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The River’s Flow

by Julia B.


Headwaters I grew up near the great river Dnieper, or as we call it in Ukrainian, Dnipro, the fourth-longest river in Europe, approximately 2,200 km long. It flows through Ukraine from the north and its borderland with Belarus to the south, where its fresh water blends with the salty water in estuaries, creeks, and waterways, which finally flow into the Black Sea. Dnipro divides Ukraine into two banks, right and left, and this natural boundary served as a state border between different political entities for centuries. My native city, Kyiv, is also divided by the Dnieper into two banks. The right bank is high, hilly, and green, with the historical centre and rich cultural layer under it. The left bank is lower and flat, with residential areas built after WWII. There are plenty of islands, big and small, in between, connected by streams and tributaries, small lakes with hidden waterways, and forested areas. In spring and summer, it’s green and full of noise, whispers, and voices of all kinds of creatures living near the river, in bushes, flowers, tall grass and roots of old trees, nourished by the Dnipro. That beautiful river’s world has always been my kingdom, where I felt incredibly free. I was raised by my beloved granny Olena, my mother’s mother, and my dear great grandmother Alla, my mother’s grandmother. It was the post-Chernobyl society, the fall of the USSR, and the beginning of the Ukrainian state, and my parents, both being scholars (archaeologists), were overloaded by the uncertainty of big political events and difficult economic changes. They worked hard, having several jobs simultaneously, and therefore not enough time to spend with me. Nevertheless, I was raised with love. My two grandmothers took great care of me. I didn’t attend kindergarten. Instead, my great grandmother taught me to read, count and cook, and my grandmother gave me my first lessons in writing, drawing, and knitting. One of my first memories, which sometimes appears in my dreams, is my great grandmother’s white silver hair, her soft arms hugging little me, and her calm voice calling me the way only she and then my grandmother called me, “My little bird”, “ptenchik” in Russian and “ptashechka” in Ukrainian. My family has a diverse ethnic and cultural background, embracing Ukrainian, Polish, Jewish, Russian, and Tatar roots. With respect to this diversity, I was raised speaking Ukrainian and Russian. Great Granny Alla passed when I had just turned nine. I clearly remember the moment I learned about her death. My mom and I were in the south, staying near the archaeological site my mother was working on. My grandmother came to see us and took me for a long walk in the steppe near the Dnipro-Buh estuary. Afterwards I noticed that many difficult things were told to me during this walk. Perhaps it was easier for adults – to explain big, unbearable things to a child while walking, as if the very process of walking and changing scenery would help to accept something unimaginable. I still take long walks when I am in deep need of processing something big. That sunny July afternoon my granny told me that my great grandmother Alla had died. She said, “Granny Alla has gone to Heaven.’’ I couldn’t believe it; I was shocked and started to cry. But my grandmother couldn’t stand my tears. Never. She believed I should learn to be strong, which meant not crying. That was my first experience of death and understanding that people I love may leave. Granny Alla died because of a stroke. At that time, I didn’t know that my granny Olena would die of a stroke too. Together with my great grandmother, great grandfather, and my grandmother, we lived on the left bank of Kyiv, not far from the Dnipro. When I was little, before I went to school, my grandmother used to take me to the river quite often. We were coming to the Rusanivskyi channel or the Hydropark area. My granny was always organising picnics, taking one thermos with tea, the other with soup, some sandwiches, also books, drawing materials, and her knitting. She was always knitting for as long as I can remember. Every single free minute. Before and after work, when she was still working at the cinema studio in Kyiv, and all the time when she retired. She loved telling me stories about the river, the trees growing along its banks, especially old willows, with their roots and branches deep under the water, and the birds we used to feed, mostly ducks and gulls. My grandmother loved nature; she was such an inseparable part of it, believing that every being, be it a cat, duck or flower has a soul, and humans should respect them. I loved our weekend walks near the Dnipro and the smell of the river remains one of my favourite smells, calming and quiet, bringing me back to the time when I was a little girl, embraced with the love of my two dear grannies.

