our pig-man escort the danger was only multiplied, so we decided to keep it simple. 

One night at the end of March, my partner and I carried a large duffel bag into our truck and left it there. Maryuska was inside, wrapped in five blankets with enough food to last until morning. She woke up there to the sound of us starting the engine and slowly driving out of the village, waving to everyone we saw and promising to come back soon with more supplies (ie: lying to their faces). Once we were back on the M03 heading west, Maryuska got out of the bag and climbed into the cab with us. As we’d planned, we soon pulled over on the side of the road and duct-taped a blue and yellow Ukrainian flag to our redneck truck antenna, but only because we had no choice (again!). When it came to not getting shot at a checkpoint, this was our best bet.

Dead Souls

We had some days on Maryuska’s boyfriend, and even when he found out she’d fled, we told the village we were heading to Lviv, so that’s likely where he’d look. We were at a disadvantage with our Romanian plates, but we passed through the Poltova checkpoints without any issue. In fact, we were quite charming to the soldiers, brave Romanians rescuing their peasant friend and keeping her safe while her man was at war. If we’d been men in the truck, all of us would have been tied to a pole, but as it was we were allowed to continue southwest towards the Dnieper River. That’s when we hit our first main obstacle.

We had spare diesel in the back, so fuel wasn’t an issue. We stopped at Kremenchuk for the night, parking in the town center where we could sleep in the lobby of some heated building, any building, and we eventually found one where other refugees had the same idea. It was April Fool’s Day, 2022. The three of us had just gotten settled against the wall when the air-raid sirens started blaring, so in an instant we were running with hundreds of others into the closest cement basement, also known as an air-raid shelter. Even down below with the others, I could hear terrible explosions for what felt like forever, and we stayed down there for most of the night, even when those with more air-raid experience had gone back upstairs.

Bomb shelters in Kremenchuk

When my partner and I went up to the street just after dawn, we learned that Russia had bombed the nearby petroleum refinery in the barrage. Not only did they bombard Kremenchuk, they struck Poltova, the previous city we’d passed through the day before. When the three of us ate breakfast that morning in the lobby of a cold apartment building, heating our coffee on a portable burner, we felt slightly doomed, and that feeling only increased when we got in the truck and tried to leave Kremenchuk. It took us hours, but we eventually crossed the Dnieper River only to run into a serious problem. Long story short, we couldn’t go any further, we were stopped by the actual army on the E584 highway and none of them cared what we had to stay. Until further notice, we couldn’t leave.

So there we were, safely on the west bank of the Dnieper but trapped in a city that was likely going to be bombed again that night. Sneaking out wasn’t an option, so we found another apartment building lobby and spent that day talking with the locals. All of them hated the Russians, but they loved us because we spoke Ukrainian. Russians were orc-subhumans, we were not. I understood their hatred, what with the bombs falling and death everywhere, but hearing endless curses against the orcs didn’t ring so pleasantly in my ears. I tried my usual routine, explaining it was the Russian state, not the Russian people who organized this invasion, and to be fair, most people agreed, but then they went right back to talking about the orcs without a trace of hesitation. 

That night in Poltova, I stared darkness in the face. It came in the form of kind people, willing to share an apartment lobby with us. They told me many stories aside from the ones involving orcs. They talked about the looters who deserved to be shot down like dogs. They laughed about tying up looters to poles. Looters weren’t like us, bringing in supplies to a poor village near the frontlines. They were worse than dogs. I don’t know what you would have done, faced with this type of hatred, but none of us felt we had any choice (again!), so we listened. Then we changed the subject. The others took my lead, and one by one we brought up the IMF, and as many people correctly surmised, people had plenty to say about the IMF, none of it good.

I didn’t throw this one. Not me.

Sitting there in that stone lobby, I looked at all these old women and man-children, knowing for certain none of them would ever guess the three of us ladies threw molotov cocktails at the police during the anti-IMF protests in Prague, way back in the year 2000. None of them would ever jump to the conclusion that not only were we against the IMF before it was hip to be so, we were also against the IMF precisely when it was hip to be so. Listening to us that night, the most some of these grandmas might have imagined is that our parents’ farms were ruined because of the new economic policies, given the level of knowledge and contempt we had for the International Monetary Fund. We all hated on the IMF that night, and everyone seemed in agreement that, at the very least, the IMF should cancel the existing debt now that Russia had invaded. All of us knew this was never going to happen, but at least we weren’t talking about orc-subhumans.

