This is the third installment of our publication of the prison writings of Nadiya Savchenko, the Ukrainian pilot who was abducted by pro-Russian separatists on June 18, 2014, and who has been imprisoned since then. It is also the continuation of the campaign for her release launched by La Règle du Jeu in partnership with Kyiv Post, Ukraina Pravda, Huffington Post/WorldPost, and other publications. As said in other circumstances about certain other young women who have been kidnapped: « Bring back our girl! »–Bernard-Henri Lévy
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Fire, Water, and Brass Pipes, Part 3
By Nadiya Savchenko
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 ?
Translated from Ukrainian by Vladislav Davidzon with Vitaly Chernetsky