by Svitlana B.
AI GENERATED IMAGE
A long time ago when I was learning English, listening to podcasts, and dreaming of living in Canada, I crocheted a goose - a Canada goose. I put him sitting by the mirror in the living room, where he waited for his journey to finally begin. When I was leaving the house with all our things, the cat and the dog, and I saw him there, I didn’t think twice about it, I grabbed him and put him in my pocket. Later, when I was alone on the Croatian coast waiting for a visa to Canada, he became my friend. We met the moon every day and saw off the sun. We sang and fought the Albanian mafia. We crossed the border without passports. It was easier for him. I bought plane tickets to Canada with a stopover in Dublin. We were half a step away from my goose’s homeland. But the plane to Toronto broke down. Only later did I find a logical explanation for this - the homeland of the Canada goose is Ireland. The homeland is where it is warm and cosy in the most difficult times. Geese know this and they fly to Ireland every winter. I feed them every day by hand on the pond now. * I have a superpower - I sing. This makes me feel alive and happy. I’m Svitlana, I sing alto and sometimes tenor in the Kyiv Baroque amateur choir. I’ve other roles - I’m a business analyst, project manager, partner, mother, daughter, artist, cat and dog lover, theatregoer, and someone who loves to feed and hug everyone. I discovered the beauty of choral singing three years ago. Every time I’m surprised and happy about the projects that our choirmaster, Nataliia Khmilevska, involves us in. February 23rd, 2022. We continued rehearsing until late for the Choral Celebrations in Berlin, celebrating Handel’s birthday, and believing, as if it were a miracle, that we would be able to fly. Tomorrow we were to have an additional rehearsal of the tenor and bass parts.
February 24th. Today the war came to me. At five in the morning, when I woke up to explosions. Deciding whether to stay in Kyiv or leave. For the first time, packing emergency backpacks for us and the cat. Choosing a bomb shelter in case of another attack. Spacious, but cold and without a bathroom and facilities or equipped, warm and overstuffed? Choosing a safe place at home by taping the windows crosswise. What can I do? -Do your daily routine. -Support your family and friends. -Donate blood. -Transfer money to the military. -Sign up for the territorial defence. We are here. We are now making history. With our peace of mind. With our readiness to defend our country. The truth is with us. We will survive. Because we already have. This night will not be easy. The reptilian brain will twitch at every sharp sound, screaming to run. I’m going to drink water. Sleep. Breathe. Hug. March 13th. Frosia our cat is two years old. She celebrated with a chicken breast, watching squirrels and cats outside the window, and crossing the border with Poland. Since the beginning of the war, she has managed to: -Leave Kyiv after waking up for the second night in a row at half past five in the morning to explosions and flashes in her neighbourhood. -Live for a week in the countryside. -Return to Kyiv to collect the most necessary things. -Go to Lviv. -Stay in the Epam office, which was turned into a shelter. -And again, a 12-hour journey.
Last year, on her birthday, we sang songs in silly voices, adding “Frosia” in all the right and wrong places. This year, she cries out, tired of the endless changes. Meanwhile, Glasha the dog becomes her best friend. May 9th. Zagreb, Croatia. My partner and I had a fight. Throw your keys out the window when you leave, she said. I do, and there are Frosia and Glasha outside the window. Frosia puts her sides out for me to pet her, even through the glass. She tries to jump after me. Glasha is smiling happily. She is always smiling happily. I’m going to apply for a visa to Canada. I’m flying to Bucharest because there is no Canadian visa centre in Croatia. I want to be as far away from the pain as possible. May 13th. Poreč-Parenzo. I must wait from two weeks to a month for my visa. And during this time, I need somewhere to live. I see a vacancy for a laundress in a hotel and apply for it. I have always loved doing laundry. Every evening I watch the sun go down in the sea. I listen to music. I am silent and cry. Two weeks later, I realised that even in a state of depression, I’m doing what I’m good at. I became a hotel manager. Not long after, I witnessed a waiter being beaten by the hotel owner, wrote a complaint to the police and left. I go first to Zagreb to find out what to do next. I sent my passport to Vienna for a visa. Without a passport, I don’t know how to cross the border with the European Union. The Ukrainian consulate suggests trying to cross the border with Slovenia. Some border guards let Ukrainians pass with internal passports, without international ones. Some do not. They didn’t let me on the bus without a passport. I wrote to a man named Ivan, who was travelling by car to Vienna and offered to give me a ride. I said that if they didn’t let me through, he could drop me off at the border. Ivan introduced me to the border guard as his closest friend. He said he vouched for me, and we somehow made it through. In two hours, I had my passport with a Canadian visa in my hands. I bought plane tickets to Winnipeg, with two stops in Dublin and Toronto, and stayed in Vienna for four more