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The Dublin Spire

by Oleana D.


PHOTOGRAPH BY ALAN COMPTON

1 I happened onto the streets of Dublin on St. Patrick’s Day, and it was a kind of miracle for my son and me. I didn’t wear green or a leprechaun hat, but I felt extremely lucky to be sitting in a taxi driving through night-time Dublin after almost three days on the road. Though my eyes were closing, I forced myself to hold them open and look out the window to take everything in. Besides luck, another feeling was shifting deep inside me amongst the grief, fear, and helplessness. Relief. I felt relieved to have escaped, to be across the ocean from the country that threw bombs on our heads when we were peacefully sleeping in what we naively considered to be our castles, our safe harbours.

2 The first time I saw the Dublin Spire, its massiveness and shininess struck me which somehow brought images of the Colossus of Rhodes to my mind, though I’ve never seen it, as nobody has. We gradually became friends with the Spire, at least from my end – it helped me more than Google to navigate the city centre, always pointing to the sky and staying in the same spot, while Google may take you God knows where! I’ve heard Dubliners call it different names and I’ve laughed at the most creative ones, but for me, it’s always been the Spire and I admit it looks much better than Admiral Nelson. One autumn morning when the nights grew longer and even the early mornings, I suddenly saw my old friend as I’d never seen it before. There was a tiny light at the top. My mood was sour, tears welled in my eyes, ready to spill any moment. I took my child to school, and it meant I could no longer pretend everything was ok. Then I saw the light. It was like a distant lighthouse peeping out above the roofs, giving me hope and a feeling of safety. It was like the green light in The Great Gatsby. It was my promise that I’d return home after all.


3 The first time I went for a walk, of course I got lost. I’ve always been a homebody, feeling safe curled up on the sofa with a book, and my parents, probably finding me totally helpless, didn’t push my boundaries or encourage my independence. Frankly speaking, I think they sighed with relief when I got married and they could pass me on to my husband, who in turn continued to care and nourish my helplessness with his worry. I don’t recollect being anywhere on my own, there was always someone who remembered the way, checked maps, GPS, and tickets. And here I am, alone. I’m wandering through Dublin and feel like Alice. It’s a total Wonderland. Everything is strange and n e w. Then it struck me – I do not have any connections or memories with this city, even a single brick in a Victorian building has more memories and means more to this city than I do. It’s a heavy feeling. After a few months, I took the same route and it felt different. I felt different. It occurred to me that I left behind Lena who fled Kharkiv in February and here I am in Dublin - a new Lena. People I left at home are changing as well, living through the everyday harshness of war. Then it makes sense - a new me will meet my new people. The only thing I pray for every day, though I don’t know how to do it properly, is that my people survive, so I have them to come back to. And here again, guilt comes again - why should my people survive? Just because I love them?

4 Dublin seagulls are my love at first sight, but they scare me at the same time. Especially the one that unloaded the full contents of its stomach on my recently bought Penney’s jeans jacket. I call them Dublin cats as in my home city stray cats ask for food in the same confident and bold way. I’m taking Misha to Fighting Words in Smithfield and waiting for him, just hanging around, usually in St. Aidan’s Cathedral Park. Today I saw a seagull nesting. I’m not sure what to call a small seagull but it was big for an ordinary bird offspring. Young seagulls are funny, they’re naive and trusting, and don’t have the bold attitude of the adults. The one I saw had something wrong with its wing. The worker in the church slowly approached the bird and carefully and gently, trying not to scare it, felt its wing, trying to find the problem. I was watching the man and the seagull and felt a warmth spreading inside me. It must be a very kind city with a big heart if people care for birds that much. If there were more people like this, wars wouldn’t break out.

