Three hours of electricity today. Three hours and 23 minutes to be precise (until nighttime). I’ve started keeping a log. Usually it’s around 6-8 hours split between a couple blocks. Yesterday my friend called just as the evening blackout started. We took a long walk in the dark and drizzle through my puddled neighborhood. This raised my spirits.
Last Monday I packed up my computer and headed for my trusty cafe (that always has power) on the right bank to get some work done before meeting friends in the evening. Halfway through my coffee the air raid alarm sounded. The cafe is on the first floor of a 5-story brick apartment building; the windows are small. I keep typing.
After a while the waitress comes up, agitated, and asks me to pay: they’ve decided to close up and go to the nearest bomb shelter. Some 70+ missiles are on their way. I close my laptop quickly and figure I’ll do the same. Outside people walk with purpose and many are clustered near the entrance to the underground metro station. Some stand around smoking or talking on the phone; it seems like everyone is receiving information from their telephones. I watch the people, wondering how soon the missiles will arrive, and decide in which direction to move if I hear one in the next instant.
In the underground passage sellers of fruits, cookies and underwear continue their trade as people mill around. The metro entrance hall is also full of people. A few have taken positions near stone barriers that provide a good surface for a laptop. People continue arriving and descending via escalator to the platform below.
They cluster by the walls and columns along the whole length of the platform. The well-prepared have come with folding chairs, bottles of water and snacks. Couples snuggle on ground pads or open their laptops side-by-side. I wonder if I’ll find the USB charging stations promised by the Kyiv Municipal telegram channel.
“Attention! The air raid alarm has sounded. The metro station is serving as a bomb shelter. Trains are running on abridged routes.” This sounds over the loudspeaker periodically as trains arrive, discharging and taking new passengers.
I need to write a Facebook post to tell people about the Feldenkrais class I plan to launch on Friday. “Awareness Through Movement in the Midst of War.” There’s an empty patch of wall that I can prop my back against while squatting to make a surface for my laptop. At least I’m not in a hurry.
When it’s time to post my computer finds a network called “WIFI.METRO,” but I can’t actually open any websites. Strolling up and down the platform I even spot a router with lights flashing, but standing nearer or further away from it changes nothing. I can, however, get a connection on my mobile phone.
Retype the text from my laptop into my phone, choose an appropriate photo, and hit POST. Then sit and stare at the black screen until “Shared to Facebook!” appears. The post ends with a note in parentheses: this post was composed and uploaded from a metro platform serving as a bomb shelter during an air raid alarm.
My parents in the US kindly invite me to stay with them for as long as I want. They’re visibly baffled that I should choose to stay in cold, dark Kyiv when they’ve got a cozy fireplace in Connecticut. It sounds more like a proposition to go back in time. To go back to a time when I am a child and my parents can protect me from the dangers of the world.
My parents cannot protect me from russia. Rather, they can’t protect me alone. This is why I get mad when people offer refuge instead of weapons. You can only protect me from russia by fighting russia. And then you are also protecting yourself from russia and all of us from russia. And isn’t that a more virtuous aim than gathering the people you like and trying to maintain that “everything is okay” until it REALLY isn’t anymore?
Maintaining my sanity takes a lot of time and effort these days. As does being patient and kind with others who try my temper, for I understand that everyone here is making enormous efforts to maintain their sanity.
On Sunday night in a moment of electricity I dash off an email to my Feldenkrais teacher in the US. I need help creating and structuring a program of Awareness Through Movement lessons for my rehabilitating soldiers. The group is diverse, ranging from one guy who is visibly bored to one recovering from a serious head injury which had him in a coma for a while, and for all of them this practice is new and weird. I’m in a panic because I have years of audio- and video-recordings from my past training in the computer and online, but little time with electricity and minimal desire to lie on the floor in the cold and just try things out. I need direction.
A few days later my teacher replies, offering a bunch of materials from his own recent classes in an online library. Elated to receive a response, in a brief moment with power I quickly write, “Thank you!!” and decide to look more closely tomorrow.
The next morning my mind is sharper and less generous: What sort of help is this, sending a person with a power deficit a wealth of video material *online*? What am I supposed to do with it? How can my friends abroad, with all their comforts of civilization, be so insensitive to the conditions I now live in?
But the power is on when I get up, so I quickly scan the lesson titles from the series he sent and choose one that catches my eye and download it. Remarkably the power stays on for six hours uninterrupted, which means the heating too. I lie down on the floor to do a lesson from a recording online, knowing full well that it might be interrupted at any moment. But it keeps going, alternating between movement and rest, and when it reaches the end and I’m awaiting the familiar “roll to your side, sit up, and then stand” the computer goes silent. As if according to plan! The lesson I grabbed from my teacher’s online library was just what I needed for the week’s classes (including the one I launched from the metro bomb shelter).
There is a moral here: Timing matters and so does hitting your mark. The HOW is deeply personal, and we should honor other people’s liberty to move in their own way. Listening and hearing are a matter of trust (which can be fortified or broken through action). There are always so many unforeseeable factors in play.
Today I got a battery-powered radio. It’s almost as good as a fireplace.
PS Please keep supporting your government’s efforts to provide Ukraine with air defense systems and military aid!
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Thank you so much for your work-- teaching, writing, all that you do. While I admire your courage, strength and elegance under so much pressure, words fail to adequately express my gratitude and respect. Thank you. Thank you, thank you.
Powerful writing, I can't begin to imagine what it is to write about cruise missiles on the way to my city. I will return to Ukraine one day and help rebuild.