a Kind of Refugee / 12.06.2022
Summer in southern Ukraine feels like a seaside resort: the soft evening air, water everywhere and those gray-green trees that the locals call “Southern olives.” Instead of vacationing in Greece I’ve gone to work for Ukraine’s war effort in a place where you can go swimming on your lunch break.
Within a day after arriving I am in an army frame of mind. You have to act quickly and decisively. When you fundamentally accept that your work and actions are risky, potentially deadly, you are immediately free from that distracting worry about where to position your body when there is an air raid siren. You hear explosions or the distant rumble of artillery, and as long as your physical sensations tell you the danger is not near (the body knows this instantly), you keep working on whatever you’re doing. You mobilize your mental and physical energy to compete specific assignments. Whichever is of greatest priority at the moment. Still, I hold the privileged position of not being in the army, so I decide what to prioritize myself.
One night Anya and I are on the balcony.
I say, “Oh, the quiet is delicious!”
A moment later—the low rumble, like thunder, of distant artillery. It’s a pleasant sound.
My inner voice protests, “Larissa, how can you find the sound of artillery fire pleasant?!”
And Anya says, “Those are ours.” Pleasant, indeed!
“How do you know?”
“Because we don’t hear the shells land. If it were the Russians, we’d hear explosions.”
Amazing how the body knows things more quickly than one’s clunky intelligence.
The next evening I sat on the beach for an hour, watching the sun set over the water and listening to the artillery battle off to the left, trying to learn to discern by sound which volleys are ours directed at them and which are theirs coming in toward us.
PS My dear friend Katie printed out fliers with my paypal address and the following text i addressed to American concert-goers:
this war is a test. it is a test of how seriously you take russia’s genocidal assault on the independent nation ukraine. your response reveals whether you really uphold the right of people to decide how to govern themselves in their own country, along with the principles of freedom and democracy, or if these are mere abstractions in your mind. it is a test of your will to direct the power you have to make the world around you. due to the harsh logic of war, your actions in this situation put you either on the side of good or the side of evil.