5 In my childhood, I was an Air Spirit (Povitrulia in Ukrainian). My father said so and so it was. I helped flowers to bloom brighter, and trees to survive droughts, healed plants, gathered herbs, wept over every dead insect or bird, and buried them then, and once even resurrected a butterfly. It was already motionless with its coloured wings hanging down, but the warmth of my hands made it move, open its wings, and fly again. The only thing Daddy didn’t warn me about is that adult life is not easy for an Air Spirit. Hugging a tree or leaning on it to get strength won’t help. That I must grow skin, layer by layer like armour to hide my vulnerability and survive. But one day you realise that despite all your vulnerability, you’re strong because the earth holds you, because in your hair there are still cornflowers and feather grass from the wreaths you braided in your childhood, that a steppe wind lives in your breath and the sun’s rays are in your eyes. You learn that you become strong when others are weak, and the world is falling to pieces around you. Somewhere far away, in the green steppes, a little girl in a blue dress with a wreath made from wildflowers and a feather grass on her head is running towards the sun and dry spikelets are catching her sunburnt legs. She’s running towards the wind, towards her future.

One day I’ll come back to her, to those steppes and meadows where everything holds a subtle fragrance of childhood and of carelessness, where the wind shakes the feather grass and birds sing lullabies. One day I’ll come back to the world without war.


6 I wake up long before dawn when everyone is still sleeping, fright like a sticky spider prevents me from breathing. I reach for a jacket and galoshes, trip over the cat running through the hall and, barely restraining the cursing, go outside. It’s cold, that special raw, biting air that happens when spring doesn’t arrive for a long time. The inky sky twinkles with stars and bursts of explosions. – They’ll be here soon. We must go – a thought flashed by. My family has been persuading me to go away with my child while we still have the bridge and are able to leave. But where to go? Everything here is so familiar and dear, my place of childhood, which gives me strength and creates the illusion of safety. I kneel and squeeze a lump of earth in my palm. The icy chernozem digs painfully into my skin. Closing my eyes, I try to feel hope, but despair comes instead. Tomorrow. I’m leaving tomorrow. The bag is still empty, and anyway, how can you pack your whole life in there, and put your family in it? The very thought of leaving is painful, all I want to do is to hide under a blanket and curl up. If you don’t see the evil it doesn’t exist, right? You should have faith – a neighbour said whose son had fought on the frontline. Does she still think the same now when her son died a hero? She said recently she dreamed of him smiling and standing under a blooming apple tree, his smile grew wider, and his shoulders were gradually covered with white petals, which made his arms look like wings. Where to get those wings to wrap around my land? When I come back, will I come back? Will we ever be back to our old selves? Can we become who we were before they killed our carelessness, took away our light-heartedness, stole our innocence, and almost killed our dreams? Will we still be able to laugh and at the same time not cry, knowing the price? We have grown a century older. The first ray of the sun peeks hesitantly from over the horizon, a new day is beginning. I carefully wrap the lump of soil in an old handkerchief that belonged to my grandmother. Wherever I go, I’ll take it with me. I stand up and stay in the garden for a while looking into the distance.

7 A friend of mine made a post on Facebook about circular guilt. It resonated with me. I feel guilty for leaving my parents and my husband. Friends who stayed feel guilty they are endangering their children. Volunteers feel guilty because they don’t do enough and even soldiers at the frontline feel guilty because they’re still alive and lots of their friends are not. Only the people living in the neighbouring country who said black is white, and called war peace are living without guilt. Why is the life of a human not at the centre and focus of all events and decisions? How can humans extinguish one another? When I came to Dublin I visited the memorial of the Dublin- Monaghan bombing and that’s how my interest in Irish history started. I visited the GPO and Kilmainham Gaol. In the jail, I didn’t feel the spirit of Paddington Bear that was filmed there but instead, grief and despair. The guide in Kilmainham was bursting with stories, he so vividly described the last days of the prisoners before they were shot, read letters they wrote before their deaths, and took us to the yard where that sentence was carried out. I felt some inner spiritual similarities between our nations, nobody ever called us a colony, but the choice of words sometimes doesn’t mean a lot. My country is fighting now for freedom just like the Irish people did. Freedom comes at such a tremendous and horrible price that I do not know how to justify it. I do not remember who said, “Better die standing than live kneeling,” and once I said it aloud as if tasting the words and my cousin answered, “And what if I do not want to die at all? What if my children and I just want to live?” I think I’m weak. I agree and support all our national ideas but when it comes to the lives of our people it’s just not enough to justify their deaths. Life is fragile, it’s like a dandelion’s fluff, once blown, can never be gathered again. And our people with their hopes, ambitions, high education, and noble dreams - are fertilising dandelions now. Sometimes it hurts so much I can’t breathe, it’s suffocating. But what are the choices? We’ve seen Bucha, Irpin, and Izum. We know what happens to us if we surrender, we simply have no choice left and we should live and live long and find happiness to justify the lives of those fallen, those who protected us.


