"Info-Terrorist" and "Russian Separatist," 13-year old Faina Savenkova
If you are a parent, there may be times when you think of your kids as little terrorists. At least jokingly. Lovingly.
But 13-year-old Faina Savenkova is considered a REAL terrorist in Ukraine, under the law which equates “info terrorism” with all other acts of terrorism.
What did Faina do? Did she blow up a building? Did she hijack a plane? Did she hold people hostage at gunpoint?
No. She voiced her opinions.
And for that, the child-writer from Donbass was placed on the notorious Ukrainian kill list known as Mirotvorets, “Peacemaker,” where her personal data — her home address and phone number — have been made public.
After all, to the nationalists who make Ukraine’s laws these days, Faina’s life is only worth one bullet.
I spoke with Faina last Thursday on Skype, along with Mira Terada, the chairwoman of the Foundation to Battle Injustice, a Russian humanitarian organization which is dedicated to exposing human rights abuses worldwide and has been investigating the Mirotvorets kill list.
I have grown to know both of these women quite well over the summer. Faina and I message each other almost every day. It’s easy to forget, sometimes, that she is only 13. Though she has the seemingly boundless energy children are blessed with, it is tempered with a serious mind and wisdom beyond her years.
But then, Faina has not had a childhood in the normal sense, and neither have any of the kids in the Donbass, who are labeled “Russian separatists” by mainstream media in the West, which dismissed Kiev’s 8-year-bombardment of them without much thought.
Ukraine’s nationalist, neo-Nazi militias have shelled the Donbass with artillery and airstrikes since the Maidan coup first tore the country apart in 2014. And Volodymyr Zelensky, a Western puppet who campaigned on a promise of ending the fighting in the Donbass, did nothing to stop it. In fact, the attacks escalated to the point where Russia finally intervened after years of stonewalled attempts to broker peace diplomatically.
To Believe and to Hope
by Faina Savenkova (Originally published in The Saker)
Translated by Scott Humor
Whenever someone asks me to describe life under Ukrainian shelling, I feel lost. Not only because I am still a child, and not simply because I have nothing to say. I just don’t know what they want me to say. Dry and indifferent reports of casualties and destruction? Certainly not. There is news for that. Personal feelings and experiences? That’s more difficult. What is a life during the war? Ordinary, if you don’t remember your peaceful life.
Many people may be horrified to realize that in the twenty-first century in the geographical center of Europe, there are children who don’t remember passenger jets flying high in the sky, walking across an evening city with their parents, or some other cute nonsense that other children don’t even notice.
The no-fly zone and the curfews adjust our lives. That’s why when we read about the riots in some European cities after an introduction of coronavirus curfew, it is puzzling: what is wrong? It’s just a curfew, nothing terrible, why does it bother them that much? The reason for our calmness is actually very simple: everything is known in comparison, and we have nothing to compare.
We are a generation that doesn’t remember a peaceful life. We are a generation that lives by strict rules, the failure of which might result in death. We learned how to determine the direction of the projectiles by ear, so that we know when to worry and when to continue going about our business. We have learned not to ignore the lectures of the Ministry of Emergency Situations on the rules of conduct during attacks, in case of detection of suspicious objects or other recommendations in various situations. And still, no one can guarantee that you won’t accidentally get hit by a shard because you’re just unlucky. Strange? Scared? Everyday life, with a small degree of difference depending on the intensity of the shelling of the territory.
What is life under Ukrainian shelling? It is the evening of June 1st, Children’s Day, when hundreds of paper lanterns soared into the sky at the memorials to commemorate the fallen children of Donbass and light the way for the angels. After all, it is difficult to explain to kids why these angels were robbed of their short lives, deprived of the opportunity to grow up and see the world in our homeland. Now they can only watch from the sky and cry while the adults comfort them.
Almost all of my life and memories are connected to the war, which is why I have no regrets and sadness about the past. I live in the present and occasionally think about the future, in which there is a place for a naive and stupid dream that causes a smile. Quite real, warming and almost tangible, it allows you not to despair even in the most difficult times. I want passenger planes to fly in the skies of Donbass, not paper lanterns. Any dream can turn into a reality. It must be so, and I believe it will be so.
Two weeks short of her 14th birthday, Faina is already an accomplished writer, with four books published, including two novels and two collections of short stories and essays. She is not a poet, though she is often referred to as one, much to her annoyance.
Faina is not shy about voicing her opinions in her writing. She speaks her mind with courage and conviction both in her published work and in her private correspondence. But on camera, she is reserved like many young girls, and she holds herself back. In time, she will grow more accustomed to the spotlight, but I wanted to do my part to make her more comfortable during our interview, so I decided to attempt it speaking Russian.
Unfortunately, my Russian is rather halting these days, and to be honest, it has only ever been conversational at best. Thankfully, Mira Terada was there to interpret what I could not, which was most of it. But Mira says that my stuttering attempt at Russian comforted Faina, so in that case it is worth a little personal humiliation for me to bring you this interview where I invited Faina to read the above essay and one other that she has written, aloud.
I hope that you will watch it despite my many stumblings.