Becoming a River Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh once wrote, “O commemorate me where there is water / Canal water, preferably, so stilly / Greeny at the heart of summer...” For me, these lines both literally and metaphorically depict how human life resembles the fluidity of water. Since I was a child, I have always felt like I was part of water. Since the outbreak of full-scale war and the darkest weeks at the end of February and beginning of March 2022 in Kyiv under the constant Russian siege, I couldn’t get rid of the feeling that I am inside a huge wave of water that is carrying me into the unknown. When my mother and I, with our cat, were sitting in the dark corridor during the curfew, hearing missiles, shelling and explosions outside, we were praying. In flickering candle- light, cuddling the cat, I was reading prayers written by my grandmother’s hand. I had a strong hope that we would survive this, even when our windows were shaking because of a powerful explosion not far from our residential area. I was overwhelmed by the feeling of being inside stormy waves leaving Kyiv on 4 March 2022, taking an evacuation train to western Ukraine, leaving my mother and the cat behind [1]. My mom insisted I go, saying that I should live. Since then, in 2022 I had many strange and tiresome transfers and routes, changing places and landscapes. From Kyiv to friends in Khmelnytskyi in western Ukraine, then to L’viv, after to my friends in eastern Poland, then to other friends in Warsaw, then back to Kyiv in summer 2022, then to Poland again, shortly afterwards to Lithuania and finally in early September 2022 to Ireland. I have got a six-month research Sanctuary Fellowship at University College Cork and gained a temporary home on the banks of An Laoi, the river Lee. The wave bringing me from one place to another was so intimidatingly deep and dark at the very beginning, that I felt completely helpless, being a tiny dry leaf, swept along by the strong river’s flow. I thought I might drown. But then I remembered that I know how to swim. My dad taught me that lesson. My parents devoted their lives to the investigations of Greek and Roman ancient heritage of the lower Buh region and the broader, northern Black Sea region in Ukraine. They took me to archaeological sites in the south of Ukraine since I was a baby. I grew up among ancient history. I took my first steps in Olbia, an ancient Greek polis, a famous archaeological site in Mykolaivska oblast. Archaeology, as my parents’ legacy, is a huge part of my identity; it influenced my attitude to history. I remember the summer of 1995, when I spent some time with my father at his excavations of the ancient Greek sanctuary of Achilles on Cape Beykush not far from Ochakiv. Who would have thought that this area would be bombed and shelled by the Russian army from the end of February 2022? Part of me feels grateful that my dad is now in a better world, far from this misery, and he can’t see the damage the war has caused to the landscape he truly loved. Closing my eyes, I still feel the warm breath of the late July wind from the steppe, mixed with the smell of two estuaries, Dnipror- Buh and Berezan, bringing their half-salty waters to the Black Sea. I am ten, and my dad is still a young, black-bearded, and tall man, who plays the guitar and sings his romantic ballads. He takes me to the shallow waters, where two estuaries blend, with little isles of reeds where birds nest and dragonflies glitter in the sunlight with their blue-green wings. Dad says, “Don’t be afraid of anything” and puts me on the water’s surface. First on my belly, and then he teaches me how to move my hands and legs. He keeps supporting me and then suddenly takes his hands off me. I am panicking, not feeling the bottom with my feet, but Dad is near me. He takes me into his arms again, saying that the water is my friend, and I should trust it because if I fully trust it, the water will keep me afloat. Then Dad puts me on my back, and I am looking up at the deep, blue, summer-afternoon sky with little white clouds. He says, “The water will keep you. Just let it do this. Just trust.” And finally, my body senses it. It trusts. I remember the moment when my dad took his hands away from my back, and I was just lying on the water, feeling it, gently keeping me afloat and flowing over me. I was so deeply happy. My dad had a big and kind heart. Soon it will be three years since the day he passed. I miss him a lot. At the same time, I know his spirit is everywhere, especially near deep water. When I first came to An Mhuir Cheilteach, the Celtic Sea in Youghal and embraced its intense beauty and overwhelming power, I felt my dad’s presence strongly. He was everywhere in the landscape, smiling warmly, young and black-bearded, the same as on that hot July afternoon many years ago when I was ten. I realised then that the colour of the huge wave bringing me into the unknown has changed. It has become much lighter. “Someday I will become a river.” Those were my grandmother’s words. On 1st December 2021, my mother and I brought her home from hospital, where she had spent a month after she had a stroke and Covid. While my mother went out to