February 219th

Sep 07, 2022

Seasons come to Ukraine sort of strictly by calendar. August 31 was hot and sunny, September 1st was immediately chilly with an overcast, and the leaves of chestnut trees are falling down already. It smells like autumn, it feels like autumn: you catch those glimpses of autumn shadows that make you want to put on a coat and wander aimlessly in a park with a cup of hot cocoa bought at the nearest coffee stand.

Or so it was in a previous life. That feeling pains me every time I get it, because I know I can't be as carefree and quiet as I was last year. A lot of people share their summer highlights on their social media, and it's painful to see for Ukrainians because our summer was not full of sun and beaches and fruity cocktails, it was full of death, and ruin, and loss, and pain, and all the moments of peace we did have were tarnished by war. For example, my vacation (that I promise I'm gonna tell you about) was a pretty fun one, it was a much-needed break, I met my friends and we laughed and talked and spent time at bars. But we also invented a game called a "Ukrainian test": every time you hear a sudden noise and a person flinches or stops talking mid-sentence, we say: "You passed a Ukrainian test." We also chose the bars based on whether or not they were situated underground so we could count them as a bomb shelter in case of an air raid.

It's not as dramatic as it sounds, the flinching and everything I mean. Sometimes the person doesn't even break their speech, but you can sort of see their shoulders tense, and you all share a look as a group, and you all start laughing because you all just "passed a Ukrainian test" - you got spooked when someone closed a door a little too loudly. It's silly and not that big of a deal, but also somehow deeply sad.

I personally have not yet realized that summer has ended, I have not realized that it has started, too, I am still mentally in February, I feel like my life got paused on Feb 24, and I am waiting to re-start it from that same point, and all this is some unfortunate intermission, a horrible chapter in my life that I'll be able to complete, close, put away, and never think about it again... Yes, I'll deal with this in therapy.

So, anyway, fall is here and of course, I immediately caught a cold, and honestly, that's why there were no updates. I have several drafted posts for you that I can't bring myself to finish because my head gets too foggy, but you're getting them as soon as I feel better.

Right now we are all anxiously following the news about Kherson counter-offensive. Following it without being able to talk about it. Our ministry of defense requested a quiet. They requested not to spread rumors, not to speculate, not to search for any info because military operations sometimes require quiet, and we have to be patient with our hunger for news because just a little quiet can save our boys and girls' lives. So we are keeping quiet, we are reading the same question in each other's eyes and we make an effort to talk about something else instead. Our soldiers tease us, too, when they tweet something like "OMG, there's gonna be such big news soon, but I can't say anything, but you're not gonna believe it". And all we can do is post screaming emojis in the comments because we cannot ask! They post these pics of a view of Kherson from their drones and they eat those famous Kherson watermelons that we all miss so much. I specifically haven't bought a single watermelon this year because it feels like cheating on Kherson. Every year around August we'll have these special tents set up on the streets that specifically sell Kherson watermelons. You can find them on nearly any street corner and even on highways in between cities. It's such a big symbol of summer, I still hope I get to see at least one Kherson watermelon this season.

Today I took lots of cold medicine and fell asleep. I slept for a few hours and felt much better afterward. I woke up and was so overwhelmed with gratitude for that peaceful sleep that I cried. Just taking a nap in my own bed uninterrupted by air raids or explosions is not a given for me, it's not something I can take for granted. There are people out there giving their lives for this little quiet nap, and I can no longer imagine a life where I do not appreciate things like that.

Victory will come, time will pass, some wounds will heal, some wounds will scar, maybe I will feel safe again, and my mind will be at peace, and I'll be able to wander aimlessly in the park again. I'll be nuzzling in my cozy scarf and warming my hands on a cup of hot cocoa, and all I will be thinking about is the way the autumn sun falls through the yellowing chestnut leaves. But I will never be able to forget at what cost that peaceful quiet comes.

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