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Kurgan. Memories of love.

A story in two parts.

By Oleksandr MatvyeyevPublished 3 years ago Updated 2 years ago 14 min read
Ukraine. Nobody will ever love you like your parents do.

1. Mother. Woods.

My mother and I were slowly walking on a hill that looked down on this small Ukrainian town’s local stadium, which resembled a small amphitheater. Inside the stadium, there was a track filled with students from a local high school running in circles.

“How was your therapy session or do you not want to talk about it?”-asked me, mom, carefully, as if by accident.

“I can talk about it. It’s okay. She asked me why I decided to come.”

“And what did you say?”

“‘I came to reconnect with my father’”.

“You only want to reconnect with your father? “


“That’s why you came here, isn’t it?”

“I am just telling you what I said in the session. I’ve never really had a problem connecting with you, Mom. In fact, you’re the reason I have emotions in the first place. It’s just, sometimes you want too much. You are like the opposite of him, he is withdrawing all the time. And you can barely do anything alone. You always need to get in here.”- I hit myself on the chest with a fist.- “You are clingy.”

“Your therapist came to that realization?”

“I did. I just talked and nobody was there to stop or interrupt me.”

“Well, I am sorry I interrupted you. Just say that next time.”

“I have, you just don’t listen.”

“Okay. I am sorry. What else did she say?”

“She doesn’t say much, actually, she just listens. I do all the talking and that’s how I come to these realizations myself because nobody is there to stop me, to stuff my mouth with outdated knowledge or their unrealized ideas and unvoiced opinions. I just need people to listen to me sometimes. I am perfectly capable to arrive at understanding myself and my relationships. All I need is space. It’s that simple.”

“Keep talking.”

“You see, you don’t know any better. I haven’t been home in ten years and it feels like I just left yesterday. Sometimes I feel our connection is more than enough, Mom, and you need to let go of me, loosen that grip. ‘Cause you still act like I am an infant.”

“You are my son.”

“I know! I’m also a thirty-year-old man, who left his family when he was twenty against their will, especially against dad’s judgment. I got married, got divorced in five years, went to acting school, and now I am looking for what to do next and how to achieve that.”

“I just worry about you, I want you to be happy and I do want your dreams to come true. I want you to be who you want to be.”

“You want too much. How about trusting, letting go, and having faith that I already am who I want to be? Your ideas of me are old and outdated. They are ghosts. And you know about ghosts, more than I do.”

"What do you mean?"

"You know what I mean."


“My brother. Your firstborn son, you told me the story once, remember?”

“Yeah. I was twenty then, Eduard was two years old. We were so young. It was really hard to go through that back then. Very hard.”

“Did you go through completely though?”

“Yes, It took decades, but I had to do it. It definitely wasn’t good to keep inside that tragedy.”

“I wonder if that is why you worry so much about your kids sometimes.”

“I am your mom. And I can’t stand hearing about other kids being sick or unwell, let alone you. I love you.”

“She did tell me that I am your baby boy. The therapist lady."

“She did, huh? I thought she didn’t say anything.- She gave me a quirky smile.- Do you think you will be able to take it easy on Dad?"

“I won’t stop myself from telling the truth.”

“Is it so important?”

“Yes. Of course, it is."


“Because I want him to admit that he loves me and stop withdrawing.”

“Don’t be too demanding of him, you see how sensitive he is, he couldn’t sleep last night after you told him that he didn’t become anybody and it disappointed you. He stayed up contemplating what you said, wondering what he did wrong.”

“You know that’s not how I said it. Don’t use it against me. I don't like that. Especially when you do it.”

“What?” She asked baffled and innocent.

“You can be manipulative and the worst thing is that you don’t even realize it.”

“Sasha, he is an old man, leave it alone. We weren’t perfect parents, we only did what had been done to us. That’s all. We didn’t know any better. My parents did some shitty things when I was a kid too. And I’ve let it go.”

“Then why didn’t you do better? You see, right now you’re trying to get your point across in order to stop me. You want me to get related to your experience. I can see that, and you know how physical our connection is, I can still feel the strings.”

“Do You want to cut them?”

“What? Are you crazy?”

“Just cut them like this, as if you had scissors. I’ve done it before.”

“What are we doing? Are you crazy? You are crazy.- I paused, looked down.- Okay. Let’s try.”

And at that moment, we cut the strings between us with our fingers.

“You see? Easy, isn't it?”

This is insane. I was cutting imaginary strings between me and my mother. Why? In order to grow separately? Ha! At that moment I realized that we are all children inside and that I was only given one mother in this lifetime. As crazy it was, I love her and no one would ever love me as much as she does.

“In the future,” she said, “If I talk too much and don’t listen, you let me know.”

I shook my head, hardly able to believe it, and smiled. The village houses started letting out the smoke throw their chimneys burning like cigarette buds. Time to have supper.