the pharmacy, I took care of my half-paralysed granny. She was always so strong, independent, and sparkling with joy, despite her life being hard, starting from her childhood during the Nazi occupation of Kyiv. And here she was, helpless, tiny like a bird, in a different state of mind. I washed her, fed her as if she were a child, and tried hard not to cry. My mom told me, “She shouldn’t see your tears.” I said, “Granny, let’s pray as you taught me. Remember?” She responded, “Of course, my little bird,” “moy ptenchik,” in Russian. I was holding her right, healthy hand, and she squeezed mine tightly. We prayed together ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ and then she said that she loved me the most in her life. I still tried not to cry. She told me that she dreamt of swimming again in the Dnipro in Kyiv. My grandmother loved swimming. When she was young, she used to go kayaking and took part in different sorts of water sports competitions held in Kyiv during summertime. She went swimming in the Dnipro until she was 80. And then, as her heart was becoming weaker, her biggest regret was that she couldn’t swim. In the last three years of her life, she used to come to the big river flowing through Kyiv, just to connect with the river’s flow and the landscape she loved since her childhood. I share her love of all kinds of rivers, and swimming. That December day, when I was holding her hand and wishing so strongly for her suffering to ease, she was dreaming about the river. There was a moment when she told me, “Help me, I want to get up. I want to take a shower at least. I want to feel the water on my body.” She wasn’t aware she couldn’t get up. That was so hard to witness and not be able to help her. And then my mom came back, and my granny wished to talk to her alone. I was sitting in the kitchen, hearing their soft voices, and crying, embracing the firm understanding that this is adulthood. When you lose people you love, they go, and you stay. Nobody saw my tears, except for my granny’s cat, who jumped onto my knees, purring and sensing my sadness. That evening my grandmother, despite being an Orthodox believer, asked my mom to cremate her body and scatter her ashes over the Dnipro. She told my mother, “I want to be a part of the river, let the ducks swim over me.” She passed away on 5 December 2021. In early January 2022, we fulfilled her last wish. It was a sunny day, a little bit frosty. My mom and I went to the Dnipro, to a hidden place where my granny loved to swim. We scattered her ashes over the river. She became a river as she wished to. It was a month before the full-scale war exploded. It is strange to confess, but I am grateful that my granny passed before Kyiv was bombed again, this time by Russia. I miss my granny tremendously. But she is a river now. And if all the rivers meet somewhere under the earth through wells and streams, and on the surface, through the estuaries, seas, and the oceans, then she is everywhere, with me, wherever I go. In September 2022, for the first time coming to An Laoi in Cork and looking into its changing waters from one of the old stone bridges surrounded by willows, I whispered tenderly, “Hello, my dear Granny” and I felt my grandmother’s light kiss on my forehead.

Tír na nÓg Tír na nÓg translates as “the Land of Youth” and it’s one of the names for the ancient Celtic Otherworld. In myths, it is described as a breathtakingly beautiful island paradise and realm of everlasting youth, beauty, health, harmony, and joy, inhabited by gods and goddesses of the Tuatha Dé Danann tribe. Living in Ireland, I see its landscape with green hills, rainbows emerging after the rainfall sometimes a few times a day, and black rocks washed by the turquoise waters of the Celtic Sea, as a part of a miraculous Tír na nÓg. When I first entered the campus of University College Cork, crossing the narrow stone bridge over An Laoi, I was mesmerised by the huge, tall pine trees guarding the entrance to the university. It reminded me of the description of the Ents of Fangorn in J. R. R. Tolkien’s epic saga of Middle Earth. Then I saw the other giant sister pines on the campus. I could observe them endlessly, seeing how their crowns shake slowly, talking to the wind, and how their lower branches shelter birds from nasty weather. I came to Ireland in a rather bad mental condition - anxious, sleepless, influenced by the war’s losses, uncertainty, and turmoil. And these pines became my first friends here, grounding me and giving me a sense of calmness, like Ents from Fangorn offered their friendship and protection to the hobbits. Sometimes I think of Ireland as Tolkien’s Fangorn, a sheltered mysterious land, an isolated society rooted in a unique atmosphere with a different sense of time, quietness, slowness, and peacefulness reflected in the landscape. I admire this severe but soulful sea landscape, with black rocks covered by all kinds of moss, evergreen shrubs, and yellow gorse. I love coming to this open space, where there are not so many people, trees, or animals, and I can feel the deep unity with wild nature. It has become a great healing for me. However, there is a sad story beyond the beauty of this landscape.

