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Sashko Khomenko, photographer

“I met my wife Yaroslava in 2001. We both studied at the Institute of Philology. She studied Chinese language and literature, and I was a student of a faculty of Ukrainian philology. In 2007 Yaroslava invited me to go backpacking in the Carpathians, and I agreed. She went hiking in the mountains since childhood. It was my first experience hiking, and since that time, I’ve developed a love for hiking trails far from civilization.

On our last night in a tent, she kissed me, and I reciprocated. That’s it. It was even difficult to call love then. Most likely, it was just a feeling of some belonging. The feeling that you like being together with this girl. That you have a lot to talk about and that you want a lot of same things, in addition. Passion is not really about us. Friendship – that’s what describes us. Love of adventure is about us. And some certain common features of our families. And somehow, in the middle of our marriage, I understood how to differentiate love.

A feeling of tenderness always comes together with love. You become softer and a bit more unprotected from the surrounding world. But you are not afraid of this feeling of defenselessness because you have a person, work, or place nearby that you like. You kind of give them a piece of yourself.

Yaroslava had an arteriovenous malformation of the brain vessels. It means that she lacked capillaries between artery and vein in one place. All arterial or venous vessels are connected through a very branched network of capillaries in the brain. They transfer oxygen and vital nutrients to brain neurons and distribute and reduce blood pressure in the vessels. If somewhere a part of these capillaries is missing, then a huge blood pressure depletes vessels and they start tearing. And any hemorrhage in the brain is a critically dangerous situation because blood ruins neurons interacting directly. Yaroslava was diagnosed with development violation when she was nine years old.

Usually, doctors persistently recommend surgically removing these malformations, and it is a relatively easy operation. But Yaroslava couldn’t keep up her mind to go under the knife because her malformation was too close to the brain stem - a zone in charge of heart work and breathing.

Yaroslava had such hemorrhages twice in her life. The third one happened half a year ago and turned out to be the last for her. Every person has systematic biases that we constantly commit due to some specialty of our thinking.

It seems to me that my woman’s systematic bias was her faith that you can control everything. She thought if she cares about her health, if she has a healthy style, eats healthy, avoids stress, then everything will be good with her vessels. But in fact, what do we know about our body capabilities?

The theme of death experience is one of the unconsciously banned themes in society.

We often don’t know what to tell a dying person or who overcomes the loss of a close person. We become confused and powerless facing news about death. We don’t know how to worry properly and accept the loss.

You just live, create more or less durable plans for life, and believe that your world is reliable and ordered, but suddenly all the yearly established life order collapses at once. It happens because people are social creatures, and we depend on each other. The hardest is finding yourself alone with your life circumstances and not knowing how to rebuild your world.

We have a son Taras. He is 2 years old. We adopted him. Now he is the main purpose of my life and Yaroslava’s mother who lost her only daughter. Taras grew shoulder to shoulder with Yaroslava a year and a half. He recognizes her in photos, often recollects her trying to understand where his mother disappeared. Also, Taras teaches me to delegate authority because you can't do without grandparents in raising a small child.

Don’t be sorry for those who faced a tough loss because it humiliates.

When communicating with people who are traumatized by death, the best reaction is attention and acceptance of the conversation party. So it sometimes irritates when a person asks you, “How are you doing?” but you understand that they don’t care how you are really doing. And you won’t tell everyone about your emotions even though you don’t hide them.

I don’t know why my fate turned this way. I don’t believe Nietzsche’s saying, “What does not kill us makes us stronger.” I think it is not an accurate observation. I should say, “What does not kill us changes us”. Will I be stronger when I overcome my loss? Will I be better? I don’t know.”

Sashko Khomenko, photographer


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