Lithuania – Third place – To die while being ….

To die while being alive

Deimante Stankute, aged 16

 

His eyes are telling a story. They are full of desire to live, so he is looking at people with an open sight saying, “I want to be, help me!”

People are feeling powerless, because they can’t do anything. It is painful for them more than for him though they are only looking. Their souls are dying with his every groan and moan. They can’t change anything, they can’t return back what was damaged long ago. Everyone looking at him silently says, “We all are just people who can’t return what was lost.”

You know, these are the most beautiful eyes which I have seen in all my life. They are full of feelings and experiences and they are even speaking… This boy is feeling pain, anger, hatred but at the same time there is a burning desire to live, yearning and love for everyone in his eyes.

He is already fourteen, but he can’t speak, he can’t walk, he even can’t eat himself. Why? Because those who love money destroyed him. Oh, if he could speak, if he could tell what he is thinking… Unfortunately, you can only read all that from his eyes, from his blue eyes where millions of different feelings blend into one.

Peter’s, that’s the name of the boy, dramatic story started five years ago. Before that he lived with his mum and dad in a little town. His dad was a paratrooper. He always used to tell his son that when parachuting down you get the feeling as if you are a free bird, which can fly wherever it wants and that the world is in your hands. Trees, buildings, people – everything looks so fragile and when you are parachuting down it scares that you can trample this beauty, that you can dispel the natural peace which is in the air. It seems that no one can do anything bad to you. Just the sea used to scare him with its size because it has the beginning but you can never see its end. It looks as if the horizon continued until the end of the world. Peter’s dad Steven used to say that when parachuting down and seeing the blue sea he always remembered his son and in his thoughts he returned to his cozy home.

The same happened when he together with other soldiers jumped out of the helicopter and could see the blue waves of the sea. However, the sea was rough, the waves hit the rocks and swayed the ships returning to the harbor. In comparison with the sea the ships looked like small birds in the huge sky. It wasn’t the first time when dad remembered his son but he had a bad feeling, a tear came down his cheek because he knew that it was Peter’s seventh birthday. Until this day they used to spend all birthdays together by the river and to catch small fish which were later cooked by his grandma. While fishing dad used to tell various stories from the times when he was a child. They felt very well together. Unfortunately, dad could be together with his son during the seventh birthday.

When parachuting down, Steven closed his eyes for a while and tried to imagine how they both, father and son, were preparing fishing rods and bait for fish, how the small hands were rolling dough pieces. And not such simple ones but even with the chocolate filling, as he used to say that chocolate is liked by all-even fish. Dad agreed with his son because he liked that the boy was creative. Who knows, maybe fish like chocolate for sure? After all, more fish bit the bait of Peter than his father’s one.

And then, while parachuting down, Steven was dreaming of his home and son, so he didn’t noticed that on the ground, where the seashore was as blue as his son’s eyes, the enemies were waiting for him. When he fell onto the ground he felt a strong pain in the chest and saw blood on his hands. He understood that he will die soon and tears started running involuntarily because it was then when he realized that he won’t see his only son, his dear wife and parents any more. His head was flooded with thoughts that he won’t go fishing with his son any more. His soul was pierced by the pain which was sharper than the gunshot wound. The spiritual and physical pain combined into one. He was feeling as if he was burning in the flames of agony but he couldn’t change anything. It became dark in his eyes and Steven lost his consciousness.

White walls with strange words of an unknown language and pictures of alien religion, three more beds with moaning of some men-that was all what Steven first saw when he woke up. He couldn’t realize where he was, felt confusion as he could hear voices but didn’t understand a word. He was happy only because of one reason-there was a hope that maybe he would see his family one day.

Steven was lying in bed and waiting what would happen later. He was feeling pain. But from the screams of pain around him, he understood that those people were suffering more than him and he tried to stay calm. He could see a man without one arm, another one had a burnt face and couldn’t see the daylight. But the largest wound of Steven was longing for his family.

After some time a woman in white came into the room. Her hair was dark, her eyes were brown but what is the most important-she could speak Lithuanian, so he could ask her where he was. The woman told Steven what he had suspected himself-he is captured by the enemy. His eyes were full of tears, his cheeks went red and blood started boiling. Steven started shouting:

“It would have been better if I had died than I would torment the soul in the captivity of enemies!”

The nurse asked him to calm down because otherwise he can have many more troubles.

Steven spent two months in hospital. After his recovery the plunderers started taking him together with themselves to the military training. Of course, he wanted to refuse but they threatened Steven with the death- not only his own but also with his closest people’s deaths. As the family meant a lot for him, he succumbed to the pressure and did everything what the hijackers required. He prepared meals, did the laundry, made the soldiers’ beds, cleaned shoes and other things. He never complained because he could do anything for the sake of his family.

But one day they told him to take a gun and get ready to go to fight. After a long hesitation he agreed. At that time he still didn’t know that they would go to the town where his family was living. The lieutenant gave the order to plunder all the houses in succession and to kill anyone who would disobey to execute the commands. When Steven saw his house and his son, playing in the yard, he said he opposed the lieutenant because all the houses, streets, flower-beds around were a part of him and he would rather die than do some harm for his family. The lieutenant understood not everything what Steven was saying but after seeing the soldier’s rebellious face he took out a gun on which there were the words “Peace is somebody’s invented nonsense”, put it to Steven’s temple and said:

Shoot down this boy or I’ll shoot down you!”

Steven answered him without hesitation that he would never do it. When the lieutenant saw his obstinacy, he decided to punish him. He came up to the boy and beat him severely in the presence of the whole family, then he shot down mother who wanted to save her son, then-grandparents and, at last, until the boy hasn’t lost his consciousness and still was looking at his father pressed to the ground, the lieutenant ran the bullet straight into Steven’s head, then he went away with an indifferent look in the eyes.