Not all the ancient Ents remained among the vast green hills of Emerald Island, like those in Killarney National Park or at the UCC campus. Many of them were forced to leave and the unique Irish rainforest was partially destroyed in terms of English colonisation of the island starting from the Tudor conquest of Ireland and then devastating bloody wars of Oliver Cromwell and followed by the exhaustion of all resources. Irish-speaking people, mainly of my grandmother’s age, with whom I’ve had a chance to talk after Sunday Mass in Irish at St. Peter and Paul’s church in Cork, call the old Irish rainforest landscape, The Gearagh”. They advised me to go to the Beara peninsula if I wanted to see an ancient Irish forest. Hopefully, I will come back to Ireland many times after my fellowship ends. Undoubtedly, I am leaving part of my heart here, dissolved in raindrops somewhere between An Laoi and the Western Atlantic shore. There were many shades of rain during my first day in Cork in early September 2022. First, there was a thunderstorm with a strong wind that made my haircut look like a bird’s nest and broke my umbrella. That was the moment when I realised that an umbrella is completely useless in Ireland, and I need a good raincoat instead! Then I saw a rainbow, shining brightly in a still-cloudy, heavy sky. A few minutes later it was drizzling, and I sensed a fresh, wet, woody, mossy smell, so different from home. The other scents which are different from home, are turf fires, sea breeze, brown soda bread, and the coconut-like scent of yellow furze growing everywhere, near An Laoi, on the black and red cliffs along the Celtic Sea coast, in the green hedges dividing the green farmlands. That first rainy and windy day introduced me to a new space that I was yet to explore in the next six months. Soon drizzling changed into a brief storm, bringing cold hailstones, and in the end, the sun shone brightly in a blue sky. There is always hope, even in the darkest storms we are going through. That is the lesson Irish weather teaches me. People here enjoy talking about An Aimsir, the weather. In our small talks, Cork dwellers would always ask me what the weather is like at home, in Ukraine. And then compare my descriptions to what they have at home. And then ask, “Do you like Irish weather?” I can’t stop smiling when talking about the weather. It is such a normal, casual, peaceful thing to talk about. We always talk about the war and the people we left behind with the other Ukrainians in our state of transition. Therefore, talking just about the weather and learning how to say it in Irish makes me happy. While English has an expression of ‘raining cats and dogs,’ Irish invokes the more vivid and curious image of ‘raining forks and knives,’ Tá sé ag cur foirc agus sceana. Perhaps, the conditions of weather are the only phrases I’ve learned to pronounce and write properly in Irish. Tá an aimsir go halainn inniu. Bhi an aimsir fliuch agus gaofar ar maidin. I especially like the word “gaofar ‘’ windy. It brings me to the rocks of the Atlantic coast, covered with heather and moss, where all is wild, all is silent, all is true... I longed to scream for a long time, thinking back to the day cancer took my father’s life. For more than a year I felt like lying on a silty river’s bottom under the thickness of water. It was quiet and dark, but I wanted to scream all the time. Dad’s death felt so unfair and so painful. Terminal diseases always come unexpectedly. The news told by the doctor overwhelms you and throws you on the ground. And the only thing you have is hope. For my family, hope was everything. I accompanied my dad to his chemotherapy sessions in the cancer hospital. I will never forget this dystopian place full of contradictory emotions: despair and hope, anger and calm, giving up, and a huge desire to live. The first time being there was the most difficult for me. I talked to the doctor, and then my dad was taken for the chemo session, and I was waiting for him in the lobby. Relatives were not allowed to enter the hospital wards. The space around me was oppressive. Grey floor, white walls, dim lamps, small windows, nurses passing by and not sharing a single smile with the patients and their relatives. And there was that specific smell, a combination of medicines, urine, disinfectants and, ironically, violets blooming on the windowsills. I felt nauseous. I was waiting for my dad and observing people in the lobby. Mostly bald, pale, feeling cold, with their heads covered or not, talking to the doctors, waiting, or just looking somewhere far away. I was trying to sense hope there. But the only hope I found was in my own heart. Deep inside I was hoping that my dad would survive this. He was so incredibly brave fighting his disease, always confident that he would win. I wanted to scream when my grandmother passed just a year and a half after my dad. It felt like too much pain to bear. But I needed to be strong for my mom. Now there are only the two of us and two cats. No other relatives. Since full-scale war has begun, I’ve wanted to scream every day. Sometimes I cried when nobody saw me. Then three of my male friends were killed on the frontline. I wanted to scream because of anger and pain, but I couldn’t. There was no place, and honestly, I didn’t have the strength for it. And then fate brought me to the Atlantic Ocean in December 2022. I was walking along the shore between Doolin and the Cliffs of Moher, observing the power of the great water below, listening to the ocean’s breath, and thinking that it will always be like that. Humans will destroy themselves in wars, circles of violence will influence new generations and their traumatic memories, and nature will suffer because of people, but the ancient, great ocean will remain. It will always be. The power I felt there allowed me finally to scream. Finally, I was able to shout out everything into the space that was and will always be there, even when the last person