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  • Writer's pictureDavid Mathews

Letter from Sputnik. Because life ain't simple

SNT Sputnik, Tomsk Oblast 6 January 2023

Моя дорогая Наташа, Столько неприятностей ...

My dearest Natasha, So many troubles.

Where to start? The 141 from Seversk broke down this morning. It is usually fine, but we had to wait until replacement came, getting colder and colder. Christmas eve, and they can’t get us home from market on time. Mother was like ice, and it has set off her cough. It lasted two months last time, and we nearly lost her, didn’t we?

What we have lost is half our cabbages and potatoes. Being able to grow vegetables is mostly why we live here, but some clown who reckons he can keep pigs, didn’t keep them, so to speak, and they’ve been roaming all over, helping themselves to early Christmas.

And now I’m not sure I have enough food. I made kutya, but poor little Zoya at 39a is so depressed. She can do nothing since her Dmitri was called up, so I shared it with her. All those mouths to feed. And half my pig. I could do with one of those buggers that ate my cabbages. The mice have been at my mushrooms, gherkins have dried out because someone, and I mention no particular husband, left lid off. And no fish to be had today. It’s disaster. But worst of all, no Piotr. You want your children about you at Christmas, don’t you. All four girls are here, but no Piotr.

I haven’t heard from him since he phoned me from Makiivka on New Year’s Eve. All the boys were phoning their mothers, he said. His company was sent there last week. All a bit chaotic, he told me, crammed in together, but at least they were warm, and he promised to phone our cousin Katya in Kramatorsk and arrange to meet her as soon as he gets some leave, though transport isn’t easy. He says there are no buses from Makiivka. These Ukrainians are either hopeless or obstructive, no wonder they need us to sort them out. Piotr’s commander said it would be 10 days before they could move on, so I hope he phones soon.

That Elizaveta, nosy baggage, said there was some explosion at Maliivka, but she’s a great one for rumours and bad news, always on her computer. If there was real problem, our President would have sorted it and told us, like always. Piotr will be fine, whatever Elizaveta says – our army will look after him. But we will all light candle for him tonight – just to be sure.

I’m writing this now because I need to, sister. I don’t want Fyodor to hear all my worries, nor mother or the girls. When you will get this, I have no idea, but maybe everything by then will be like what they say in American films, hunky dory.

Keep well, and send me news of you and Aleksandr.

Your loving sister


PS Something is going on. There are helicopters and police everywhere. One of them knocked on my door – woman officer from Tomsk. They never come this far, not from Tomsk. The only Sputnik they’ve heard of there is Sputnik Hotel. Looking for what she called Fifth Columnists. She had two stars, so I call her Lieutenant, and she smiles. You can guess what next. Elizaveta was straight round with what she calls 'intelligence' – ha! She has read that British imperialists are threatening to snatch some of the countryside between here and Seversk. Are they crazy or evil? You tell me, sister. Your A

PPS Elizaveta just gave me what she calls a ‘link’ that explains everything. Maybe you can make something of it. LINK. Crazy for sure.

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