a Kind of Refugee / 21.07.2022 Part 1
Dear Readers, Friends,
The past weeks have been full of activity. I recorded a video-address in English, sitting on the ruins of a hotel in Mykolaiv, urging listeners to support Ukraine’s military. I wrote an OpEd (months after Marusia first urged me to) on why Ukraine keeps asking for military aid; it’s still awaiting publication. I’ve been in Ukraine’s west, south, center, always passing through Odesa. So many conversations with new people, trains, a seaside dacha, car rides, and chance encounters. All so rich with unrecorded details. A couple visits from old friends from Kyiv in Mykolaiv, and a walk around Kyiv’s dear, familiar streets with a Mykolaiv friend. The war isn’t going anywhere, and more dimensions of my longer, more extensive life are reactivating and reconfiguring to meet whatever lies ahead.
I am leaving my Kyiv home in a hurry again. This time I’m not running away. But yes, I am running. That seems to be the tempo right now. It’s in conflict with my old mode — take your time, as much as you need, for deliberation, for just being stubbornly slow. The insistent slowness has been creeping back these past several days — along with other pieces of my life before. Watching lindy hop on youtube; fantasizing about dancing with my favorite partner. Periods of a lack of a sense of urgency.
But they don’t last long.
Zhenya wrote: Do you drive? There’s a car in Kyiv that we need in Mykolaiv. Wink.
I don’t drive standard. Or in Ukraine very often. But Maro does and he needs to leave tomorrow and a road trip sounds more fun than yet another overnight train to Odesa.
So I sift through my matters, letting the most important ones rise and the rest slip away. What have I learned at war? Decisiveness. Not rushing and yet not allowing your thinking to melt into an undifferentiable puddle of confusion. Sometimes external circumstances set the time limit. Sometimes your sensations say, “Enough!”
War doesn’t wait for you to make up your mind.
I have talked to so many people over the past several months, people whom I never would have met in my former patterns and routines. These are my fellow Ukrainians. The ones who have stayed or come back.
Practically all the men (you know they are required by law to stay in Ukraine) evacuated their women and children abroad. All the women I work with have sent their children to safer parts of the country. In other words, nobody I know who is volunteering intensely to provide humanitarian aid or in the army is actively parenting at the same time. Even I evacuated my cat to Poland in March. Our attention is not divided. Ukraine matters most now.
What is the culture of these people working in cooperation out of desire to live in their own homeland like? Each one calls this land “mine,” yet what “this land is mine” means for each is not the same. Nor does it have to be.
It is so interesting to talk to them and listen to how they think.
To be continued soon…