A wake is quietly going on in the village cafe.

This is the borderland.

After the collapse of the Union, the border literally passed through vegetable gardens and a cemetery.

Shells regularly fly in from that direction, but today it’s quiet.

The tables have white tablecloths and red napkins.

Those who commemorate do not make noise.

The deputy head of the settlement, Irina Vasilievna, comes to pick me up.

She says that they are now burying a person who died from an illness, and last week two SVO soldiers were buried in the village at once and she, a geography teacher, knows them.

One - Ilyushechka - was etched into her memory as a bright, kind child, slowly getting up from his desk to answer his lesson.

And the desk is the third in the first row.

Ilyushechka could have died as a child - on his birthday.

My grandparents, my mother's parents, went to the store to buy a cake and took it with them.

They leave the yard, and on the street the guys are making a snow woman.

Ilyushechka became interested, ran to them, and his grandparents said: “Okay, play.

We’ll go ourselves.”

On the way they were hit by a KamAZ truck.

And Ilyushechka was left alone with his mother.

“I didn’t see him after school,” says the teacher.

“I only saw it in the coffin.”

But it was closed.

Another fighter, Petenka, was of Roma origin.

His mother abandoned him when he was very young, went to live with her new husband in the Voronezh region, but he did not want to live with Petenka.

He was raised by his grandparents.

And when the time came to choose a profession, his uncle, his mother’s brother, told him: “I have worked as a paramedic all my life.

This profession is good - you help people all the time.”

Petenka graduated from medical school, and when the SVO began, he signed up for it himself - to save the wounded.

He died when the artillery covered his comrades, and he rushed towards them with a paramedic’s bag.

A woman from the Ukrainian Armed Forces finished him off with a direct shot to the head.

For his funeral, gypsies came here, to the village of Belgorod region - from the Voronezh region, Saratov region, from Penza, Volgograd.

The entire diaspora.

And my dear mother arrived.

In the house, the gypsies were divided into two warring camps: some supported the mother, others were for the grandmother.

The mother howled, wailed, and became hysterical, and the grandmother stood behind the coffin and glared at her angrily.

And then an official, Irina Vasilievna, a former geography teacher, came into the house.

She was immediately surrounded by a crowd of non-local gypsies.

Their eyes were, she said, black and angry.

“They would have stabbed me if they had had anything.

They had such a heavy energy,” she said.

The gypsies crowded her and repeated: “Why do we need all this?

For what?

You are the government, tell me why?”

“Your Petya is a hero,” she said.

- He died so that we all could live!

First of all, my condolences.

Secondly, he is not a stranger to me either, I taught him.

- Hero?

- one gypsy asked incredulously.

- Is our Petya a hero?

- a chorus of voices began to sound.

The gypsies hugged her and cried, repeating that their Petya - some kind of gypsy - was a hero of Russia.

And near the coffin his mother continued to scream very loudly.

From here Irina Vasilievna went to another funeral - Ilyushechkina's.

There, his classmate read a poem dedicated to him over the coffin.

Everyone was crying, sobbing loudly, only his mother stood as if made of stone.

She didn't shed a single tear.

And then in the village they said: “It’s just stone.”

I decided to reach her, this stone mother.

If he wants to talk, he’ll let him in; if he tells me to leave, I’ll leave.

It was still quiet in the village, the snow had already fallen on the black vegetable gardens, but did not cover them, but turned them black and white.

Previously, we always went to the other side from here.

They even studied at institutes there.

The cities of the Union, which were transferred to Ukraine during the collapse, were considered more prestigious than Belgorod.

Belgorod was considered a backwater among the locals, and this village even more so.

When the border appeared, there was a slight rejection between these people and these people, but there was no hatred on the part of the Russians and there is no hatred now.

And all the pain that the villagers experienced from the fact that their relatives on the other side of the border abandoned them, they invested in love for their country, began to weave nets, and feed passing soldiers.

The stone mother has a photograph of her son on her table, next to her there is an icon and a church candle in a glass with grain.

On the tabletop is a glass of vodka, covered with black bread.

The mother sighs, there are black circles under her eyes.

“I was such a bad mother,” she tells me.

“But I didn’t know that he would die.”

I thought he would always be there.

And now I'm alone as a finger.

And I couldn’t wait to have grandchildren.

Did you just come or on business?

- Just.

- It was difficult for me with him.

Do you know that he and his friends once went into someone else’s dacha to eat raspberries, and for some reason they took a can of coffee from that house?

The case almost went to court.

With dry eyes, she says that this fair-haired guy in a military uniform, whose photograph stands next to Jesus Christ, was impudent and not the way the teacher remembered him.

In a word, he was not a hero.

He drank once and got behind the wheel - his license was taken away and he was fired from his job.

And then his mother hired him to mow lawns.

In the morning he was supposed to go to work, but did not go.

She called there: “Girls, did your son come?”

- "No.

And we were waiting for him so much.”

And then his mother told him: “Either you go mow, or I go instead of you.”

My son went and worked for several months.

The SVO began, and he himself came to the military registration and enlistment office.

He said: “I’m not eager to go there, but someone has to.”

“And you say you’re not a hero...” I interrupted her, and she screamed that she was not a hero.

That one day he called her from there and told her how difficult it was for him.

That Ukrainians are crawling from everywhere like cockroaches.

He goes about evacuating the wounded without a machine gun - it’s easier to carry.

And she responded with a cry: “Did I tell you?!”

She spoke!

Did I warn you?!

I warned you!

You will end up in war, I said!

And what did you say to me: “Oh, okay, mom!”

She opened a chat with him and showed me the correspondence.

He told his mother everything.

She knew all his comrades, the dog they picked up (the dog died a little earlier than Ilyusha) - and her mother scolded him for dragging the dog to war.

She didn’t know that her son would die.

I knew his commander, who took care of Ilyushechka, but a week before his death he himself died.

And about how they captured the waste heap, but missed it.

For long days, the mother lived what her son lived.

And then he didn’t answer her anymore, and now the mother looks at the chat, at her son’s avatar, at her son’s last words and says: “So... you can’t bring a person back to life.”

-You never cry at all?

- I asked her.

She frowned again, grabbed her chest and said that she had a heart of stone there.

She is such a callous mother.

When her parents left one day, she cried: she mourned the past, but when Ilyushechka left, she was petrified by the fact that it, her future, was gone.

“I’m a bad mother,” she repeats.

“I didn’t tell him that I loved him.”

“But love is not in words,” I tell her.

“You knew his entire war down to the smallest detail.

You lived his life.

This is love.

“I want to cry but I can’t,” she says, seeing me off.

At the cemetery she was presented with the Order of Courage of her son.

But her thread with waste heaps, with evacuations, with military operations was broken.

She is now just waiting to be told that Russia has won.

He says he will watch how the liberated cities are rebuilt.

This is the only future in which the spirit of her son is present.

She frowns, I look into her dry eyes, and I want, I really want this future to grow around such non-stone mothers.

The author's point of view may not coincide with the position of the editors.