8 Yesterday was a blissfully sunny day and I was walking along the alley covered with fallen leaves and the sun reflected rainbows from the tiny droplets on their wet surfaces. It’s amazing but I’ve never seen as many rainbows in my whole life as I did for several months in Ireland. Probably all those legends about the leprechauns are true! Frank Sinatra was singing “My Way” in my headphones and once again these simple yet powerful lyrics made me emotional and reflective. How is it possible not to love Frank Sinatra? I’m ok with not everyone being a huge fan of his but when you hear the power of his music and words it makes you humble and mighty at the same time. If I could travel back and give only one piece of advice to my younger self, I would say to not be afraid to make mistakes. It mightn’t sound relevant in Western or European society and Ukraine is in Europe after all, but the legacy of a post- soviet country still hangs over it. Our society with its wisdom like, “Think twice, do once,” literally freezes young aspiring minds and they stop even before trying, the fear of possible failure numbs them, it’s wing-clipping in words. Don’t be afraid to try, to fail, to brush off, and start all over again. Take your hobby seriously and have the courage to admit if that’s what you want regardless of others’ opinion, whether it’s fashionable or profitable. The mistakes are not actually mistakes, they are your unique way to gain experience, so later you can reflect just like Sinatra sang, “My Way.”



9 I put my hand into the back pocket of the bag and my fingers touch something metal and cold. Bewildered, I reach in and pull out a set of keys. For a few seconds, I simply look at them, accepting all the feelings that flood through me. They are the keys to my home, for an apartment I’m not even sure exists anymore. The red metal magnet opens the hall and I come into the humid and a bit mouldy premises with lots of metal post boxes that can be opened with another small key. Then there are two keys for my apartment that open the doors to my fortress. You know, I’m sociable and like people but most of all I value the moment when I close the doors of my apartment. That’s it, I’m inside, I’m safe, I’m home. I wonder if I’ll feel the same way when I return, provided the apartment is undamaged. Probably yes, as the feeling of safety sometimes has nothing to do with safety itself. Your memory and consciousness are just playing games with you. My favourite key is this little silver metal one. It’s for a small cottage in the Kharkiv region in eastern Ukraine, now it’s no longer occupied territory and I know that it survived. Our neighbour wasn’t as lucky though. When he went to look at the ruins of his house, he sent me a picture of my roses. I’ve lots of them, most are David Austin roses with fancy names, beautiful flowers, and delicious aromas. They are blooming wildly and generously without me. This small piece of land and cottage is my treasure. We used to spend weekends there while it was warm. I used to wake up early when the whole world was still sleeping or at least it felt that way. I went outside and the day met me with the gentle sun, morning dew, fresh wind, and promise. I brewed coffee and went around the yard, noticing all the changes that happened at night: new flower buds, longer stalks, new leaves, birds, and changes of colour. I felt happy and content. Then I sat in a rocking chair under a huge walnut tree and read a book until neighbours and family woke up and filled the day with buzzing and noise. There is also a small metal palm on the key set. It’s a Jewish hand with some symbols and a fish on the other side. My husband put it on my keys, and he got it from his best friend Kiril. He’s half Jewish and I’ve known him as long as my husband, he’s the godfather to my son and an amazing person. Their friendship is incredible, they’ve been friends since primary school. I think I’m not as good at keeping people near me for so long. People need attention and time, and I am always busy reading or doing something. Kiril is a frequent guest in our house, I mean, he used to be. I miss him, he’s the type of person with whom you can be comfortable, even silent, no words are needed. I think the meaning of words is overestimated as a means of communication.


