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by Iryna B.


A Ukrainian song is playing, with words by the poet Ivan Franko: Справа в тому, Що в мене немає дому, І за правилами доброго тону, Як за правилом доброго ременя, Я згадаю з якого я племені, Пригадаю з якого міста... The point is, That I don’t have a home And according to the rules of good tone, As per the rule of a good force, I will remember what tribe I am from I remember from which city... Do I remember? Our life is a series of photographs hanging on the ropes of memory. Living a happy or not so happy moment, we take a picture. Click. And the moment freezes. Stories of Andrii, George, Olena and Nancy. Photograph after photograph, film after film, we write the great book of our lives. And then, on a dark winter evening in warm woollen socks, to the crackling sound of firewood, we flip through the pages and inhale, absorbing the cherished seconds. Early morning. Summer. Cool, still night breeze. Bright shining stars in the sky. Children’s laughter and a happy little girl running towards the water. - Mom, is that it? Is this the sea? - Yes, darling. This is your sea. - Hello, my sea. Cool sea water greeted the child with a gentle touch, a kiss. Mid-July 2005, 12 hours on the road, Odesa, Ukraine.

In the warm kitchen on an autumn evening, two grandmothers were talking over a mug of tea. Little and curious, I went for a walk through the old rooms of the apartment, looking at various objects, family photos in frames, and souvenirs on the shelves. A teddy bear, a bunny, and a cat quickly ended up in the child’s hands. Later, little me was already pulling on a huge box under the sofa... Dolls, barbies, cars, and a wreath on my head. With ribbons. A moment - and I’m happily running around the room, joyfully looking back at the fluttering multi-coloured ribbons behind my back. - Irynko, you are a real Ukrainian woman... Reflection in the mirror of rosy cheeks and the child’s laughter. September 2008, Khmelnyitskyi, Ukraine. Bloom of spring. The sun shines brightly outside a window. The rays cut through the air in the classroom. End of the semester and a Ukrainian literature lesson. The teacher enters the classroom cheerfully. - Today we will study Ivan Franko, she declares with a smile. With people who are like the sun, everything becomes brighter, even when it is dark or seems that more light cannot exist. It can. A small red-haired woman connects speakers to a laptop. The song is turned on: «І повзе ліниво човен...» I raise my eyes. Smile admiringly. - That same song, - somewhere swept along in the air. The teacher catches my smile. ... і воркоче, і бурчить: Відки взявся я - не знаю; чим прийдеться закінчить Біг мій вічний - тож не знаю. Хвиля носить, буря рве, Скали грозять, надять-просять к собі береги мене. Що ж тут думать, що тужити, що питатися про ціль!

Нині жити, завтра гнити, нині страх, а завтра біль. Кажуть, що природа - мати держить нас, як їм там тре, А в кінці мене цілого знов до себе відбере. A boat lazily crawls, and murmurs, and grumbles: Where I came from - I don’t know, as well as what waits for me in the end My run is eternal, so I don’t know... Waves carry me, storms tear me, Rocks threaten me, and the shores welcome me to themselves. Why should I think, why should I grieve, what’s the reason to ask about the goal? Now I live, tomorrow I will rot, now there’s a fear, tomorrow will be pain. They say that mother nature keeps us as it pleases, And in the end it will take me, whole to itself again May 2017, Vyshhorod, School, Ukraine. - Maybe I won’t go, - Andrii says disconsolately, - and you just hand over a gift from me. I laugh. - My hands are shaking. What if I say something wrong? Or will he not extend a hand? Or will he kick me out? I laugh even more and kiss you on the cheek. - Everything will be fine, - I say, and pull you into my house. - My dad is strict and serious, but not a monster. - I drank a little. For courage, - you quickly add before entering the staircase. - Whaaaaat? - my surprise echoes against the walls of the high- rise building. We enter my home. Mom greets us warmly at the door. Delicious smells of New Year’s dishes come from the kitchen. My little brother joyfully runs to you. You agitatedly wish my mom a happy New Year. I am touched by your heart-warming excitement. Father enters the living room. I catch the confusion and fear in your eyes. Everyone freezes in anticipation. Icicles fall from the roof outside the window. - Nice to meet you, - Dad finally says and holds out his hand. You’re looking at him carefully. You shake hands. The tension immediately drops. Everyone smiles warmly. - Take care of her, - adds Father. Dad’s serious look at you. - I promise, she’ll be safe and sound. - Let’s take a picture, - Mom suggests. - Near the Christmas tree, - I add. - But please Artem, let’s do it without twisted faces. Artem laughs. - I will try very hard - the words are heard through laughter. The timer is set. I run to the Christmas tree. 3. 2. 1. You’re already satisfied, calm eyes, and a grimace in the photo. - Oh, Arteeeeeeeeem, - the indignant voice of my mother. New Year, Vyshhorod 2018. You and Dad. - Ira, what are you talking about, what dawn? - Mom asked, stirring the dough for pancakes. - Well, I just want to see the beginning of the day, it’s beautiful, don’t you think? - I quickly said and twisted my face, already foreshadowing my mother’s answer. - And it’s not too early. - I’ll go at 4, - trying to find some convincing arguments, I added.

