Strange thoughts come into your head when you are running with a pot full of fiery borsch under enemy fire. Will you get there or not? How can you lie down without turning over the pot? Where will the next person lie down? How will you look in a puddle of borscht, if you know what happens? What will our department eat if I don’t manage to bring it? In other words, a lot.
We live close to a hospital, that’s why the brotherhood entrusted us with borscht. Hot, red, the real thing. Since we still had gas at home. And my mom was there. She was evacuated from her housing where she lost gas, heating, and electricity.
The sister-hostess (God grant you health, pana Irina, for feeding us for one and a half months), collected the ingredients for the borscht and my mom cooked Ukrainian borscht. A huge cast iron pot. Hot as fire. Red as the setting sun. Thick as goulash. Tasty as the remains of the day. Fragrant as flowers for a loved one.
And Larisa and I ran to take it early in the morning. I will tell you that borscht for breakfast, with a piece of lard and rye bread, is exactly what you need during the war. And don’t argue -- this is verified. The borscht is good for the body and soul.
The pot I’m carrying is filled to the brim; it is covered with a towel, and I carry it on my outstretched hands, carefully like a newborn. Nearby -- I have Larisa, like a security detail. Both of us are wearing surgical suits and sneakers. As soon as we left the house, we heard banging.
They’re awake, sons of bitches! And I hear that the badge is near since I hear whistling but I can’t go faster because of the borscht! That’s when I started seeing all kind of images -- what if this, what if that?
I tell Larisa: run faster, I can’t abandon the borscht, but you can run. And she tells me: no, I’m with you. Like, what are we going to do without the borscht? I say, we’re going to lie down now, there, under the fence, since we can fit the pot of borscht there well, and it wasn’t very dirty. But it was banging real loud, goddammit. We didn’t run but walked really fast. But we didn’t spill the borscht, we made it! It was probably the tastiest borscht in my life. Then we laughed for a long time. Since a Ukrainian will never abandon his borscht. Never.