Yoko Dempsey’s moving tale of the tragic consequences of conflict
I hear the birds singing as I’m sunbathing in the bright, warming sun. It’s nice living in Ukraine. I didn’t really like it before because of all the war between Russia and us. I even used to cry myself to sleep whilst listening to all the bombing because I always used to think, what if one of those bombs landed on my father? W-what if one already has?
My dad was in the war… I would have never been able to live without him. He didn’t die, but he lost a leg. I always used to say, “I’ve dug two graves for us father. If you go, I go with you.” Because he was the only one I had. I mean, I had my grandma but she was going to pass very soon anyway.
I used to have an older brother too, but he died in war. He was only 16. I will tell you now.
He was getting ready to go to war. I was telling him to be careful.
“Marko! Please be careful!!”
“Ana I’ll be fine. I’m a strong 16-year-old.”
“Marko I’m only thinking about you.”
He didn’t want to do any of this. He just didn’t want to show it because he was like that.
Marko kissed his teeth. I don’t need you to think about me because I’m not scared.”
“Ana, please be quiet.” He was gritting his teeth whilst saying this.
I sighed because I knew that inside, he was petrified. He didn’t want to do any of this. He just didn’t want to show it because he was like that – he hated showing when he was scared of something, he acted all tough instead.
“Alright, I must leave now. See you. Father’s already at the army camp.”
“I’m coming with you,” I debated.
“Not to the army camp.” He raised his voice.
“No, I mean to comfort you on the way so that you’re not so scared.”
“Pfft – I won’t be scared.”
“Sure.” I was really worried for him. I didn’t want to lose another family member.
We stepped outside. I started walking but he hesitated.
I wanted him to think of something happy so when we got there he would be a little more calm
I looked back at him. “Are you okay?”
“I’m fine.” Marko gritted his teeth again and started walking.
I was now following him. “I know this won’t change anything but… good luck.”
“Yea, yea I don’t think I need a ‘good luck’ from my eight-year-old sister.” His voice was trembling and his hands were shaking.
“Are you sure you’re not…”
“Am I sure I’m not what?”
“Never mind.” I didn’t finish my sentence because I wanted him to forget about all of this… this war until we got there. I wanted him to think of something happy so when we got there he would be a little more calm.
There was silence, and all I could hear was Marko’s heavy breathing.
“Try and think of something happy,” I said in a quiet voice, breaking the silence.
“What?” he asked, not looking back.
From his nasal voice and sniffing, I knew he was crying. I wasn’t going to ask if he really was ok because I knew he wasn’t so there wasn’t really a point.
“I said try and think of something happy, so when we get there, you’re more… you know, calm,” I repeated.
He turned to me and sighed.
“I’m scared. I don’t want to do this,” he stuttered.
“I know, I know you are. And I know you don’t want to.”
I was too engaged in comforting him that I forgot about all the dark sides
He walked up to me and just stood there, in front of me for a few seconds then a second later, he was… hugging me. He only hugged me when he was petrified because apparently it was ‘comforting’. He was even shaking. I felt bad.
“Thank you,” he whispered in his trembling voice, hugging me so tight that I almost couldn’t breathe.
“T-that’s ok,” I wheezed, hugging him back.
He held my hand and we carried on walking. After 20 minutes, we finally arrived. Marko stopped again.
“I don’t want to do this.” He started to tear up again.
“I know you don’t. But you have to. Come on, think of it like this. You’re doing this for our people. When you come back, they’ll praise you and call you their hero.” I started to tear up too.
“Yeah. only if I make it back.”
“Of course you…”
I stopped to think about what he just said. I forgot about that. I was too engaged in comforting him that I forgot about all the dark sides.
“Exactly,” Marko said in a gentle voice, holding back his tears. He started walking to the army camp.
I looked down in worry and saw something sticking up from the ground
I looked at him and smiled a bit.
“Bye,” I said.
“Bye, I guess,” he replied, not looking back.
I looked down in worry and saw something sticking up from the ground in front of Marko, something a little bit odd caught my eye. I recognised it.
Father brought a dead one back that looked just like it. He said it was a dead… dead something. I couldn’t quite remember what he said it was. After a few seconds of thinking, I remembered! It was a land mine… I was shocked and panicked. I couldn’t speak for a few seconds because of the panic.
But when I finally could I screamed with all my lungs:
“MARKO WATCH OUT! A LAND…” but it was too late… he stepped on it. My eyes widened. It was silent for a second, but then I heard a big bang. I covered my ears. I screamed with trauma and grief. I couldn’t hear anything. Not even my own scream. All I heard was a quiet but loud screeching noise ringing in my ears. I was shaking uncontrollably.
I saw people rushing to him and me. The remains of his body were being taken away by the people.
“NO DON’T TAKE HIM AWAY FROM ME!” I screamed. I tried to get up to rush to the people who were taking Marko but the people behind me grabbed and restrained me.
“LET ME GO,” I screamed, “LET ME GO!”
Even though Ukraine and Russia tore my life apart, I would never regret living in Ukraine
I screamed and screamed and screamed until I couldn’t anymore. All I could say was “Marko”.
I screamed and cried into one of the people’s arms and I vaguely heard them say, “Shhhh, I’ve got you.”
I collapsed onto the floor screaming my heart out. I felt so lightheaded from the screaming and the trauma. I blacked out. I was traumatised, I was exhausted and only eight.
I woke up panting, a light blinding me. My panting turned into my normal breathing pace.
Even though Ukraine and Russia tore my life apart, I would never regret living in Ukraine, because if I didn’t live here, I would never have met the love of my life, Viktor.
When I met him, he made it feel like everything was ok. We’re both 18 now and already married. We have a child as well. I’m quite happy with my life right now. I smile and listen to the birds singing again.
“Anastasia, lunch is ready,” my aunt calls from the kitchen.
“Coming!” I call back. I walk inside and see Viktor smiling at me. “What? Why you looking at me like that?” I laugh.
“You just look very… beautiful.” He smiles.
“Aww, and you look very handsome.” I smile back.
We have a moment of silence, just smiling at each other.
“Come on you love birds, lunch is ready. Now get over here.”
“Ok, ok, we’re coming!” I say. We walk in and sit at the table.
In partnership with Write by You, a social enterprise supporting young female writers to develop their creativity, confidence and writing skills.
Yoko is quite a creative person. She loves writing and also creative with her hands and enjoys making wool felt characters, along with many other things! Yoko has a language difficulty called DLD which means she sometimes struggle to get my words out the way I want to. But she works hard, and is improving all the time and loves getting lost in her imagination too.
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