a Kind of Refugee / 06.05.2022
my fixer friend sends me a message: last night i was looking at corpses and thought—have i lost the capacity to feel? where is my hatred of the russians? but listening to the news this morning it came back. what right do these fuckers have to keep bombing my country? and i felt better, that i still feel it.
i never had any doubt that ukraine must fight to defend itself, that this fight requires weapons, deadly weapons, offensive weapons. every time i say “smert voroham (death to the enemies)” i mean it. but i’m still surprised to what an extent the war has remained an abstraction to me.
talking with military colleagues about what our units need (from different kinds of drones to transportable washing machine stations) and how much everything costs makes everything more concrete. i know how many lethal drones you can buy for the monthly salary of a ukrainian servicemember.
i admitted to my friend illia that the thought of joining the army myself is recurring more frequently. he said, “come on! we’ve got three women among the new recruits in the volunteer battalion.” my body that has hardly danced for three months is eager to move around outside: i imagine running and jumping and shooting things in the spring sunshine. “we’re planning to send this unit into battle on saturday.”
all my further questions, driven by sincere and innocent curiosity, sink stupidly back into my mind. i admit to my friend that i am afraid to go into battle.
this is the closest i’ve ever felt to the war. not because the person i’m talking to is preparing soldiers for deployment. but because i can imagine myself there, training. and i can feel the significance of leaving the training grounds to go into battle. and i can feel my own resistance to it. the only thing between me and battle is a decision, my own decision.
which is a more powerful connection to the war than hearing explosions outside your window while you’re going about your civilian business. in the latter case, it’s an imposition, russia’s disruption of my life in ukraine. whereas joining a volunteer battalion, picking up arms, or fighting for Ukraine’s liberty in any way—decisively and courageously—is acknowledging the situation as yours and that you are going to do something about it. first you. and only then are you together with everybody else who is also fighting.
illia calls me the next day to make sure i understand that i am a greater asset to Ukraine’s victory working at my computer, raising money for their battalion’s needs from abroad, than as one more body in the line of fire. yes, i understand.
that same day i meet a veteran medic from the US who has come to spend a month helping the ukrainian cause. as we chat he begins to demonstrate the procedure for breaking open a door with a fellow soldier when you don’t know who or what is on the other side. he guides the positions; we discuss where each of us is looking, how we start at different angles and then move close together to fill the gap when the door opens. it feels like a dance, this split awareness of where i am in relation to my partner and his line of fire, where my line of fire is in relation to my partner. our focus in the exercise was completely on how we move together to never end up in one another’s line of fire. but what about the person on the other side ready to shoot us?
i never thought my dance training might be useful preparation for clearing buildings from enemy personnel.
until february 24, i was studying and teaching the feldenkrais method in classes where students are encouraged to sense themselves moving through space, to become more aware of their timing, the subtle differentiations between faster and slower. breathing. reducing tension. in the weeks following russia’s escalation it seemed like this training would lead me to help refugees and people who had experienced traumatic events, who needed attention and comfort.
instead, trained to listen to what i am really doing, to sense what i need, to clear space around physical sensations and emotions to be able to think coolly under stress, i’ve discovered a warrior.
my friend roma was killed near kharkiv today. earlier this week i had sent money for his territorial defense unit and we exchanged a couple warm words in telegram. he was a vibrant member of our kyiv lindy hop community, a photographer and dancer. was.
alone in my room i am crying and angry and so aware that i am not the only one crying. how many people right now are crying for roma? and what about all the other romas?
i have to admit that everything i had felt up until this moment was not what i feel now. now that a person who is one of “my” people, in the very specific, tactile sense, a distinct living part of my social fabric has been killed in the basic act of defending OUR country.
the war keeps coming closer and closer, encroaching from all sides. can you feel it enough to keep it in focus without letting it carry you away?
PS DO NOT send me words of condolence or hugs or i’m sorry. PLEASE. I believe you. Telepathy works.
I AM RAGING MAD.
We need your help to clear Russia from Ukraine sooner and forever. I still need $7200 to pay for 60 gas masks ordered for defenders on the eastern front.
Send via paypal to: firstname.lastname@example.org (note: gas masks)*
*if you have trouble accessing my paypal account through copy-paste, try typing my email address in by hand.