Weeding

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Photo by Erin Brown @_opasno for Burn Diary. . . We raced a summer thunderstorm out of Kyiv and rode six hours in a packed minibus to Rivne, to see my friend’s sister-in-law who is pregnant with her first child. At church the next morning I sat in the hallway and talked to a young father of four who participated in the local uprising in Rivne. “I was at a checkpoint out on the highway late at night in February,” he told me, “When a jeep with Lviv plates came through. I asked the driver where they were coming from. He said, ‘Kyiv.’ I shone a flashlight in the back and saw the most bizarre thing–a young man sitting up so stiff, with huge piles of blankets on either side of him. It took me a few seconds to realize–he was dead. He had been killed on Maidan. They were taking his body home.” He called his wife and told her he was leaving that night for Kyiv. Later, when I asked her how she felt about that, she said “I have never been more proud…even my kids understood the importance, the girls built a town and barricades out of Legos and gave each other assignments to protect different spots. ‘Here, you guard the house, and I’ll guard the church.’” . . . We left that night for the fields. My friend’s in-laws live in a two room farmhouse in a tiny hamlet 25 miles outside of Lutsk. It’s NatGeo country to the max: babushki in headscarves hauling water, young men cutting tall grasses w scythes. A horse cart came to collect us about halfway through the five-mile walk in from the road. . . . My friend’s mother-in-law said she’d heard about my story, and could help, but we had work to do first. She handed us work gloves, and we headed out to the potato field to get some weeding done.

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