10 I’m happy that Ireland is not that different in nature from Ukraine. First, I discovered dear oaks, apple trees, roses, and clematises with the excitement of a child. Once I even found a periwinkle, it’s our symbolic plant. I guess it makes me less homesick in some way. Of course, we have colder winters and hotter summers when everything dries out and only some greenery is left by the end of August. Remember those three scorching days last July? We’ve almost all summer like that, so rivers and ponds and tons of ice cream are our salvation. Winter is usually snowy and frosty, though last year due to climate change it was more like late Autumn with mud and puddles and only a few weeks of real winter.


11 Today I’m remembering how the war started for me. Should every generation have its war and the “luckiest” ones even several? I’m looking back at the events of February not because I want to but to remember and pass them on. My grandmother who survived World War II and famine says that our memory is an unreliable source sometimes as it tries to smooth something out to protect our psyche. We left Kharkiv in the evening before the Day. When I saw the video that Russian tanks were very close, I’d no illusions left though we still tried to believe and hold on. We decided to visit my parents, just a usual visit. We took some things to last a few days and our cat, who wasn’t very happy and expressed it with loud meows all through the journey. There were rumours the city would be closed at 12 and in a hurry, we took my nephew and three of his friends who wanted to leave. Though the car was packed with people, nobody uttered a word during the 4-hour drive. My head was like a beehive, I could neither organise my ideas nor control them. We passed a column of military vehicles moving our way, it was as if somebody put me inside an old war movie or a computer game, it didn’t feel real but that was the moment I woke up and started calling my friends. I told them we were leaving the city and urged them to do the same. Some were silent, and others teased and joked. They ended up trapped in the shelled city and only managed to leave later with great risk and danger. We arrived at my parents’ house at night, ate and went to sleep. I remember my friend called me at 5.30 in the morning, her voice trembled, and she said they were bombed. The next thing she asked me was how were we going to go to the swimming pool now? In September we enrolled in a crash course as we were both beginner swimmers but wanted to compete in the Bosphorus Cross-Continental Swim in August. I still remember this phrase so clearly as it combined two opposing things - war and dreams.


Now, reflecting on the past, I’m thinking of so many things I put off ‘until later’, for a more convenient time but now I understand that you shouldn’t put anything off at all, as life will do that for you. Just do it or cross it out.