Since that day Peter is feeling pain in the soul, because of the heavy contusion he became blind and will never see the rising sun or sparkling stars in the cloudless sky of the night. He became fully disabled-a living decedent-and only the most observant ones can guess what he is feeling and thinking about. Only Peter’s blue and deep eyes, but being unable to see anything , now can tell what his lips will never tell any more. Now Peter is remained alone, he will never feel his relatives’ love and warmth, he will never go fishing with his dad. He still being alive is dead together with his closest people.

Lithuania- Second place – Pepper

Pepper

Goda Vaitkute, Vytautas Kekys, aged 17

The hot summer sun was already disappearing behind the forest. The air could be smelt of linden honey. There was an elderly woman walking along a narrow path, overgrown with grass. Yes. It was Elena followed in step by her loyal friend, a dog named Pepper. Nobody has ever seen them separately – where Elena is, there Pepper is and where Pepper is, there Elena is. The elderly woman had dedicated her entire life to the family – to her husband and children, worked hard to satisfy their needs, to have nourishing meals and clean clothing, for them to be educated. But in the meanwhile, she was spending long summer days and evenings only with Pepper.

Children work a lot and are very busy but as soon as they have a free moment, they will certainly come”, the old woman used to repeat those words like an evening prayer with the alive hope in the eyes. She repeated it every day and had a strong belief that tomorrow, already tomorrow they will really come to visit her and on the very next day she will be able to hug her daughter – blonde curly-haired Victoria, and to pamper her son Edward with his favourite homemade cheese. Elena will cut him a big slice of it, will apply a thick layer of the linden honey and will sit down at the table on the opposite side looking at his blue eyes, bright face and amber coloured hair… She has always believed strongly that her dream will come true and one day she will see her both children, hand in hand with grandchildren, returning from Vilnius to visit mother in a remote village in Žemaitija. However, she realised that her disease was not defective vision, not sclerosis, not arthritis, but cancer, so with every sunset the chance to see once more the eyes of her dear relatives becomes weaker.

So, this way Elena was living and spending her lonely, full of yearning evenings while during daytime she used to go for a walk along her native paths, accompanied by Pepper. The dog loved Elena more than himself. He didn’t care how she looked, what her age was, how she behaved or what diseases she suffered from. It was enough for him to be together every day and every minute and to hear a calm voice of his hostess when she was telling him a lot of various stories or even she was singing.

Well, our barefooted Lukas is running to meet with us!” Elena is waving to the silhouette which is hard to see in the distance. Lukas was a boy who lived with his mother nearby Elena and liked to spend time together with Pepper and her. They called him barefooted because he never put on shoes and was always running barefoot. Elena loved him very much, probably, because his mother didn‘t look after him, he felt a shortage of adults‘ attention and warm, when the elderly woman had quite enough of all that. Elena and Lukas were like old friends, although Elena already was serenty-four years old and Lukas was only six. The difference in age didn‘t matter for them, so they could sit together for days on the lake shore and talk.

Grandma, why do you always speak with Pepper? He doesn‘t understand you, anyway!“

Lukas, you can tell your dog the most stupid things in the world, and your pet will look at you and silently say like “Woof… you’re right’’. Lukas couldn’t understand that at all. How can any pet be intelligent if he doesn’t speak, doesn’t think, can’t read and count? (To tell you the truth, Lukas wasn’t able to write and count himself as well.) But Elena used to find answers to all his questions.

If you think that a dog is not smart and can’t count, you’re wrong… Try to put in the pocket three delicious things and give him only two of them…” Elena always found the smartest answers. She was a very wise woman. Villagers often went to ask her advice, and she was glad to help them, but even that didn’t fill the emptiness left by her relatives.

In the last days the old woman was very ill, didn’t get up from bed and there was no possibility to see the doctor. Pepper was her only companion who was lying by her bed and never left her alone.

But one morning when Pepper opened his eyes and, as usual, tried to awaken Elena, she didn’t move. He tried to call for help – he was barking and barking until the worried neighbours came to see what had happened. In the room they found grandmother with no signs of life.

After many years Elena’s children came home. They had to perform a duty – to bury their mother and then, of course, to share her hard achieved wealth: a house, land, savings and Pepper who was still patiently waiting at the door for his dear hostess to return and couldn’t understand what those strange people were doing in his house, so he was yelping silently.

What will we do with this “flea ball?” asked Elena’s son Edward.

I don’t need him. There is no much space in my house”, Victoria quickly found the answer.

Dad, maybe we can take Pepper to the dog shelter?” said Edward’s daughter because she felt sorry for the puppy.

Definitely, we will not bother for this dog. I have enough problems. We will take him where his place is!

Where, daddy?”

Where they will take care of him”, answered father trying to calm down his daughter.

But why can’t we take him with us?” the little girl was stubborn.

My dear, you know how I hate dogs”, said the man in an angry tone.

Edward put Pepper into the car and brought to the place where as he had said “he will be taken care of”. Pepper was let out in the forest. Without food, without love and warmth which he had been used to receive from Elena. Pepper was wandering still hoping to find his hostess. After five days, he surrendered. The puppy was completely exhausted and starving. He had no strength to go further.

Fortunately, Lukas was gathering berries nearby. The boy was very glad when he saw the puppy. He thought – Pepper will fill in the emptiness in his heart which had opened after Elena’s death. As then they both loved her, now they could help each other, too. Lukas thought that Elena would be happy if her barefooted boy shelterd her Pepper, so the lucky dog had home again. Lukas was a very caring master and they became inseparable friends. Only then he could understand Elena’s words: “Give your heart to the puppy and he will give his own one to you. He will love you more than himself.”

Goda Vaitkute, Vytautas Kekys, aged 17