Wrong Children: An Essay by Faina Savenkova, a Child of Donbass

Deborah L. Armstrong
Photo: Faina Savenkova

This week, I am working on a lengthy but paid (!) translation project, so in lieu of writing more articles, I am publishing the work of the child writer from Donbass, Faina Savenkova.

She is just 13-years old and has been writing since the age of 11. She has already published two novels. She is well known in Russia and when you read her work you will see why she is thought of as a prodigy there. In addition to her writing, she is also an activist. She appeared at the United Nations to bring awareness to the children of Donbass. Unfortunately, this action got her added to the infamous “Mirotvorets” list — the Ukrainian kill list which publicizes the private and personal data of thousands of journalists, activists and other civilians including more than 300 children.

Faina continues to write and make appearances on media to spread awareness about Mirotvorets. Speaking about the war crimes of Ukrainian nationalists is considered “info terrorism” under Ukrainian law, but that has not stopped Faina from making herself heard.

I hope that you will read what she has to say.

By Faina Savenkova

For three years now, I have been telling you about what is happening in Lugansk. About the war I live in, the sorrows and joys. A year ago the website “Mirotvorets” (Peacemaker) made my personal data public. I wrote many letters to world leaders and artists in Western countries. I had only two requests: To remove the private data of all children from “Mirotvorets” and to help the children of Donbass find a peaceful life, so that we wouldn’t get killed. When the confrontation with “Mirotvorets” began, my Ukrainian journalist friends asked me why I didn’t write a letter to Zelensky, and only mentioned him in an interview. At that time it was hard for me to answer; I still naively believed that there could be peace between Ukraine and Donbass and that UN Secretary General Guterres and UNICEF, as internationally known organizations, would help me. But, unfortunately, I was wrong. Everything I asked for was ignored by these organizations, and Ukraine decided that we could be taken over by force. My efforts and dreams remained dreams. The only thing I’m glad for is that I didn’t write to Zelensky back then. And now I understand why: You can’t write and ask not to kill children to the one who gives the orders to shell Donetsk, Gorlovka, Alchevsk, and other cities. One cannot write to the president who sends thousands of his soldiers to their deaths without sparing them, gives orders for terrorist acts and the murder of children. One cannot write to the president who started this massacre and lost half of his country. You can’t write to a loser. Every day children die in Donbass, in Kherson and Zaporozhe. And he has only himself to blame. A president who will lose everything…

Well, what about UNICEF, the UN, Amnesty International? Did they say anything about the children killed by the Ukrainian army? No, of course not. Just like how they responded to the “Mirotvorets” story. They know. But they remain silent or express “concern.” They are silent always and everywhere. When the children of Yugoslavia, Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya were killed, they were silent. And if such respected organizations turn a blind eye to the brutal killing of children, do they have anything to say about the “Mirotvorets” story? I guess not. After all, we are the wrong children, born and living in the wrong place, according to UNICEF and Amnesty International. One of my essays says that war children are quiet because adults can’t hear them. They are. Unfortunately, we — the children — are not interested in these adults. We are not like them. They seem to think it’s okay to kill us, just so long as it’s done quietly, so as not to disturb others with our cries for help. I’m sorry that this is happening. I’m sorry that the country I was born in is shelling and trying to destroy everything I hold dear and everything I love, under the approving smile of those who can but won’t stop this war. Unfortunately, all those who help Ukraine do not realize that the war is coming to them.

Ordinary people in the U.S. and Europe are mostly unaware of the atrocities of the Ukrainian army, the brutal shelling and killing of civilians. People are told that we are shelling ourselves or that the Russian army has been shooting at us for eight years. Apparently, that’s why we’ve been waiting for Russia to come here in 2022, right? It is a different reality.

But I’m sure it won’t always be that way. The truth will still win. The hardest part is not getting discouraged when everything that you do fails to get results. You are not being heard. Just when you think it’s no use, an event occurs that makes you believe again that what you are not doing is not in vain. That’s what happened with the Pope’s letter. When I was in Moscow, I received a reply from Pope Francis. According to my Italian friends, he rarely answers anyone, but he offered to pray with me for peace. I don’t know if he answered himself or if the answer was written for him, but the important thing is that the Pope paid attention for the first time to the request of a child from Donbass and wanted to pray together with someone who is considered an “enemy of Ukraine.” He offered to pray with me, a child who is not considered a human being in Ukraine. And I will definitely pray with him for the hundreds of children killed by Ukraine and for the peaceful life we all need.

Letter from the Vatican to Faina Savenkova.

English translation of Faina’s essay: Deborah Armstrong.

Deborah Armstrong currently writes about geopolitics with an emphasis on Russia. She previously worked in local TV news in the United States where she won two regional Emmy Awards. In the early 1990’s, Deborah lived in the Soviet Union during its final days and worked as a television consultant at Leningrad Television.

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