12 It all started with a snowflake, at least that’s how I remember it. Watching a snowflake circling and dancing, unwilling to land, I imagined a ballerina on ice. That’s how my dream of figure skating was born. The nineties were chaotic and known for complete unpredictability and feeling of loss in my country. The Soviet Union was falling apart, and people had to be creative to survive and provide for their families. My father worked as a coal miner and took odd jobs. One of the most profitable ways was to contact old storehouses that had some goods and then to find people who wanted to buy them. Basic economics that worked. One of these goods was white leather figure skates with an embroidered snowflake on the boot. Probably at that time, feeling the rough stitches of that snowflake, I’d found my dream the second time. My parents even considered the idea of giving me a pair, but a child’s foot grows fast, and ice rinks appeared in my town only if weather conditions created them in winter. Years passed, I grew up, left home, went to university, got married, and had a child and life took me into a whirlpool of daily routines with little time to reflect or dream. And guess what? At five years of age my child went into figure skating but lasted only a few seasons because it wasn’t his driving force, it was my unrealized dream. I remember that day when I came to the skating rink. I expected to see people clumsily grabbing the rail and dramatically falling and believe me, most of them didn’t disappoint me. Then I saw a different team of people circling a young girl, who was obviously their coach. They fell as well but in a more interesting way than others and while performing elements, not just gliding or performing a basic stroke. That’s how I found my coach, my team, my inspiration, my friends, and my soulmates. I learned how to glide, turn, to perform basic elements, spin, to jump (nothing fancy, just the basics). We even compete in amateur figure skating competitions, it’s like a test of your skills - no matter how well you know your program, it doesn’t count until you perform everything, operating on nerves and in front of the public. When I say “learned” I’m not being completely honest as it’s a constant process of advancing your skills, of rising to another level. It’s never boring and, on our team, we always laugh over a good joke, it’s never hot like in a gym and though you sweat if you work hard, you’ll always cool off as a bonus. You come to the training (and believe me, it happens a lot because ice skating is addictive!), you take off your plastic skate guards, it’s a bad idea not to, as you risk falling flat on your knees and then you won’t be able to skate for a few weeks. You start gliding, warming up, performing elements, practising edges, spinning, jumping, and of course falling. I’m a queen of falls, I usually land in the utmost unusual position but with time you learn how to fall so it is safe or doesn’t hurt much, or even brings fun like gliding on your stomach across the length of the ice with arms outstretched like a pigeon. I feel alive more than ever on ice, bursting with energy even if I was limping all the way to the skating rink and was sleepy and tired, it gives me freedom and energy, you are the champion of the world as you always overcome yourself, your fears and insecurities, push your boundaries and challenge yourself. Figure skating gives me a feeling of wholeness and makes me feel complete. My favourite skating trick is to gain speed, then suddenly turn the blade in the opposite direction, this abrupt movement makes you stop, the blade cuts the upper surface of the ice, and tons of tiny snowflakes will fly and land on you. With every turn of the blade, I gain confidence to be all I can be.


13 I come outside and the day surprises me with lots of light. It often happens when you emerge from a gloomy premises, like Thumbelina out of a mole’s burrow. The sun shines and the air is clear and crisp, I feel excited - I’ve just been discharged from the hospital after spending two weeks after appendicitis surgery. I said farewell to my doctor and gave him a bouquet of flowers bigger than me. The doctor smiled and patted me gently on my head. My father is already waiting outside with my things packed. I walk quickly towards him, and my pace turns into running when I remember a promise of ice cream. The birds are chirping, and I feel like one myself, ready to fly at any moment. When we turn the corner, I see a big crowd of people wearing dark clothes, some are crying, and I feel sadness and grief. An uneasy feeling is shifting inside me and climbing up my throat, clutching at it. I tug on Daddy’s sleeve, – What’s that, tato? My father is silent, and I see that many thoughts are flashing on his face - he’s choosing words. - It’s a funeral procession. Our soldier came back but in a coffin. We are fighting in Afghanistan. I’ll see many processions like that in the next few years. Most of the soldiers were 18 or 19 years old. - Why are we fighting, Daddy? – I asked him. - It’s our international duty to help people in Afghanistan, – he answers and falls silent again. I’m six years old and I don’t understand how somebody’s death can help anybody. I want to ask Daddy but one look at him tells me that he’s not able to deal with my existential questions now. I’m six and it’s the first time I’ve experienced war, something incomprehensible and intangible. I’m six and it’s the first time I’ve encountered death if you don’t count the old cat at my grandparents’ house. The sun still shines, and the air might be crisp, but I don’t hear the birds anymore and the ice-cream mood has evaporated.

14 I was a happy child. Unlike my son, I’d the luxury of predictability and safety in my life. My parents were from the countryside, so my sister and I were the first generation of town-born in our family. Town didn’t mean a lot in my life. I was born in a small miners’ town of which I’ve vague memories of kindergarten and primary school, then moved to another, very similar one from where I remember secondary school. It didn’t play a major role in my life in contrast to the countryside where I spent all my holidays - autumn, winter, and my absolute favourite - of course, summer. Remember that movie -- The City Mouse and the Country Mouse? I’ve always been amazed at how different I was in the village. The city’s serious and home girl disappeared and a free spirit eager for adventure was born. Do you remember that time when you felt greedy for time, afraid to miss something interesting, reluctant to go to bed and wake up so early that it annoys everyone except your loving grandmother who wakes up even earlier and never minds company? I was blessed in so many ways - both grandparents on my father’s and mother’s sides were still alive, though I preferred my mother’s ones. Great grandmother lived with them. I got many years with her, she lived long, and I had many stories of our family’s past, of our country’s history. Every morning was crisp with freshness and filled with wonders of the upcoming day. Adventures were everywhere: in the books I read, in the stories I told, in the games we played. I always had the company of one or two cousins and neighbours’ kids. My cousin was my best friend and I believed it was forever. I didn’t know yet that in life people drift apart, they develop separate memories, live separate lives and even outgrow each other. But the beauty of childhood is in the naïveté, the feeling that everything is as it seems.


