I like trains. Especially if there is a dining car. You can sit comfortably, slowly sipping beer, eating pistachios, absently watching the views and reflecting on the futility of all things (just for example, can be something else). I usually spend most of the ride there, so I did not see the need to change the habit this time.
I sat down, ordered a beer and pistachios for right now, Olivier salad and solyanka ASAP, and plunged into a contemplative and thoughtful state of mind. Rather, I tried to. The problem was a waitress of middling prettiness, persistently trying to force me to «buy a girl some beer». Fuck, why is she bothering me? «How are you?», «Where are you from?», «I’m so bored here…»
Yeah… I do not need company, I just want to sit alone! Although, I’m the only customer, so there is nobody else she can stick to. Mindful of the fact that the soup and salad are not yet ready, and she could spit in there, I was smiling softly and playing for time. So, the food arrived, the danger was over, and with relief I offered my «girlfriend» to write off a couple of bottles of champagne from the bar on crushing during heavy braking and join me. Not a good idea? Well, okay, then I’ll stay in splendid isolation, if you do not mind. For a couple of minutes she was trying to joke and show me the bends of her figure, but seeing that I was focused on the absorption of the solyanka, she removed herself with a contemptuous snort as an indignant goodbye. Thank you, Lord…
No, there is nothing wrong with me, and I’m not interested in men. But, I find wildly annoying the manner of some people to use normal human feelings for the gratuitous receipt of material benefits and other advantages. It’s old and sad, like the world itself:
(Shyly) “Hi! Bored?”
(Coyly) “I’m so beautiful, so why don’t you spend some money on me? And I, so be it, will take your efforts for granted.”
(Surprised) “What phone number? No, of course I will not tell. And I do not need yours. Anyway, I have a boyfriend.”
(Indignantly) “What do you mean by ‘Okay’?! And why are you turning away?! Or do you think that I owe you something now, that you can buy me?!”
Simplistic, but true. It’s not just about the girls, men too often try to enter paradise riding on somebody else’s shoulders, using the courtesy of others, their reluctance to get into a conflict, and their fear of being rude. Well, the stick has two ends. So, the place where you try to saddle will be the place you fall. Well, I’m always ready to save a neighbor’s kitty, but that’s as far as it goes. That’s the evil I am.
One more beer (landed angrily in front of me on the table) and it is time to go to bed. Tomorrow will be a busy day.
The Voronezh Bus Station. Big Brother is watching us, so I was not going to buy a ticket there. I didn’t even go to the territory of the station. I’d checked the schedule in advance while still in Moscow through the Internet, so all I had to do now was watch and learn which way the buses to the South were going. After completing the task, I just stood at the roadside two blocks from the station, together with a pair of obvious illegals from Central Asia, waiting for a bus to come. A slight wave of my hand stopped the bus.
«Boss, how much to Rostov? 900 rubles? No problem, here it is.» And nobody’s interested in my passport data.
I’m not a fan of long-distance bus travels. However, 12 hours of Voronezh to Rostov-on-Don are much better than 32 hours of Cusco to Lima with one ten-minute stop, so I can bear it.
On arrival in Rostov I quickly left the railway station and climbed up Big Garden Street. The bus, unfortunately, had arrived too late, so that one of the stages of my plan, namely, to buy in Rostov some camouflage, footwear and some equipment, was impossible to implement. For obvious reasons, I did not want to bring all those things from Moscow. For some time I was pondering the situation. On the one hand, I do not want to waste time. On the other hand, if I understand something about the economy (and I do), the prices in Donetsk for “partisan items” will be exorbitant. In the end, the desire to save time took over the desire to save money. I inserted sim card and battery into the burner and dialed the number that was given me by Zhuchkovsky.
“Hello?” The voice clearly belonged to a man in his fifties.
“Hello! I know your number from Alexander, who is now in the Donetsk region. He said you could organize an excellent fishing trip.” I feel like Nicholas Brody talking to Abu Nazir on the phone. But what else could I tell him?
It took a few seconds for my interlocutor to understand what I meant.
“Yes I can. How many of you?”
“Do you know Rostov and the province around?”
“I do know the city but not the area around it.”
“Clear. I’ve got another ‘fisherman’ already sitting at my house. Now I’ll give up the phone, he’ll explain to you how to get there.”
There comes another voice, like 15-20 years younger, solid and confident.
“Hi! Where are you now?”
“Okay, I was there yesterday around the same time. Go to the bus station and get a ticket to Tarasovka. It is a town in the northern part of the province. The bus takes about three hours, so in the early morning you will be here. On arrival call again, we’ll explain how to find us.”
A few seconds of thinking.
“I came in street clothes. Is it really important for me to go now, with a fishing trip planned tomorrow? Or can I come tomorrow night?” Hopefully, he understood.
(After a few seconds) “It is better if you come ASAP. Yesterday I was late. The owner of the house says perhaps tomorrow we’ll go fishing. It’s not every day that it can be arranged. Call me after you buy a ticket.”
“Got it. I’ll call.”
Going back to the bus station, I walked up to the cashier. Surprise! The bus has been canceled, the next one will be in the morning. I called back, reported a problem, and said that I’d come tomorrow afternoon. I was reluctant to take a taxi for both financial and security reasons. Taxi drivers certainly do perform their civic duty by snitching to the police and the FSB. Now I needed to decide either to get a hotel room or spend the night at the station. The hotel is a paper trail. Even if I found a private room for an overnight stay, the people who rent it usually take a passport photo by phone, and then where these photos go, especially today, only Cthulhu knows. It is quite possible they go right into the hands of our glorious law enforcement. I made up my mind: I’d spend the night at the station. In the meantime, I could walk around the city and enjoy it for a while.