- Ira, I said no. It will be too early, and I’ll be worrying, - Mom summed up. - Okay, — I said. 3:50. I quietly slip out of bed and tiptoe into the hallway. I take a bag packed with a blanket and sneakers that I’ll put on in the elevator. I take the keys from the door and accidentally drop them. Fear covers the whole body. I hear my mother turning over in bed in the next room. Silence. Whew, - I exhale and look at the ceiling with relief. - Sorry, Mom, - I add, and hold up the keys. A minute later, I’m already running to meet the first seconds of this day. In front of me spreads a delightful view of the green morning hills and wheat fields, which silently stretch and yawn with their fragrant branches, spikelets, shadows, greeting You and the Sun. Frozen. Unable to move. I watch how you quietly, as if in flight, approach the Star and gently touch it. And in an instant, the first reflections of morning hopes appear in the endless sky, which illuminate the entire planet and each of its inhabitants with lanterns. My amazement and the rustle of blades of grass. My admiration and rising heads of sunflowers... And I stand and watch as Dad lights the sun. Perhaps our Sun is made up of your souls? August 2021, Vyshhorod, 5 months after Dad’s death. The 14th of February. Our song plays in the background. We are dancing the waltz. I feel dizzy. Not because of the wine, but because of you. I’m falling. We are laughing. 2020, Vyshhorod. Morning. A soft, velvety ray crawls like a cat through the narrow slits of the blinds and kisses our feet with a gentle touch and informs us it’s time to open our eyes. Your leg twitches, fingers clench. The process begins. We are flattened like starfish on a large, snow-white bed.

Half-open, unencumbered by the day, our bodies joyfully greet the weekend. The beam glides over our skin, quietly sneaking up to the arms, neck, heart. And then a small gleam of light crawls through your eyelids. You cover your face with a pillow. I open my eyes and see your displeased face. I laugh. You try to open up to this world, but then change your mind and close your eyes. I laugh even louder. You wrinkle your nose and cover me with a pillow. My laugh fills the bright room. - Good morning, - you say. Safe and sound, sang the early bird. January 2020, Melitopol. Lviv. The whole city is growing in front of me. Birds are chirping ballads about happiness. Bees whisper the secrets of flowers. The skyline is dotted with different buildings, landmarks, and people. What a pity that the air cannot be conserved. I would open a jar and lock in the seconds of joy, and I’d inhale it every day after February in small doses. The main thing is not to abuse. March 2021, my Lviv, my Ukraine. 02.24.22 Strong anxiety. The call. Tears. Many tears. Panic. More tears. Another call. “Everything will be good” — a message from Mom. “Take care” - a message from grandma. “I love you” - a message from Andrii. - А в кінці мене цілого знов до себе відбере *, - the silence sang. Scream.

* And in the end it will take me whole to itself again. Ivan Franko poem.

02.24.22 I’m in a tight-fitting long dress. You’re in a tuxedo. We’re going to the theatre. Almost ready. I carefully straighten your tie; you fasten my necklace. Your soft hands slide around my waist, your lips study the moles on my neck. Waves of goosebumps cover my body. You turn me around sharply. Your eyes brazenly pierce my heart. You take my hand and pull me to you. Our bodies merge into a single dance. Flame and our dance of hearts. December 2022, Kyiv. You, me, we. 03/25/22 “I signed the contract”- a message from Andrii. “We left Kyiv” - a message from Mother. “It was bombed yesterday, but everything is fine. We hug you.” - a message from Grandmother. 2022, Vyshhorod. 03/25/22 “Safe and sound”. Your smile. Mom’s pancakes. Grandma’s dumplings. Wheat field. Сонце. The smell of cut grass. «І повзе ліниво човен...» Your hugs. Brother laugh. New Year’s table.

З Новим роком!!! Christmas tree. Наступна станція «Поштова Площа». Grandma’s hands. Our laughter. Іринко, та ти справжня... Odesa. Melitopol. Sea of Azov. My Kyiv. My Lviv. Моє я так тебе кохаю. Твоє я більше. Your smile. I close my eyes. Thump thump. Thump thump. Thump thump. I’m at home. I-am-at-home. I’m home. Thump thump. The picture brightens, burns, glows and fades, turning into dimmed memory cards. Our life is a series of photographs hanging on the ropes of memory. Smile and camera flash.


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