Donetsk: neat, tidy, but, through it's saturday now, unusually quiet place: the city is still recovering after assassination of one of the most charismatic and famous DPR commanders - Arsen "Motorola" Pavlov.
You can find the same calmness in the city park, situated near "Donbass-Arena" stadium. It's sunny, but cold. October's wind gusts are shaking yellow leaves from trees to the monument standing at the "Alley of Angels" - a memorial of all children died during the Donbass military conflict.
Flowers, constantly bringed to this unnamed Stone (and i don't have the moral right to write that in lowercase) by local citizens and visitors, are placed along with teddy bears, toy cars and dolls.
A weariry running man of 30-35 years old, dressed in sport trunk and a t-shirt, appears at the end of the Alley. We (journalists of several titles) are switching our cameras on, trying to capture a finishing moment of his long trip.
Slowing down, he drops into a walk, and, carefully holding flowers, lays them to the Stone. Staying near the monument for some time, he turns away.
The interview have not started yet: the man needs to take some breath and recover, which is not a surprise after such a dash. Alexander Kaper is a renown ultra runner and Russian public person, started this marathon in Lugansk, near simular current war victims memorial. Actually, the marathon is dedicated to them — Alexander has a goal of bringing public attention to the tragedy of children deaths, which scorched many families of Donbass during that war.
He is frequently attributed as the "Russian Forrest Gump", and as he described to the "Voskhod-Info" reporter, he got used to that nickname and don't take it as any offence: anyway, Forrest Gump is fully positive and good-hearted movie character.
Alexander Kaper become famous in 2014, after his marathon called "Nepoteka" - a Samara-Kazan-Moscow solo route, intended to draw attention to the mortgage debt problem of many Russians, who, after recent economic crisis, found themselves in some form of modern debt-serfdom.
Current theme (or dedication, to be correct) of Lugansk-Donetsk marathon, generated most active response in both Donbass and the rest of Russia. Alexander is also promoting (including a label at his t-shirt) "Chilren are drawing peace" event - it's an upcoming exhibition of drawings made by youngsters, who lived and still living in war-torn towns and villages.
Briefly describing marathon goals, Alexander invites us to the supporting cars and bikes to show us these drawings - in Lugansk, the starting point of the marathon, he was joined by the folks from the "Night Wolves" Motorcycle Club.
Together with bikers and reporters we examine these drawings; They are touching and heart-breaking at the same time – obviously, there is too much war theme in this children art. Some of these pictures, by the way, were transferred to Alexander from Kiev-occupied part of Donbass territory.
The author of this article (and accompanied video report) was able to get a short interview, "stealing” few minutes of already tired ultra runner's time. Alexander, already finished changing clothes to more weather-suit ones, told me, emotionally, about the atmosphere of war in the places he visited during his act – including Alchevsk, Debaltsevo and Enakievo.
For Alexander Kaper, a man who had never been in war-torn regions before, it was hard, by his own words, to see both children of war, ruins of Donbass homes, and moral stress level of the people, in general. But, he is full of determination to continue drawing attention of the concerned people to children lives and deaths in Donbass republics and other war zones of the world. Because of that, he pointed out, "Children draws peace” exhibition must be seen by as many people as possible.
Alexander Borisov, head of the Social & Humanitarian Aid Department (part of the Central Office of Russian public organization), who was standing with us during the interview, stated later, that gathering of drawings in not finished, and soon we'll be able to see other, no less piercing and honest drawings of the children who were forced to grow up too soon, seeing the horrors of the war.
Maybe, even through the children creations, adults (at least their most sane part), will stop to decide solving conflicts and tensions using warfare and punitive actions?
Vlad Zhechev, Donetsk (DPR), 22.10.2016.