a Kind of Refugee / 23.03.2022
this feeling that i owe someone, everyone something for being on their turf—attention, money, service—is a feeling i’ve known nearly all my life. it is the burden of the refugee, passed down through generations. for everything my grandparents were given—food, asylum, the chance to make a new life for themselves—i have to keep paying back.
i had to take back what they had lost and abandoned, entering it anew, stepping gingerly like the one who is on somebody else’s turf, to realize that i was taking on its form at the expense of mine own. i had to go back to the beginning, to the root of the problem, to the motherland. it took nearly forty years to find the audacity to call something, anything my thing, my place, my home.
and now here i am sitting in poland. in the house of a dear friend and her mother. i want to be that version of myself that can be generous as a friend. but i am here because i need help. i need help taking care of my cat because i live in a country that is at war.
on the one hand i can no longer live in my apartment, in my dear piece of kyiv next to the river, as i once did. on the other, i can’t simply accept not living there. i can’t accept the russians making there unlivable.
the only way to stop being the one who is always deferring to somebody else’s routines, customs and propositions is to resist. and i need to do it from my own place. if someone tries to take that place or take it over, then i need to fight that fucker. (while if i try to assert my power over another’s place, i am that fucker.)
as soon as i flee i become the ward of whatever.
i would have paid for marysia’s dance class. but she brushed it off with “come on, are you kidding.” and at that moment i really was too tired to argue with her. over that. but maybe i’m bowing again.
my confusion here is real.
here in poland people are doing so much to welcome ukrainians. maybe this is not the place to argue. because here i am on their land.
as long as i am in lviv, listening to air raid sirens going off constantly, i am in the right to refuse, decline, reject offers to leave my home for the comforts so generously proffered by friends abroad.
please forgive me.
i cannot be the good gracious refugee.
nor do i have the mettle for combat.
i may have nothing but a talent for mobility.
PS My friend Lana, like me, is of Ukrainian diaspora stock and has lived in Kyiv for over 15 years. She has launched an initiative to raise funds and buy items needed by the Ukrainian Armed Forces as they continue defending our homeland.
You can learn more about their activities here: https://www.facebook.com/UkrainianPatriot.org
and contribute here: https://ukrainianpatriot.org/