My mother is a woman, a child of nature, who would go inside the woods without a second thought. It was a great joy to walk with her inside the park and talk about the things we liked, admiring the trees, eating berries, adventuring through uncharted territories to make memories. Memories of love. I felt tired and uncertain, lost, and didn’t know what else would be revealed to me during this trip and what questions will be answered.

“Look, there is a huge poplar. It's your tree, let’s go inside.”-She pointed at its white trunk sticking out above like a giant among oak trees.

We went off the main trail, taking a path less traveled, deeper into the woods. Leaves covered our feet like a carpet, and suddenly it got quiet. There were so many trees there, chaotically growing in all directions, that we had to squeeze through. In twenty meters I could see black bark. It was a really old big tree. It would take five people to hug it. I slowly approached it, carefully taking each step, examining the giant tree with my naked eye to it. After making a circle I leaned on it with my back. My mother kept wandering around the area. My breathing slowed down and became much deeper. It was very dark there and brought intimacy with the slow and steady rhythm of my heartbeat.

"Mom, can you come here for a minute."

"Sure, what is it?"

I took her into my hands and, looking into her green eyes I said: " I am sorry for everything. For all the times we fought and all the pain I brought you, I am sorry. I knew I was cutting deeper and deeper just to get to the point. I've missed you and I love you. Don't worry about me, I got this." - I embraced her firmly and closed my eyes. I wasn't fighting anymore. I trusted her. She looked at me with all her unconditional love and said:

"Be afraid of nothing son. Remember what it's like to be here, completely free of all the memories of pain. I love you. I am letting you go now...You will be fine".


2. FATHER. Kurgan.

This was the longest trip in the past ten years since I left Ukraine. Subsequently, it was the most impactful and meaningful one.

My father Yuriy asked me if I wanted to visit Kurgan to recharge before I went back to the US. I was curious and agreed. Most of the places in Ukraine worth visiting were close enough to drive to. So, we took a road trip. I wasn't sure if I wanted to go back yet. As if something needed to happen to me in order to leave.

Kurgan was a big hill, a mound, that was used as a rallying point to send long-distance messages by Cossacks during the war. Cossacks weren’t just the regular bandits you hear about on TV, but people who truly loved and cherished every moment of life, ready to die for freedom in their beloved country. During times of peace Kurgan was a place of solitude, where you could be alone, think, smoke a pipe and take a break. Some parts of Kurgan had become places of a secret where Cossacks hid their loot, others became graves for these brave warriors and their horses.

My father turned the steering wheel to the right, leading us onto a trail. We were going into the forest. Anticipation grew inside me as every meter passed. Beautiful pines surrounded the area, making it harder for the light to come through.

“There should be a left turn here somewhere.”- Yuriy said unsure.

“Wasn’t it back there, where we passed an electric pole?” I suddenly said turning my head back.

We stopped, my dad, shifted the clutch into the reverse gear, and began backing up the car to a small intersection near a utility pole.

“It must be here,” said my dad, guiding the car to the left of our previous misdirection.

Soon the road became uneven, forcing him to drive our little silver Honda tilted towards me, sitting in the passenger seat. I could see a huge boulder lying in front of us. It was made out of concrete.

“Oh, I remember this,” Yuriy said reassuringly, “It’s definitely this way.”

Soon the woods grew thicker, and I could see a tremendous hill rising above the trees. Kurgan was right in front of us. We stopped.

“This is it! Let’s park right here.”

The bottom of the hill was covered by white tall grass and old Burdock bushes. I stepped onto the ground. My first step felt heavier than usual here, more grounded. There were no trees growing within 10-15 meters around this Mound. A true island of solitude stood in front of us emerging from the ground, vibrating with energy. I felt the vibration in my guts. It was more like a whisper of the wind circling inside me. It felt familiar.

When we began to climb to the top we remained silent with quiet smiles of gratitude on our faces. One foot in front of the other, step-by-step, we made it to the top never looking back. When we reached the peak, all I could see were flowers, touching the blue-gray sky. The view was peaceful and the heavy feeling came down on me harder and took over my body and my soul, softening my hardened heart. I knew my armor was about to fall making me much more vulnerable.

“Well this is the mound,” my dad proclaimed with his calm voice. “People come here to recharge.”

I started to feel some sort of music as if nature itself was beating a huge drum underneath this magical hill. It made me celebrate life itself and the freedom inside us, which I’ve been trying so hard to keep hidden. "Why?"-I asked myself in anger. Uninterested in hearing any answer I began to dance around the top of the hill squatting and jumping, as if all my ancestors were joining me, playing together around an imaginary bonfire. I put my elbows in front of my face and screamed like a wolf towards the horizon of this day. This very last day here, in my homeland. I felt happy.

I had finally touched my roots and this crazy twirling dance woke up my Wild Spirit, connecting me to my natural Madness, that little spark inside us that is so important. It was definitely worth it, not to care about anything except listening to what my heart wants for a few more moments. Then the music began to fade and I made my way back to my dad who was holding a camera in front of him saying: “Let me take a picture of you.”

