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nadija-06052015Es geht ihr gut. Nadija hat ein scheinbar unzerstörbar sonniges Gemüt. Als die seit nunmehr bald einem Jahr in russische Gefangenschaft verschleppte ukrainische Hubschrauber-Pilotin Nadija Sawtschenko vergangenen Mittwoch wieder vor ihrem Richter in Moskau erscheinen musste, hat sie den ganzen Laden unterhalten. Ihrer Schwester Vira hat sie aus dem Knast darüber brieflich mitgeteilt:

    I laughed heartily [at the prosecution], and from now on, I will view my court hearings in Russia as circus and puppet shows that I went to as a child – I will watch them just to laugh and get in a better mood.

Ansonsten isst Nadija nach Beendigung ihres Hungerstreiks mit großem Appetit und der russische Knastfrass schmeckt ihr gut … was nobody kaum glauben kann. Nadija, die vorgestern 34 Jahre alt geworden ist – nachträglich happy birthday, Nadija – ist jetzt unter die Schriftsteller gegangen. Sie beschreibt ihre Eindrücke in der Gefangenschaft in Form von Briefen an ihre Schwester Vira. Sechs Briefe wurden bisher veröffentlicht, die ich hier übersetzt wie­der­ge­ben möchte … halt die Ohren steif, Nadija!

Durch die Hölle und zurück
(пройти огонь, воду и медные трубы – wörtlich: Durch Feuer, Wasser und Kupferrohre gehen)

By Nadiya Savchenko

I will tell you, as a friend …
And I neither know how nor have time to explain it,
I will write you, as a friend…
Maybe you’ll still have the time to read a bit.
Dear Reader,

My apologies that this book was not written in high style. Still, „you can’t force words out of a song.“ I have written simply, conversationally.

I never wanted to be a writer or to write a book, no matter how hard some people tried to persuade me. A lived life cannot described or written down, and no one else needs it–except the person who writes it …

In prison I read in a book that one begins to write a book of one’s own only when one’s life is pushed to the edge, to a point at which one is ready to shoot oneself but does not have the guts to do it … And I have not reached that breaking point! Were I to reach it, it would indeed be better to shoot myself…

But I wondered how many long and tedious questions I will have to answer if I survive this and return to freedom? So I thought to myself : would it not be better to write it all down just once, while there is still time, rather than repeat it a hundred times later on? It is time for me to begin the work! I am already three months gone from my duty as a Member of Parliament. All the Ukrainians who expressed their confidence in me with their vote are waiting for some sort of action!

So I decided that paper will be inked up in prison if not in parliament! There is enough time here… They say that a year in prison is enough for anyone to get all the writing out their system, whether it’s poetry or prose … Though I never thought that I would succumb to such platitudes! But I have not yet been here a year, thank God! And I hope I won’t! No need to get comfy and settled! It is time to break out! There is much work to do!

Letter to my sister from prison
When I was put here I immediately started to clean the cell and, noticing a spider, chased after it to kill it. Then I thought, what am I doing!? It’s now my only friend, a living creature. Since then the spider has lived with me and sometimes climbs on the table and takes a stroll when I have dinner. The spider is interesting to watch. It is really tiny. It occurred to me that you probably wouldn’t be happy to have a neighbor like this, but for me even this tiny thing is a source of joy. It looks like I had a moment of inspiration in writing that. I hope you will have the time to read it. I usually have very little time to read your letters and, unfortunately, I’m not allowed to take them back to my cell.

Second letter to my sister from prison
It’s been a week. The lawyers should be coming soon. It rained all day. Finally! The heat had really gotten to me. In the morning I walked in the courtyard, the walls of which are concrete, the ground asphalt, the ceiling iron wire and mesh. A bird flew in. It was small, like a sparrow, but with a thin beak. It spent some time here, though not very long. Maybe it will come back. It’s the first time a bird has come in. Now I have another friend, in addition to the spider. They’re going to keep me here for another two months, the bastards!

Third letter to my sister from prison
In here I all the time in the world! But the time I used to spend with you–that I miss a lot. My lawyer pals don’t stay for long when they come, and there is always so much business to take care of, so many letters to read, that I don’t have time to answer you properly. I prepare drafts in advance, like this one, but as time passes they become irrelevant, and on top of it all I have to talk in a roundabout way so that no one but us will understand… What worries me the most now is that you have no money.

Fourth letter to my sister from prison
I’m sorry that you’ve had to quit architecture. Right now everything is being destroyed, but later it will have to be rebuilt. I firmly believe that you’ll have bridges to build soon enough: in Luhansk, „Ukrainian Nationalists Bridge“; in Donetsk, „Right Sector Bridge“!

I envy you a little. You are gaining a tremendous life experience, while I, „an imaginary hero,“ spend half a year in prison–and in solitary confinement at that. If I were in a cell with other prisoners I could at least pick up some prison wisdom. But what does not kill us makes us stronger! Each of us will learn this in our turn, so that eventually, together, we’ll be invincible!

Fifth letter to my sister from prison
In writing my appeal for people not to send money but instead to support me in spirit I wasn’t thinking about you–because I believed you were still working. I wanted you to understand that you didn’t have to work so hard for my release. The devil won’t get me! But maybe you’re right; if I were in your place I’d be worried sick and would be doing everything I could.

Sixth letter to my sister from prison
Hon’, I wanted to tell you something funny about my hunger strike. During the 37 days of the strike I ate twice. The first time it was a pear-flavored candy. In the prison courtyard, where they take me to walk, there are chinks in the brickwork where prisoners hide cigarettes, matches, and candy for those in solitary, because the guards take everything away from them and don’t allow them to smoke. So the courtyard is like a transfer point for contraband. I always put something there when I can. But now I have no more cigarettes, so I take some from these chinks. One day I found six pieces of candy there, and I ate one but didn’t want any more. Let someone else have them. The guards know about most of the hiding places, but there are good people among them, and they don’t empty them. And then there are the bastards who, before bringing you out of your cell for a walk, remove anything hidden in the chinks by the prisoners who just finished their walk. Once a shit, always a shit!

The second time I ate was today. I was cleaning up my cell in preparation for the Feast of the Epiphany. In the cell there is a deep shelf where I used to store things. But since the food I had kept there was long gone, I hadn’t bothered to look in there again. But today I happened to glance in and thought I noticed an aroma of smoked fish. I used to get 200 grams of smoked salmon every week from the store. On New Year’s Eve I ordered 150 grams of red caviar, expecting to eat it over the holidays. But then I got a cellmate, so we each had some caviar on a piece of bread, and then I started my hunger strike and gave the rest of the caviar to her. So, on the shelf, where it smelled of fish, I certainly didn’t find much but did gather a handful of crumbs remaining from the bread I fed to the sparrows, as well as a dried up bit of caviar! I devoured the crumbs. I remembered what mother had told me about the famine of 1933 and ate them with great pleasure. And then I put the caviar onto the tip of my tongue and let it dissolve in my mouth, swooning with delight. Not that I wanted to eat—the hunger has long ceased bothering me—but I just could not bring myself to throw out food… Please don’t read this to mom, because it will make her cry. Her nerves are bad enough as it is. And don’t print this anywhere, because you’ll be giving away prison secrets, understand?