I threw a few eggs at the Russian Embassy in Kensington on Sunday. Eggs don’t mean much next to bullets, but I didn’t know what more I could do.

Last August I was in Ukraine, and there I met a man called Nikita, and he was like a picture from a children’s book. His face was traced with the lines of briney tales and sun-whipped adventure, so that he should only really belong in the mind of a child. The idea of his tangible existence appeared joyful and ridiculous, a fluke. And now as the Russians close in on his city, I wonder if they decided that he really was just too wonderful to exist.

His long tangles of hair always curled in the wind and the salt, for he swam every morning, and when he jumped in he wouldn’t fight the waves, but just let them toss him from here to there and back to the shore again. I knew then that he was a brave man, and I liked him from the moment I met him and looked into his deep-set eyes, blue and slavic, well-protected to keep the rain out when he had to navigate through a storm.

I met Nikita in Odessa, a city that lies on the edge of Europe and the East, a stuccoed barnacle clinging to the corner of the Black Sea, its sandy upper lip. It is a place full of overpriced cafés and avocado toast. Now the balcony where Nikita and I had breakfast is barbed; now there is an assault rifle where the coffee table used to be.

He was younger than I first thought, only twenty-six. But his hands were rough with the half-healed burn of ropes, and around his neck there dangled a piece of string holding a vial, and inside the vial there was some dirt.

It feels like a different world then, the last day of Summer, our final chance to dive down under the bones of old piers and look for mussels. There were thousands of them, bunched like cherry-blossom on concrete branches. And we picked them in ripe handfuls which we took to the surface, where Nikita waited on the pierside to shave their beards.

He held the knife between his teeth.

When we came back home we lit candles; we listened to Nikita chip away at a piano piece he was writing. Eating mussels is a long and messy business, and so halfway through our feast we all stopped picking away. Nikita leant back and I asked him what was in the vial, and why it was there, and why he wore it around his neck.

‘This? This is just soil,’ he said, ‘it comes from Tibet. You see, I was a sailor before I settled here in Odessa, but eventually I ended up in the steppe, where the only sea is grass. And there was a girl back here in the city who I wanted to meet again, so I made her a gift. I took soil from the ground in Tibet and I brought it with me back home, over land. I hitchhiked. Then when I came back I kept one necklace for myself and I gave the other one to the girl. It didn’t work out, but she still has the dirt – she still wears it.’

How could this man exist?, I thought, how could someone squeeze so much juice out of life? How could a person be a sailor, a vagabond, a poet, a diver, a composer of jazz music on the piano (in his spare time)?

Now we are told a story about Ukraine every evening at ten o’clock, and it is a story of bandaged babushkas wheeling trolleys through rubble, of toddlers hiding in the metro from missiles, of one very angry balding man and his murderous pre-retirement project. Although this is the News, to me it feels even more made-up than Nikita. It is an aesthetic – it’s Cold War II. Maybe they’ll do a prequel; maybe Stalin will get a guest appearance. That would be cool.

I contacted Nikita yesterday, as he was packing his bag for the front. His eyes were the same; there was no fear.

‘We’ll see each other again – you can help us fix the apartment after we’ve kicked Putin’s arse,’ he said. Minutes later he posted a video, a recording of the piano concerto he had been working on that Summer. It was beautiful then, but now its melody told a different story, a story of war. 

The silence at its end was terrible. I haven’t been able to reach him since.

It felt surreal to see it all through a screen, but Nikita’s danger is non-fictional. 

That man saw the Black Sea as a bathtub; he looked out into the waves between him and Istanbul and smiled, so that its vast stormy nothingness became a playground. When we grow up, that seems like a silly word, ‘Adventure’. And ‘Sacrifice, and ‘Duty’ – they’re ridiculed too. But here is someone who I think proves them wrong. Here is a friend I fear will lay down his life for his friends, for his family. That is sacrifice. That is duty.

I feel helpless, useless. So I threw some eggs at Russia’s UK Embassy, and went home, and now I watch my university friends sleep in late whilst Nikita tries to sleep through bombs. Meanwhile I tell myself Nikita will be alright. I tell myself Putin won’t kill my friend, even though it would boost the Russian dictator’s self-esteem and sell papers and give him the chance to blow people up, which seems like one of his favourite twisted pastimes.

‘This is a rare and good human,’ I wish I could tell Putin, ‘Nikita doesn’t belong on the News at Ten.’

The writer is a first year student of history and Italian at Pembroke College, Oxford. He is currently working on an account of his journey from Alexandria to China in the footsteps of Marco Polo, which he hopes to publish shortly.