Anyway, all of this was so fucking bleak that I was up bright and early the next morning on the prowl for an idle cop. Yes, I was looking for a cop, and even crazier, I wanted to hand them a wad of euros in exchange for escorting us west. I was like a hipster wandering Manhattan in search of coke, speed-walking fiendishly for the slightest trace of blue lights. I’m clearly not ashamed, given you’re reading this, but I’d like to point out that I felt I had no choice (again!). I didn’t want to die from some rocket explosion in a random concrete basement, especially among people who thought orcs fired them at us, and just as I was in my most frenzied state on those desolate streets, I had my grand epiphany: Orcs = Slavs.

I stood there a moment, trying to puzzle this out. Had there been traffic I would have paralyzed it. Something didn’t make sense. Orcs couldn’t be Slavs. Ukrainians were Slavs, so why would they ever refer to Slavs as Orcs? Oh, right. Nazis. That’s how. Once upon a time, the Nazis weren’t afraid of using us Slavic Moldovans as their wedge into Romania, just as today they’re not afraid of using the Slavic Ukrainians as their wedge into Russia. In pretty clear words, the Nazis wanted to wipe out the Slavs, so lo and behold, today we have the fascist Azov Battalion, composed entirely of Slavs, all of them ultra-eager to exterminate the orcs, which is code for all the other Slavs outside Ukraine. Maybe you scum in the USA can’t grasp what I’m getting at, being the blind idiots who sponsored this fascism to begin with, but people like me know what the Nazis actually are, just like we know where they went after the war.

Real talk, I puked all over the cobblestones after my Road to Damascus moment, then I had to sit down. I still can’t shake what I saw in that dark revelation, and I hope you understand just what fascism is now, if you didn’t already. We can take up arms against the approaching orcs, or we can realize it’s important who we’re fighting for. During those terrible days in Ukraine, I was fighting only for Maryuska, as was my partner, so I’m sorry if I’m offering nothing more than what truly matters to me, which is my friends. I would have shot any number of bullets, pressed any number of buttons, killed as many Russians or Ukrainians as necessary to get Maryuska out of this nightmare, but luckily I didn’t have to, because if I did, your friendly Barabule wouldn’t have gotten very far. None of us can stop a missile aimed at our heads.  

My nearly dead soul was almost incapable of perceiving what was happening right in front of me, but then a car window rolled down and someone was asking me if everything was okay, only it was in some foreign language I magically understood, like in a dream. I told him I was fine, just a little sad, and then I bolted upright like a Romanian thief, eyes ablaze with an offer I wanted to make, because then I realized this was a Ukrainian cop. I told him my story as simply as possible, got in his passenger seat so I could direct him back to our truck, and then I sat there with him while he radioed some other cops, which in any other circumstance would signal impending doom. In this case, it meant the arrival of an older pig-man who was happy to accept our 1,000 euros, plus a 100 for his friend who picked me up. I’ve never been swindled by cops so bad, but I did it freely, given I had no choice (again!).

The Voyage Home

War was raging behind us, but it was also raging ahead of us as we followed the latest pig-man on the highway, though unlike his predecessor, he would occasionally exit the highway and take us on a farm road until we’d rounded some obstacle, then he’d return us to the highway. He did this around the city of Oleksandriya too, avoiding the entire sprawl where strategically important targets were waiting to be bombed. I’ve never actually been in a war zone, no less a modern one where the attacker is invisible. I’m also crazy, and I grew up on stories of Nestor Makhno and the Black Army invading all of southern Ukraine in their tachankas, only none of that energy was in me, not even close. The only thing I shared with Makhno at the end was a desire to flee into Romania as the Red Army crept ever closer.

It took us so long to drive through these country roads and pass through the rural checkpoints that we only made it to Kropyvnyski before the nightly curfew. Our new pig-man wasn’t so much of a cowboy as the last one, and he drove us straight to the police station where he told us to wait in the truck, our big Ukrainian flag waving in the wind. When he came back out, he said we could sleep in the police station tonight. My gut basically fell out of my ass right then, same with the others, as I learned. We later discussed just what we felt as we sheepishly followed pig-man into the station, quite possibly walking to our deaths, or bondage. I felt so stupid right then, like I’d trusted a cop and walked us all into the concentration camp. Same with my partner. As for Maryuska, her thoughts were much, much darker, and I’ll leave them to your imagination. 

