Kseniya Ulyanova, Kyiv-Paris

Uncle Tolya was born in 1943 in Kharkiv.

He spent all his life in Severnaya Saltovka.

Uncle Tolya is an engineer. He was responsible for one of the workshops at the rail car building plant. He is very proud of this.

I met Uncle Tolya yesterday at Hauptbahnhof station in Berlin. He was standing and asking for someone to help him get on a train and carry his luggage.

On the 5th of March, a shell hit Uncle Tolya’s apartment. His son died on the spot while Uncle Tolya was under the concrete pieces of his own flat watching how his own legs become cottony and failed to respond. “I really wanted to die, but since I survived — I had to do something”. And he did. A man who can barely walk, went to Germany, to hug his first wife (“an only love of my life”).

Uncle Tolya's small tourist backpack contains: books, a photo album, and some wildly heavy iron things.

"I'm Uncle Tolya" – the war, with its rugged hand, has finally touched me directly.

He said that we must definitely call each other by our first names because the person who helped him must have a name. He will always remember me.

I will also remember Uncle Tolya.  And I'll do it here: with clumsy letters, grammatical errors and missing commas.

  • Do you want me to sit with you?

  • No need.  You will cry.  And you're too young for that.

Uncle Tolya will never come home again.

The war has Uncle Tolya's wrinkled face. The War has a million faces. At all central stations of the world.