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New Life

by Katie T.


PHOTOGRAPH BY ALAN COMPTON

I am sitting in the hall of an office building behind a huge glass wall waiting for a meeting. In front stands the Central Bank of Ireland, a business quarter, Dublin’s docks, squawking seagulls, the Liffey with her own dreams, and ships in the quay, two students - girls chatting with each other, “I was so anxious about the first working day, I wasn’t sleeping, I bought new shoes for this office work and an additional pair just in case!” Black dress shoes without high heels, a foreign language, everything is strange. I feel like an alien. What am I doing here? I’m forty years old, with two kids, a previous life, with high heeled shoes under the lawyer’s office table; starting from zero, surrounded by full-of- hope-and-excitement people. A tight ball of sadness is stuck in my stomach. I remember Sofi’s sweet smile. All my life is not in a small backpack, it is inside me. I bring with me all the important things, the smiles of loved ones, warm hugs, relations, remembrance, nobody can take them away. “Hello! I’m Yugeniia!” Breathe a sigh of relief. I’m not alone in my feelings; there is one more Ukrainian woman of my age. Light enters through cracks.


I stayed in the changing room of the ballet studio for my first lesson. Mums with daughters, grannies with granddaughters, smiling, chatting, tutus, ballerina skirts, and shoes — the room full of the smell of hope and joy. - Mum! You must put on this skirt for the lesson! - Oh, my dear, it’s not our skirt! - Rita, would you be so kind as to give my Mum this skirt just for the one dance? It is so gorgeous! - Of course, Sofi! Even in my wildest dreams, I could not imagine it. The chic, light, pink, crystalline long skirt. Oh my God! I’m in it! Butterflies in my stomach, the feeling of a heroine in a fairy tale, a ray of sunshine to the bottom of my heart. The air touched my skin and whispered, “Kate, start your dance! Don’t be afraid, you’re in a safe place!” PS: Two months after I started ballet school, the War began. “If I could, I’d like to take the evening dress with me. No! I’m not going to put it on! It is just a memory. A memory of my first ball in Vienna, my feelings,” said Oksana, with whom we shared the road from the first day of the war ‘til the day of our new lives in different countries, from Kyiv to Warsaw, our point of parting. “Kate, and what is important for you? What would you like to take with you?” My ballet shoes. I’ve been dreaming about them all my life. I bought them one month before the war started. They’re symbols of happiness and joy, that dreams come true. Once I heard the phrase, ‘You can dance any problem, let it go, have space and the decision will come, dance from the place that lies closest to your heart; it helps to ease the weight of feelings. Close your eyes and be yourself without limits and barriers.’ I know I’m in Ireland. I broke my leg after the march in Dublin on Ukraine’s Independence Day. I felt overwhelmed because I would not be able to dance any time soon but I’ve my ballet shoes on the windowsill, a symbol of hope. My husband packed them and sent them to me.

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