in the whole world dies. I climbed onto the rock, observing the chain of Aran Islands, covered with rain clouds, which changed into a bright rainbow over the water, and at first, I could not utter a single sound. But then I screamed. By doing that I was sharing with the ocean my pain, sadness, unfulfilled plans, and dreams destroyed by the war, my anger, fatigue, and insomnia. God, it was liberating. I felt so much gratitude for being alive. It is indeed enough. Looking into the horizon where the ocean’s waters meet the skyline, I took a wristwatch from my backpack, lightly ran my finger along its chipped glass surface, and smiled. Every morning when I get up, I wind this mechanical wristwatch. This is an old watch with three hands and big numbers on the round face. However, the brown leather strap is new: my dad changed it shortly before he was diagnosed with lung cancer in June 2019. Being an archaeologist, my father was rather old-fashioned in a good sense. He joked, calling himself “A man of the 20th century”. He didn’t use computers, smartphones, all new technologies, being faithful to the typewriter, old mobile phone with buttons, and a true watch, as he called it. For as long as I can remember, my dad wore this watch on his left wrist. In archaeological expeditions, at home, walking, working, resting, and even attending his chemotherapy sessions. When he passed away in March 2020, it was the darkest time of my life, even worse than experiencing missile shelling in my native city. When you lose someone so meaningful, beloved, and irreplaceable as a father, you think that you won’t cope. Surprisingly, I did. I found my dad’s watch six months after his death when I started slowly to clean the flat and organise his belongings. The watch didn’t work. I brought it to the watchmaker in our area and asked if he could repair it. He looked closely at the watch and said, “Oh, it’s Sergiy’s! The archaeologist. I know this watch. He brought me that watch so many times to repair it. I was trying to persuade him to change the watch to a modern one, but he always refused.” That was my dad, truly him. The watchmaker didn’t know that my dad had died, and when I told him, he was sad. I didn’t know he was my father’s friend, and that they shared many conversations and interests. This old man shared my sadness. He repaired the watch perfectly. Wherever I go, I have my father’s watch with me. When I took an evacuation train to western Ukraine, I could take only a small backpack with documents and one change of clothes. My mother insisted that I go. She said, “Your dad and granny would do the same. They would send you away. Please, go and be safe.” I took their photos with me – Mom’s, Dad’s, Granny’s, cats,’ my grandmother’s khustka – a kerchief she got used to wrapping around her shoulders, and my father’s watch. I became a nomad, moving between borders, between past and present, in various parts of Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania, trying to trust the river’s flow, and finally, it brought me to the green hills and rocky cliffs of Ireland. Sometimes I speak to my dad, telling him about the new places I visit, the people I meet, and how my life goes on without him. I brought his watch to the Celtic seashore and the Atlantic Ocean. Wandering among wild rocks, waves, and winds, I was asking my dad whether he sees me from the place where he is now. Every morning when I wind my dad’s watch, I feel his loving presence and see his kind smile. I see his smile too at the point where the ocean meets the skyline. “Tost ar an Abhainn” [2] There is a word in the Irish language that embraces a variety of meanings, all of which are related to loss and separation from somebody or something we loved once. It is “cumha” which means grief, homesickness, loneliness, nostalgia, and sorrow through space and time. Because of their historical experience, Irish people know so deeply what “cumha” is and what home is. Lisa Hannigan, an Irish songwriter wrote a song, which makes me feel hot bitter tears in my eyes every time I listen to it: “Home so far from home, So far to go [...] And hold on, there’s nothing to pack. We know we’re not coming back [...]” [3] “Cumha” is something I feel now, thinking about all the dear people I have lost on my way, and about the huge wave bringing me from one shore to the other. Many thoughts circulate in my mind, but these questions are the most frequent - Will I be able to settle? Where and when will I stop being a nomad? When will the war in my country be over? Where is my home or where will it be? Will I be able to raise children...? I don’t have answers yet. I am learning to love every new day I live and to be grateful for the kindness of strangers I meet. My Irish teacher, Claire, is one of them. She made me feel enchanted by Gaeilge. I love the picturesque explicitness of the way the Irish language expresses feelings, like, “Tá brón orm,” which means “Sadness is on me.” I imagine a mysterious creature made of flowing water, sitting on my shoulders, embracing me, and making me cry, evoking all I have inside. Irish is a poetic language of images. It has no verb to express possessing or having. Instead, there is a word ag (“at” / “on” / “in”) which is used in conjunction with the verb “to be”. Since starting to learn Irish at UCC in Cork, I imagine different emotions and feelings as living beings with bodies, sitting on me and influencing me. That imaginative nature of the Irish language has made me reflect deeper on what I feel every moment, what I experience, and which feelings I let into myself, which creature is sitting on my shoulders now. I whisper, “Tá cumha orm,” looking at the endless horizon of the open Celtic Sea in Kilbrittain, so unlike my home landscapes, and feeling warmth in my chest, a strange but calming sense of home inside me. This is something new to learn on my new shores, where the river’s flow has brought me and taught me to breathe deeply again and again.