It felt like all the cops were looking at us, sizing us up, but instead of being led into the cells where we would be strip-searched and interrogated, we were taken to a stinky conference room where a few cops were stuffing their faces with pastries and drinking bottled water. Pig-man introduced himself, explained we were Romanian aid workers, and then was promptly ignored by the local cops who walked out of the room without another word. Weird, this cop world. 

I can’t say I slept easily that night, but I did, we all did, and we needed it. Even pig-man, sleeping upright in a chair with his wife’s hand-knit blanket over his knees. I suppose this is what people have always been talking about, this thing that war does, but would I have felt the same way if pig-man were an Azov fascist? I guarantee this cop supported Azov, just like basically everyone did. War can make us forget things. Is that good? Should we have just braved the roads without any escort? Waited days for some type of refugee convoy? I don’t know, but as far as Maryuska was concerned, her boyfriend had already alerted the army of her military desertion. We needed to go, and this was the fastest way. We had no choice (again!).

If we were heading directly to the Palanca crossing, we would have gone south from Kropyvnyski, only we couldn’t. That road was closed because the Russian army was advancing on it north from Mykolaiv, and our only choice (again!) was to head due east, which we did. We were able to stay on the E50 to Uman, though we had to pass through many checkpoints, and once we got to peaceful Uman, pig-man assured us we should keep going until the curfew. From his brief chats with soldiers and cops, he determined we were in some sort of military lull, that the invasion had slowed in the north but was intensifying in the south, so getting us to Palanca was out of the question. Odessa was the jewel Russia needed to capture, and heading directly towards it was suicide, if it was even possible. So without any choice (again!), we started our trip around the Republic of Moldova, driving unobstructed until we reached Nemyriv and then cutting southwest into the farmland.

We slept in the municipal garage of a tiny village that night, unrolling our sleeping bags around the same fire some Ukrainian handymen used to keep warm on breaks. There were no bombs, nor the sound of bombs, and the next morning we continued west along the Dnister River. It took me a minute, but then I realized I was already home, even though I was still in Ukraine. This was Moldova, the tiny Ukrainian part called Chernivtsi Oblast (or Bukovina), and the Dnister has historically been its border before endless war changed it to an invisible line. There used to be a lot of Jews here before the Romanian fascists sent most of them to death camps, just as there used to be a lot of Romanians here who either fled or were sent to the gulag by Stalin. 

Now it’s mostly Ukrainians, but tens of thousands of people still speak Romanian or Moldovan, just as thousands still speak Russian, and yes, there are still indigenous people, the Hustul nomads who have resisted assimilation up to the present day. They live in those Carpathian Mountains I mentioned earlier, their territory straddling both Romania and Ukraine, and legend has it that they were chased up there by the Mongols once upon a time, and as an example of how tough a wall those mountains are, the Mongols gave up and left the Hutsul there, where they remain today with their colorful clothing and music from another age.

We didn’t drive through their territory of Bukovina, we weren’t going that far, but as those majestic Carpathian Mountains drew ever closer, as we wound along the glittering Dnister, I started to cry from how beautiful this natural world is, a true paradise that we keep ruining. Maryuska held me tight while my partner drove onward towards the northern Romanian crossing in the village of Siret, the site where our ultimate test was approaching.

I was maybe crying because of that as well, but I got myself together before pig-man stopped just short of the crossing and rolled down his window. I leaned over and gave him the final 500 euros, watched him count it, and then looked up to make sure the Romanian border guards could see us. They definitely could, so I said I’d give him another 100 to vouch for us at the crossing, which he was happy to do. The guy followed us on foot, helped us pass through the Ukrainian checkpoint, and then handed us off to the Romanians before spouting on about how we’d delivered a truck-full of supplies to a village near Kharkiv, that Romanians were truly brave, and that we should be thanked as heroes for our patriotism and allegiance to freedom, or something like that.