Walking around Rostov is nice. Firstly, it’s a very picturesque city. Secondly, the number of beautiful girls per square meter in the strip from Kharkov to Rostov-on-Don is much higher than the average both on Earth and on some other planets. In my heart I had a complex set of feelings and thoughts. There is a noisy, merry city around. Lights, fun, bustling people and machines. With the beautiful girls mentioned above walking with lads two times wider in the shoulders than me, drinking beer. On the one hand, a reluctant thought creeps into my head, «And what the hell are you guys doing here when 100 kilometers away the same Russians as you are fighting for their land and freedom?» Something told me that there was not even a subconscious feeling of wrongness about what was happening in the lads’ muscular heads, and that in the morning they wouldn’t go to buy humanitarian aid for Novorossiya, or to transfer some money for the purchase of equipment for Strelkov. At such moments, I understand why some normal white Christians and atheists join jihadist groups. People get tired of all this bestiality happening around, they do not know how to deal with it, and, due to lack of brain cells they begin to take seriously the famous Arabian fiction poetry of VII century. On the other hand, looking at the boiling life, and mindful of the purpose of the trip, I really started to feel like one of the defenders of the Russian World. Soon, I recalled «Farewell of Slavianka» and «The Sacred War,” and my mood lightened up. That, despite my rather ironic attitude to everything around, was a good feeling.
An unexpected (by the standards of Moscow) complexity appeared to be changing dollars at seven o’clock in the evening. All the banks were closed, and no exchange bureaus at all, like I had fallen into the Middle Ages or the Land of the Soviets through some time hole. In the end, I went to the cops at the railway station and they quickly pulled out their illegal pocket moneychanger from somewhere. The exchange rate, to be sure, was plunder. But now, at least, I was protected from a possible ID check, because I had become a business partner of those valiant keepers of law, order and public safety.
In the morning I got on the bus, and we launched toward Tarasovka. For a neighbor, alas, I had a terribly talkative old lady who was burning with desire to find out where and why I’m going. Fortunately, two thirds of the responses she immediately invented herself, without waiting for my reaction. So, to my surprise, it turned out that I was going to some kind of resort for a mud bath. Okay, why not. Although, the darkly humorous thought «At least I’ll get a taste of some mud» crossed my mind.
There is Tarasovka. The capital and main city, so to speak, of the Tarasovskiy district of the Rostov region, whose main advantage is that it (the district) borders on the Luhansk region of Ukraine. Or, rather, the Luhansk People’s Republic. Stepping out at the bus station, I looked around. A couple of stores, a couple of taxis, a small café. At the opposite side of the road I saw a store called «Hunter» or something like that. «Aha!» I made a mental note and went to the diner. I ordered some delicious borsht with garlic croutons for chump change, and then called the point of destination. Having instructions to take a taxi to the border farmstead of Ivanovka (let’s call it so), I finished the soup (having been extremely good, by the way), and went across the road to the hunting store. A middle-aged woman behind the counter looked at me without the slightest surprise.
«Going there?» she asked, making an uncertain, but intuitively clear gesture.
«There…» I sighed, feeling like the last idiot to show up.
«You guys have already bought almost everything,” I was told by this obvious genius of counterintelligence, “here is all that’s left.»
The choice really was not rich, to put it mildly. In the end, I bought myself a camouflage cloak. Strelkov at his famous address (which served as the last straw for my decision to go), had said that there were some provisions on-site, so I’d manage it somehow.
I struck a deal with a taxi driver for 800 rubles to Ivanovka and we started west. The taxi driver was talkative, and saw immediately who I was. He said that he carried volunteers to Ivanovka for Alexander (which, according to him, was the name of the master of the house where I was going) on a regular basis, 3-5 people per week. In his opinion, Alexander was an experienced man, he had plenty of relatives on both sides of the border, and no overlap with the transition had happened yet. At the same time he instructed me what to say to the border guards if they stopped us (that we were going on a fishing trip). Among the border guards, according to him, people were very different, including those seeking to stupidly enforce any letter of the law without thinking through the situation. They could draw up a report on a violation of the border zone, and return me to Tarasovka. However, we hadn’t caught anyone. Rather, we hadn’t been caught. He treated the Rebellion sympathetically, which, however, did not prevent him from asking 800 rubles for the trip, the maximum price of which was no more than 500.
He dropped me off in front of a detached two-story house, in the yard of which a hefty shaggy dog sat silently, gazing disapprovingly at me through the chain-link fence. The wheelman smartly turned and disappeared from my sight, wishing me a final good luck.
 Solyanka is a thick, spicy and sour Russian soup
 The slogan «Big Brother is watching you» comes from George Orwell’s novel “1984”
 In Russia you can buy a bus or train ticket to another province only with your passport
 Around $26 US back then
 Cusco and Lima are cities in Peru (Lima is the capital)
 Characters from the American political thriller television series “Homeland”
 Novorossiya is a historical, cultural, and economic region (with Donbass being an eastern part of it) at the north coast of the Black Sea. The region was settled by Russian colonists in the middle of the 18th century, and by the end of 19th century it became most economically developed part of the Russian Empire. It was given to Soviet Ukraine by the Communists in order to weaken the anti-Soviet White movement and to gain the support of the Ukrainians. The main goal of the Russian Spring of 2014 was Novorossiya’s secession from Ukraine
 Russian patriotic songs
 Borscht is a beetroot soup of South Russian cuisine, usually made with beef
 Around $14 US back then