days. I wanted to see this place differently, not the way I remembered it when we had a stopover here when we moved from Kraków to Zagreb in late March. March 22nd. It was night. The bus station was closed. It was cold. We waited for four hours in a nightclub for the next bus; the only place that was open at the time. With a child, a cat and a dog. The dog. It was the time when she was no longer happy. The bus drivers from Poland had gladly let her into the bus and she sat by their side for half the journey. The drivers of the same carrier, travelling from Vienna, strictly forbade me to take the dog into the cabin and scandalously only allowed me to transport it in the luggage compartment. At the first stop, I took the frightened Glasha out of the trunk and put her next to me on the bus. But what did that hour cost us! June 25th. The last day before my flight to Canada. My birthday. I had never celebrated it alone before. My ex-partner was the first to congratulate me, sending me a video made from photos of my life. She carefully cut herself out of them. I know she spent a lot of time on it, choosing music and photos. I looked at this cruel gift and cried. And then I went to the museums. Vienna is beautiful for me with its parks, opera, and museums. And I saw an exhibition in which, opposite the Dürer prints, there were photographs from the present wartime in Ukraine. And again, I cried. Right there in the museum, opposite the photo of the hand of a woman who died under fire. Hands with a well-groomed manicure and red nail polish. June 26th. I boarded a plane from Vienna to Dublin. In Dublin, I had to change planes the next day. I booked a place in a hostel for one night, terrified of the cost of renting a hotel room. I arrived, told the border guard that I would be in Dublin for a day in transit, and went for a walk around the city. The first thing that surprised me was the palm trees growing in the yards. I had the impression that Ireland was a cold country. It was cool here at +16, after +36 in Croatia. It started raining three times that day when I was walking around the city. And I realise in that rain that I love Dublin. The people who look me in the eye, smile and are interested in my business. Museums and libraries with endless treasures in them. The sun that appears every time after the rain. Rainbows in the sky. The Liffey with its many bridges. Musicians on the streets. On June 27th, early in the morning, I went to the airport for my next flight to Toronto. But I didn’t go anywhere. My plane broke down. I was not offered another flight because I bought the tickets through an intermediary company. I saw that I didn’t have enough money for the next day’s flight. In fact, I had only enough money to rent a room in a hostel in Dublin for a month. So, I went to the volunteers. That was my biggest lesson - I learned how to ask for help. On July 3rd, I realised that I had already arrived. Ireland is an English-speaking country. There are plenty of vacancies here. The climate is much milder. The sky has never been so close. In this country, I will plant the garden I dream of. In a week, I completed the permits, found a year-long training program and am now teaching an English course. I can see that my inner teacher has blossomed into a magnificent flower. I went to the mountains and led the group. And for the first time, not because I couldn’t keep up with the others. On Friday we will start rehearsals for the Ukrainian choir. We have already found a choirmaster. At the end of July, my ex-partner asked me to talk to her. I find a family therapist, and we start sessions with her. I get drawn back into this relationship quickly. In August, my not-ex comes to Dublin again. I’m with her all the time. We “get married” in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. In September, we fly to Kyiv to take my partner’s daughter to Dublin with us. But the relationship does not work out. I again silence my needs; my partner expresses her love through criticism and devaluation. I’m tired of leaving and ask her if she wants to look for a place to live this time. She says no. I leave. December 19th, I moved out. For the eighteenth time since Kyiv was bombed. I’m a little tired of moving away. Arklow. I must build the world around me again. I found a local art group on Facebook before I moved and asked for a choir and company for Christmas.
They gave it to me, and I’m a little surprised. February 1st, 2023. Dublin Airport. It’s snowing in Kyiv today, and I’m waiting for the plane to leave. In Ireland, it’s Imbolc, a time of hope, the arrival of spring, St. Brigid’s Day. Crosses are made in her honour. I made my first one from the branches of a tree that had been broken by the wind. I wanted it to live on. Brigits appear in my life. One of them, Breda, I sing with in the choir, and with another, Birget, I go hiking on Sundays. The third, Bri-Bri, with her bright red mane, rides her bicycle under the windows and laughs with happiness. I started my internship as a software developer at Microsoft last December. My head is bursting with new knowledge. I am going to Ukraine to hug all my friends and family, and Frosia, who lives with my daughter, until I find a place where I can live with her. Or buy my own. And I’m here to sing in a choir. And to join a philosophy school. We will talk about the garden. And when I return to Ireland, I will plant trees.