I can’t say that pig-man saved our asses, but he might have. Since we weren’t refugees, the Romanian border guards scanned our Romanian passports, gave us each a look in the eye, and then waved us through. That was it, and the moment we got back in our truck and drove into Romania, the threat of dying by missile dropped to almost zero. We were not suspected of being spies, the Romanian mafia had actually rented us a clean passport, dirty as it was, but now that was the final loose end I’d have to tie up, given it was me who knew how to get the passport. That’s how shady I am. 

We drove non-stop for the rest of the day back into the heartland of Moldova where our commune is situated. No one expected us, we caused quite a scene when we rolled into town with our Ukrainian flag waving in the air, but once the villagers settled down we explained it was just a way to not get shot. After that, the air was filled with laughter, and before I could look again, someone had torn the Ukrainian flag down, as if to test our patriotism. I didn’t care, I told the villagers we were all tired, that we’d been through hell, and soon enough we were all asleep back at the commune. While the others snoozed long into the next day, I had to wake up before dawn, warm up our second-best truck, and then speed out of the village and onto the freeway, Maryuska’s false-passport tucked away in my jacket pocket.

I’d told the mafia I’d be back as soon as possible, but they have people everywhere, even in my village, so they knew I was actually gone, maybe dead. Having a night’s sleep was a luxury I hoped they’d indulge me, so if you’re wondering, yeah, this is why I can never say anything about the source of the woman’s passport, hypothetical as it might be. They will literally kill me, my friends, and my family, and no one will care or notice. I’ve told you they were in ritzy, seaside Constanța, a major site of human trafficking coincidentally located beside a US military base. I’m telling you now that I drove there, returned the passport, and then drove back home, but all of that is a lie, and no mobster would have me drive to their center of operations in Constanța just to rent a valid Romanian passport. This is all a fabrication, especially the part about the US military base. There is no human-trafficking in Eastern Europe. 

Health Is In You

So that’s it. I have no grand analysis, really, other than that Maryuska is happy, free, and that piece of shit never found out where she went. We don’t even know if he’s alive, but no one’s asking either. For now all is good here on the commune, with plenty of work to occupy us, including the wheat harvest and the building of two new homes on the land. That’s why it took me all these months to even think about writing, but I couldn’t help myself, especially when I finally caught up on the emails from the USA.

I think all the international conversations happening about the war right now are bad. I know there are many more Ukrainian anarchists than there are shitty positions pieces that are honestly fucking terrible. All of the people I know in Ukraine are ignored, and honestly, do you even know who’s writing some of this shit you’re re-tweeting? Do you routinely write or contribute to anarchist positions papers that explain your geo-political position in regards to a modern war? Are your opinions ever included in such things? Do you even write? Okay then! Meanwhile, Russia isn’t going to stop, they have weapons anarchists can’t acquire in similar numbers, and some people feel they have no choice but to join the Ukrainian state. Okay. Fine. Go for it. Not going to stop you, not going to condemn you. But what do you want? An entire planet of anarchists to make YOUR cause THE cause? Should we just ignore everything that happened before the invasion? Should we ignore what we see with our eyes? 

Hopefully I don’t need to say anymore, because I’ve already said too much. If Russia takes over Ukraine, it’ll be the same old shit. If Ukraine repels the invasion, it’ll be the same old shit. The only difference we’ll make is outside of the state, outside the theater of war, and among the people we trust and love. I’d never risk my life in the service of the Ukrainian army, but I did risk my life to go get Maryuska, just as others have been risking their lives each day in the Ukraine, and not all of them carry a gun for the state. 

I know what it’s like to have no choice in the middle of a war, and I hope I successfully conveyed that to you. Most of us don’t have many choices in this hellish world of capital and greed, but I can say I do have some choices here in my anarchist commune. For example, instead of writing to you pig-dog Americans, I can choose to close my computer and go outside. I should be helping to water the corn, but not today. It’s fucking hot, so I’m going swimming. That’s my choice, and this is where I can make them. If the village knew who we really were, it’s possible they might string us up from a tree, but as it is, they don’t, and this is the freedom we’ve created in the wastelands of the EU. Thing is, we’d be doing the same shit in Russia, all of us, so deal with it. And if you can’t, I’ll see you soon at the Balkan Anarchist Bookfair in idyllic Cluj, Romania, nestled safely behind the Carpathian Mountains. We should have a lot to discuss.     

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