Slí I was afraid that the main emotion I would feel approaching the 2022 year’s end would be anger intertwined with irritation, hatred, and grief. Anger at war and what it did to my beloved homeland, Ukraine. Anger at those who started and supported this violence, anger at Russia, anger at those who remain silent and don’t care, anger that humanity learned nothing from two great World Wars, and even anger at Death that continues to take people I love from me. However, my main emotion that developed during 2022 has become gratitude. When I say, Táim buíoch, I imagine a little sun shining from my solar plexus. There is gratitude in me. It is gratitude that helped me survive through all this madness. All has changed, but I am here, and I am alive. I feel so grateful to be alive. This war has shown me that there is the biggest, unimaginable cruelty, but there is also the biggest kindness, love, and empathy.

Humans are capable of the biggest evil and the biggest good. It is a matter of personal choice. The war has sharpened this phenomenon, made it visible, palpable. “The kindness of strangers,” and my friends, old and new, are helping me to go through the unimaginable. My heart is full of gratitude to all those people who were so empathetic and kind, so that every day of this war I have not felt alone. I hope I will be able to give back this empathy and kindness to these people and to the world. There is an Irish saying, “Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine,” which means “Under the shadow of each other, people survive,” or “We exist in each other’s shelter.” One could assume that Irish empathy towards Ukrainians is rooted in the common nature of the anti-colonial and anti-imperial struggle, and the understanding of a nation that has been colonised and is fighting for its sovereignty. However, I see here also the global empathy relating to the values of the free world. I dare to say that I had happy days during 2022. Both in solitude, in my long walks in nature, and with my friends. I’ll treasure them as the light that’s shining for me through the darkness. I am grateful that I am still a light for myself and for others. People around us and their empathy help us to navigate through the stormy waters. I am truly blessed to have these people around me. I also dare to say that the stormy river carrying me through space and time brought me joy. Because of the people who were by my side. Because of nature that is healing me. Because of the miracles I can still see in this world, despite all the injuries my heart has. Because of the resilience that comes from my sensitivity. Experiencing joy and sharing it with others despite all the hardships and losses is the most precious gift Ireland is giving me. I was immensely impressed by the idea of E.P.I.C., The Irish Emigration Museum in Dublin that shows Irish history as an experience and its influence on the entire world. I enjoyed the museum’s outlook, that even through all hardships caused by the Great Famine and many waves of exile from Ireland, the Irish brought a lot of joy to the world through their culture, music, dances and songs. We have the same in Ukrainian history. I see so many similarities here. Perhaps, the way the Irish are coming to terms with their hard past, including the idea that, “Every Person Is Connected” as inscribed in the museum’s abbreviation “E.P.I.C.”, can help my country on our way to reconciliation with our bitter colonial past. It is still impossible to build plans or to see the future further than a month... I still have this strange feeling of being thrown into the deep, wide and wild river, where I am just flowing somewhere, not knowing where the bank is or when I’ll see land. But this strange nomadic life without the privilege of making plans and settling down gives me a very specific feeling of trust in life. I can swim, and I am not drowning. I trust the water, as my dad taught me. Life is a circle of new endings and new beginnings. Even in the times when I thought I wouldn’t cope, there was always a way for me, an slí. It starts in my own heart, where there is hope. I know now that life is everywhere, even in death. It grows through death with the green grass of hope, with daffodils and snowdrops in early spring. I trust the river’s flow. It will always bring me Home.


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