a Kind of Refugee / 01.04.2022
I am tired again. But it’s a more familiar kind of tired. I want to watch a movie, to escape for two hours into a realm that’s composed and self-contained.
Lviv, which was so beautiful when I arrived a month ago, is even more beautiful dampened by spring rain. But the city now feels strange, ambiguous.
I want to go home.
My friends in Kyiv are doing important discursive work. One has written a philosophical text in Ukrainian. Another is helping British journalists show the world how gruesome war with the Russians is. And one has written about the war in Syria, shedding light on its Soviet legacy. They’re arguing with their European friends and colleagues, for what is at stake here is politics, the fate of politics globally, even if Ukraine and its political future are at the center.
Meanwhile I am acting as a liaison between Americans who want to help Ukraine and Ukrainians who have the capacity to do something with that aid. First it was just talking to people and listening, asking questions; curiosity is natural and leads with confidence when followed without misgiving. Now tentative networks are beginning to take shape, the kind that are based on repeated communication, action in concert, watching how you and the other respond to challenges in new situations and what happens as a result.
Tourniquets for territorial defense forces in Kyiv; underwear, helmets and funding for Mykolaiv’s defenders; funds for fuel to deliver an aid shipment to Chernihiv; a promo video in English about the Ukrainian aid organization I volunteer with—these are some of the things that have happened.
I suspect that in these efforts—unapologetic reflection on Ukraine’s heritage (past) and unflinching commitment to keeping Ukraine alive (now)—is the seed of contemporary Ukrainian culture.
But now I want to go to sleep.
Did I mention how good it feels to be back?
PS My primary role at Community Self-help has been sending out a daily update to the organization’s friends, donors, and humanitarian aid partners. But behind the corporate veneer we’re actually a scrappy band of people who care about the fate of our country and compatriots so much that it keeps us up at night. Donations welcome: https://communityselfhelp.org/en