"Here"-He put his phone back into his pocket and we both continued looking at the horizon. It was so quiet there, so peaceful. All I could hear was the wind. I touched my chest and I opened my mouth, saying “I love you Dad.”

“I love you too, Sanechka.” With those words all the happiness released from us like water. We embraced each other and began jumping up and down in the circle, dancing together, celebrating our connection, and ending all of this natural Madness, concluding this ritual and my trip.

After that, I had to go down to dehydrate, in the woods. On my way back, looking at my father, I thought: "Tomorrow I'm leaving you, today you're the Center of My Universe." He stood there, completely still, engaged with nature in the current moment, uncompromised, with all of his being looking forward with a twinkle in his eye. It was as if I were looking at a painting. I saw his strong hands of a farmer, face covered with deep and sharp-like-stone-canyons wrinkles, making his face distinct and memorable. "How many challenges have you withstood? How many do you still have to tell me about?"

The eerie feeling sank down my spine. That Whisper of what I believed was a wind inside me turned into a Voice that said: "I despised you, father. I still do, deliberately, you never became who You wanted to be because you were too scared to admit it and too lazy to do anything about it. Now, after you resented your past because you never had the guts, to begin with, to set yourself free, you just let the others shape you, and I blamed you for it. You are one of the most gifted people I've ever met. And you hid it well too. Naturally. You've done it so well that you even hid it from yourself. Your own free spirit. And I despised you for that too. Why? Because I saw the real you once. Because I loved you so much, that I painted a picture inside my head, a fantasy, that I would like to keep, just so I can run away from the actual disappointment that can ruin my life over and over again. Because I was afraid.

I had to make an effort everywhere. In school, on the street, during competition. Do you remember how I once got third place for losing? You told me that if it was you there you would never come out to get an award. And then you added: "Not because You did not win, son, but because You never fought to begin with."- That is true, Dad. I did not care. But I did care about you and what you had to say, so I stood there and listened. I definitely got what I wanted. Now I've I've with it, learn from it, and let it go.

I am going to admire you at this distance here, at the bottom of this magical mound because I know that you won't be here forever and I am afraid to take that away from you by sharing these vile toxic thoughts, which is what they are and ever will be. I already know how big and how sensitive your heart is, even though you only showed it to us for a handful of moments. I thank you for that. Those were real memories and I loved them. When uncle Slavik died and your father too. Not only I never knew how much you can grieve your loved ones but how meaningful those people were to you. Because you are so good at hiding your feelings, You would make a great actor by the way. I respect that and I love you, despite my vile judgment, my fatal fantasies, despite how cruel, cold or unapologetic I am in this moment I'll always love you. There is just dust. No more no less."

It was enough for me to let go of everything else. All the necessary moments that we came through to make it here, on the top of our world: all the anger, two years of him missing in my life, me blaming myself for it, years of him trying to make it up for it, and still not being there, not listening, trying too hard. Anger, many moments of yelling and hatred burning my Insides, wrenching my guts, wringing out thousands of the bricks I had to swallow because I was too afraid to say anything back to hurt him, the deadly silence of remaining grudges after fights, shaking his hand too soon, leaving him, leaving him behind for ten years and then, of course, coming back. Looking for reconciliation, trying too hard, trying too hard to get You to admit the Betrayal of all my trust in my mother's love and many things for which I blamed You with a cunning smile on my face I was vengeful and I enjoyed it. Later I would resent it because it no longer mattered because it was in the past. I got angry at you when I tried to hold you accountable for all the grudges because you moved on without me. What a child I am! Well, it doesn't matter anymore. I’m not perfect. And neither are you, father. I was a bloodthirsty provocateur and I have to let go or else you'll be right. Evaluation will bring me to real madness and I may go off my rails sooner than later, then I’ll really lose my head. I believe tomorrow after four long months, I realized that I still love you and that you love me. The rest is the truth and we can do whatever we want with it. I love you, your son. We went through it all and seeing you now on the top of the mound I finally understand. Admiring your greatness and stillness I'm letting go of the old you. I need to move forward. I must grow apart from you and accept who you are, without trying to change you into the man I wish you could have been. My dream came true. That is enough.

Here on the of this hill, where our ancestors sat and waited, while their history was made I made another memory of my own with You, the memory of love.

My father

As I climbed back to the top my dad asked me: “Are you ready to go back?”

"Yes, dad."- I said with a smile.

Short Story

About the Creator

Oleksandr Matvyeyev


I am an actor and a writer. I began to write since the pandemic began back in March of notorious 2020. I've crossed the South of the US on my bicycle and went home to Ukraine for 4 months. I have a lot to say, so let's begin.

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    Oleksandr MatvyeyevWritten by Oleksandr Matvyeyev

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