War Chronicles-2

Another week has gone by, but there isn’t even a hint of this war’s end. What’s changed?

More people have fled – you only really see men on the streets. Those, who had doubts about leaving, mainly resolved them in favour of security. Mothers with children, the elderly, those in need of continuous medication supply; together with my colleagues around the civilian sector we help evacuate them. I consider this most appropriate, having seen other cities endure continuous shootings and bombings, with no access to electricity, heating, or food – completely overcome with war. No one can say for sure that the same thing won’t happen to us. Nonetheless, many have stayed – even families with young children. They believe in our armed forces and haven’t left despite the endless air alarms.

Additionally, many have moved into our city: everyday hundreds of fugitives from the Kiev, Kharkiv, Sumy and Southern areas show up in Cherkasy. They’re given temporary shelter in private buildings, schools, sanatoriums, and even universities. Schooling has been suspended everywhere: educational buildings are now used to harbor those who’d come in from areas of high conflict. A proportion of newcomers are in dreadful psychological state; they would’ve gone through unbelievable suffering.

Nowadays, schools are used to harbour refugees, and teaching staff are producing Tushonka (canned stewed meat) for war. Photo by Anastasia Chubinoya.

To be honest, most of us need psychological help: during the first week we were driven by the adrenalin, but now the stress has started to take its toll. You get into a state of constant emotional swings: from the heights of genuine hope of victory; to the lows of despair, convinced that this will never end, and there’s no getting back to normal life. People around me have started to question where they get all the anger, where their humanity and fear of blood have gone – people are joyful at the sight of Russian corpses and wish for cruel death of the whole of Russian’s nation, not just its military… Especially after yesterday’s bombings of the maternity and kids’ hospitals in Mariupol. Some are obsessed with envisioning scenarios in which they’re able to speak with the people of Russia and their relatives there, who’ve been brainwashed by propaganda.

Maternity hospital in Mariupol.

I am under the impression that my body has gone into “economy mode” in regard to my emotions, to preserve whatever remaining energy I may have left. I lack any violent reactions – I don’t cry, curse, nor panic. It’s as if my emotional faucet has been turned down to the minimum. I’ve been ignoring Facebook disputes and quarrels, ruthlessly unfriending people who start them. I don’t even think about Russians, I don’t try to intimidate, gloat over or get through to them. Not a minute of my life do I want to waste on that. The little strength I have left will all be spent on Ukrainian people. Who do you even talk to? What for? Those who have a working head on their neck already understand everything they need to. Others however… For example, my own aunt, who comes from Smila (a Ukrainian city) and lives in Saint Petersburg, wrote me for the first time on the 12th day of war: “Congratulations to all the women of our family with International Women’s Day!” … Far out, what could I say?! It’s all already been said for me by the border guard of Snake Island.

To support my mental health, I’ve started to allow myself “war breaks” for normal everyday affairs: drinking coffee, watching movies, painting, and having music in the background instead of news. These breaks bring back the feeling of normality, as if it’s all been a nightmare and in reality, my kids are playing in their bedroom and I have work tomorrow. Turning off the movie is now daunting because I know – it’s back to war again…

On a positive note: some coffee shops and services have opened back up. We can now have an open discussion on how we need to stop volunteering and go back to making income, for the sake of saving our country’s economy. We’ve reopened our bakery “Agroelf”. Undeniably, there won’t be much clientele for artisan goods – life has been reduced to strictly necessities. Hence, we’ve settled for making the simplest sort of bread and lowered our prices. For most, our delicious warm bread is a piece of “normality” amongst the horrors around us. We’ve also been baking for some of the places harbouring refugees, at the expense of our sponsors. We’ll try our best to stay afloat financially, with enough for rent, utility bills, taxes, we should be able to support our budget and each other.

Overall, we’ve reduced our spendings the best we could: plain food, utilities, and petrol. Fuel is hard to come by and costs almost twice as much. But now it’s too scary to have an empty tank, as it renders you immobile, so any time the gauge goes down halfway, we fill it up immediately. Things I once enjoyed now cause paranoia: I haven’t been able to take baths – only a quick shower. I’m scared there’ll be an air raid and I’ll be naked. The scariest is when a plane flies over your building during an air alarm and you don’t know whether it’s ours or not. I already know where to hide and which position is safest during an air raid, even though I haven’t had to live through that yet. So far, all rockets that have come our way, have been brought down by our Armed Forces. Due to their competence, people have started to become careless towards these air alarms: bomb shelters which were once overflowing, now see much fewer people. Citizens carry on with their day to the sounds of the sirens; you really get used to them.

Volunteers have been working 24/7, like ants, tirelessly transporting anything of value across the border and around the country: from cigarettes to bulletproof vests, from meds to generators. My phone’s been filled up with new contacts and volunteering group chats, which could get me a unicorn horn to Mars, if needed. An unbelievable self-sufficient system resembling an immune system of a giant organism: military, police, volunteers, and the government are acting as white blood cells during a time of threat. Fighting the enemy, fixing the damage and ensuring protection. We’ve been holding on together on all fronts for two weeks now – military, medical, informational and economic.

Переклад блогу англійською – Наталії Семеновської з Австралії

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