A STORY FROM UKRAINE
19 August 2023
Serhii is still working out what to do with his life. He recently graduated from university in economics, but since then he’s been doing odd jobs - building work, car repairs and the like. In his spare time, he’s a keen boxer and keeps pigeons. He’s a tall, popular guy with a strong chin, even features and thick eyebrows. He’s the youngest son of Anna, who still dotes on him to an embarrassing degree. Half an hour earlier, Serhii and his friends met the mayor near the birdge, where various volunteers were handing out Molotov cocktails and grenades. There was a bit of a scramble. They each managed to grab a grenade, silently picturing the moment they would hurl it at a passing tank. The shell that kills Serhii is travelling at nearly four times the speed of sound, which means it takes a third of a second to cross the river, smash through a thin garden wall, and splinter against the grey concrete side of number 53. There’s a deafening blast, and a white cloud of smoke punches its way across the road. Perhaps the soldier inside the tank meant to aim a fraction to the left, and up, at the sniper. Maybe he panics, as the Ukrainians defending the bridge open fire with all manner of weapons. Or maybe he isn’t aiming anywhere in particular. The explosion is captured, at 1.43pm, on the black-and-white video of the security camera attached to side of the tall building opposite. The shell hits the owner of the house first, taking his head clean off. Despite days of searching, it will never be found. Immediately behind him, Serhii is torn apart.
(An extract from A SMALL, STUBBORN TOWN by Andrew Harding)
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