See you on Independence Day

He chose his call sign – Tatar. He comes from Crimea. 45 years old. A short man. With a beard. An olive uniform. He was sitting near a wall of an abandoned house in Donbas. Three injuries, shell-shock, two weeks of captivity. His little and ring fingers couldn’t bend. The arm up to his elbow had many scars. They said people couldn’t survive this: a shooting attack of a military truck in 2014, eight killed, three badly wounded. Tatar survived, two others didn’t. He didn’t talk much. Smiled rarely. The green paint on his sniper rifle said, Feodosiya. My little Feodosiya. The Kalashnikov gun – Sevastopol. He gave names to guns, and these names were names of Crimean cities and places.

Tatar went missing in 2016. He went to a combat mission and didn’t come back. They went to the enemy’s rear area. He was in the reconnaissance group. The last words he said were, “See you on Independence Day.” We haven’t.

His real name? I don’t know.

Where is he from? I don’t know.

Family, children? I don’t know.

Some photos in an old smartphone: he is sitting near a wall of an abandoned house in a village in Donbas, he is frowning, cigarette’s smoke is in the upper right corner of the photo. He is looking at the camera in one of the photos. What do I know about you?

Tatar.

Nothing!

You have become a myth.

I’ve had a dream recently. The Independence Day Parade. Kyiv’s main street – Khreshchatyk. The motor convoy. The militaries are handsome, neat, dressed in uniform, the anthem of Ukraine is on, and Tatar is in one of the columns: his back is straight, his look is confident, he has ceremonial step and Feodosiya.

“As I said: see you on Independence Day.”

“I said, but this year there will be no parade.”

It rained heavily in early August in the night streets of Odesa. Drops, like peas, were knocking on the window. The bedroom window’s open. The curtains are being waved by the wind. Cold.

I got up and thought, “It was just a dream.” A dream. Tatar left. Three years ago. I poked my head out of the window under the rain. I wished I had completely woken up.

I woke up but wondered: what Independence Day did Tatar speak about?

Valeriy Puzik

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