I read books about pirates, lost treasures, secret islands, Indians, and true friendship. I looked for the same emotions and feelings in real life and demanded such unconditional friendships as well. Summer flashed by like a falling star. We spent the entire day outside, with a short visit inside when granny forced us to eat or in the evening when it was time to wash our almost- black-with- sunburn and all scratched and bruised (we fell a lot) little bodies and grab a mug of still warm milk from the cow. August was memorable for honey in the combs. My grandfather planted all possible fruit trees, different types of grapes, berries and kept many beehives. When it was honey time, all my friends came to us and we were chewing sweet honeycombs, drinking warm milk, and then spitting wax. August was also a sad time, a moment to say goodbye until the next summer or at least until the autumn holidays. Grandfather took me to the garden where, among the beehives lots of multicoloured asters bloomed. I pointed and Grandpa cut and folded me the flower till the bouquet was so big I could hardly hold it. - Stop, leave some to bloom for the bees! - I laughed. - Bees will go to sleep soon, and you need the most beautiful bouquet — he answered. We got into the car and went home to town taking summer with us. The house became empty, but my grandparents said they would still hear our voices and laughter. When I grew up, I continued to come to the village, but not as often. It amazed me how small everything appeared as if it had shrunk, though of course, it hadn’t — it stayed the same, but I’d grown. It’s still my place of power, I go there when I need to think or recharge my batteries, though it’s not the same anymore. First, it changed when my great-grandmother died, then my grandfather. He seemed to be the super glue that held us all together and after his death nothing was the same. With every person that dies a huge piece of life connected with this person falls away, leaving emptiness behind. We bring our children trying to fill it with laughter and noise, but they don’t feel the same way about this place. It was the place where we hid from the war after leaving Kharkiv but even there it didn’t feel safe anymore. It’s the place where my parents and my 91-year-old grandmother are now, still holding the glue.

15 Dublin is putting up lights and Christmas decorations, lights of hope. Weird but it doesn’t fill me with the warmth and wonder as it used to. This year I’m only watching, not participating in all the festivities and even though I’ll still buy an advent calendar for my son, it doesn’t feel real. No Christmas spirit this year, no miracles. I’ve always loved winter since I was in kindergarten and Daddy used to pick me up on a sled and I was sitting all wrapped in blankets, looking at the starry sky while Daddy was pulling the sled with me, and the frosty snow crunched under his feet. Frost is strong in Ukraine, though now it only stays a few weeks due to climate change but in my childhood, we had snow and frost for all three of the winter months. Warm clothes and hats and mittens, boots with fur inside to keep you warm. Until recent years fake Christmas trees were not popular in Ukraine, and we are like barbarians who cut real trees and put them inside our homes. First, the tree is cold and unwelcoming but soon it starts to fill the air with its fir tree aroma, and the pinecones dry out and start cracking. Festivity and a wonderful mood envelops the house, encouraging everyone to dream, and reflect. I am trying, desperately trying to revive those fragrances that filled the house of my childhood or of my own flat but nothing, just a blank page comes to my mind. For me, the New Year and Christmas are about my family gathering and that is not going to happen this year. It’s the second time I’ll spend the winter holidays alone, away from my family. It’s funny but the first time was also with my son but in the hospital, only that time I was pregnant with him.


16 Do you ever lose moments? Those tiny, precious moments that adorn our lives like sparkling stars in the sky? Those that fill you with wonder, joy, and gratitude. I’m hurrying into the canteen, and I freeze, startled by the beauty of the picture - the evening sun spreading its colours over the lawn and the lake, the air is chilly and fresh. I stay for a few seconds and wish I could stay longer to admire the beauty of the moment. I promise myself to stay longer the next time, to specifically plan the time for it and of course, I don’t. In the same way I don’t go early to admire the sunrise, to sit near the tree in solitude, to meet my friend and so many other things I put off for tomorrow, or later and risk that those moments will never come at all. How many promises did we break? Promises given to the dearest person in the world – yourself. It’s about putting something aside as well for later. Now reflecting on my past life in Kharkiv I’m horrified by how many things I planned that I didn’t realise! I remember in March I promised myself to never put aside anything, but it doesn’t work. Interesting how someone can limit her life by cutting out possible moments and not allowing life to bloom fully and open in all its beauty. “Carpe diem!” - they say, and we try. Maybe if we treat our life’s small things and moments seriously and try to be mindful, it will work?

17 Saturday smells different when you’re little. I wake up to a delicious aroma floating from the kitchen and sneaking in there I find my mom cooking potato pancakes (deruny in Ukrainian). It’s a time-consuming dish: first you peel potatoes, then wash them, grate them with the smallest grater, add an egg, salt, flour and mix the dough. Pre-heat a frying pan, pour in some vegetable oil and fry on one side until a golden crust appears, then turn it over. It’s heavenly delicious served with sour cream. Weekends are special because Mom doesn’t have to hurry to work and can cook everything we love - pancakes, chicken Kyiv, pies, jelly, donuts, cottage cheese muffins, varenyky (dumplings with different stuffings). They say cooking and feeding is the Ukrainian language of love and it probably originated in the famine of 1932-33 (Holodomor) but I think hospitality and tables loaded with food have always been a major part of our culture. We gather round the table and enjoy a very long breakfast, savouring every bit of food and talking and laughing. I like weekends because you don’t have to hurry, you slowly wake up and listen leisurely to the sounds around you. You think that Mom is cooking in the kitchen and then you suddenly remember that you’re the mom now and you’re responsible for the morning magic. It seems like magic doesn’t happen on its own, but does it mean it should be called work now? When I visit my parents, I feel like David Copperfield – I can travel back in time, and mornings take me back to my happy childhood when they were long, stretchy, and filled with wonder.

18 To create my mood, you’ll need lots of things, but you may use just a few and that’ll do: · The smell of the sea · Wind rustling the leaves · Pebbles crunching under the feet (better bare feet) · Sunticklingyournoseandgivingyouwrinklesaroundhappyeyes · Kids laughing · Coffee aroma instead of an alarm clock · Tiny raindrops washing your face · A glimpse of the sun peeking out of the clouds.


19 Memory works in a strange way. Recently I remembered when I was in kindergarten our teachers demanded that we napped (our country kindergarten is up to the age of 6-7 and a day nap is required) on our sides and put both hands under our heads. I couldn’t fall asleep like that. I twisted and turned but was always corrected and instructed to lie correctly. Soviet Ukraine didn’t respect freedom even in such small things. Oddly enough now when I feel extremely anxious and can’t fall asleep, I lie on my side and put both my hands under my head. It gives me a warm feeling of security. My memory created a file and added it to my safety mode.

20 I often speak to my friends — understandably it’s easier with those who left the country than those who stayed. It’s interesting that in most cases our worries and concerns are the same, but how differently we’re coping with new lives and settling down. Lots of people can’t accept their new reality, they live in the past, explaining to me that their lives are on pause. It wasn’t easy in February and March, even in April to accept the reality but I felt that it was something that pulled me down, held me back. You can’t pause your life, it goes on, second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, week by week, month by month. Nine months already since we woke to the horror of war. I can’t change the situation or justify what’s going on, I can only do my best every day and hope that when the war ends, I can bring new benefits to my country with everything I’ve seen and learnt.

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