Today I was in the same place as four years ago by chance. And so it started (the heart, as you know, wants what it wants) – what has changed in life over these four years. And it was, big deal, just the same district of the city, which I had not visited all this time.
Of course, stability appeared in the lives of all who turned out to be in Luhansk for various reasons.
Stability has quite different facets – for someone, it is expressed in work, for someone, or in two pensions here and there, and for someone – in remittances from the husband, who has found work after leaving here. But exactly four years ago, I found myself in the same area of the city in order to take my last salary from Ukraine, which, by some strange chance, fell on these outskirts of the city. At that time, as they say, stability was nowhere near. No one in my family, consisting of two pensioners, a baby and me (of legal age), received their legal payments in the form of pensions, child support and wages. And I am still tormented by the question of how and at the expense of what we survived, being nine months in this quite a strange position.
The life has returned to the pre-war scheme to some extent. That was also when in the same area of the city on the footpath, an old woman was selling medicines. Obviously, her own. She took out a kitchen stool, laid out her stock of dipyrone, peroxide, cotton, some ampoules and waited for buyers. Would the idea of taking medicine from the hands come to your mind? And I remember that only when I got home, I realized the absurdity of the situation – an old woman sells medicines between the high-rise buildings. In winter, on the street… At that moment, it seemed to me only inconvenient that she was standing right in my way. I did not see any other absurdity in this situation.
Of course, now you no longer buy vodka from the trunk or medicine from the hands. It is just about the life has returned to the pre-war scheme – they sell pills in pharmacies and underpants at the market. The roles are set.
Another strange discovery, made recently. Having met my colleague from the pre-war life, and now she lives in Kyiv, for our short conversation, she spoke about our mutual acquaintances several times in a strange way: "She is here because she has always been like that" and "What can you say about him, he is a communist, same as before".
Listening to her, I realized that with those who are there like her, - they have long kicked around us, left here. Because she responded roughly the same about all who stayed here: that we have always been like that. I did not dare to clarify "like what", fearing to learn about myself something so new that could hurt me. But I concluded that everyone who stayed here has a few common markers for those who left: that we are unreliable, unstable and weak.
And four years ago, people were in an active process of migration – some were returning, some were leaving, others were returning to leave for good, and there was no time for labels in all this strange process of movements. At that time, everyone chose how it was better and more comfortable, and now, when the roles are set and people settled down, having left or stayed, we firmly decided not to leave, the conversations about why we are here and why they are there began.
The same acquaintance, who so actively characterized those who remained here, admitted that they live in Kyiv due to the large Ukrainian pension of her father, which he gives to his daughter while he himself lives here for a local pension. "We would not have lasted long there without his money", - it is all about the same roles…
Fear. This is quite a subjective feeling, but it was all the time as a permanent condition. The fear was from the lack of money, from uncertainty and from the fact that they shoot.
My fear was expressed in the feeling of cold, which I always experienced in that period. That is, describing myself four years ago, the first thing that comes to my mind is "very cold".
I went to bed early at that time – before 9 p.m., because I did not hear the shelling in my sleep. I slept well, having warmed under a blanket. My friends joked that I was trying to "sleep away" the war. Someone could not close his eyes, and I tried to go to bed as early as possible, because sleep excluded all thoughts. And now I do not sleep so much, because there is no reason to fall asleep so as not to hear something. I had not slept so blissfully and soundly for all these four years.
There was, of course, something else – it was not so frightfully to die in your sleep. You, at least in a dream, do not wait and do not listen. Now there is no such a sharp fear. But some fear still remained – what to do next, what will happen, what will be the school for my child and what will be the future. Many questions, but, of course, this is not the total fear that was four years ago.
Loneliness. Quite a subjective category of life as well. But four years ago, some of my friends had not yet decided whether to return or not, and some still lived here. And only now we can say that no one who has left will return. And, you see, it is easy to make friends until the age of twenty, but not after forty. And each of us has a lot of new things in our life in the space of four years. We are said to be friends, but friends by correspondence and telephone calls. I am not sure that this is the best option for friendship.
Acceptance of all that is happening. Yes, four years ago, I, like many other people, believed in my heart that those who left would return and they would call me from work that was no longer there. Almost every night, I saw the same dream that my boss wakes me up with a phone call: "Hey, are you going to work today?" and I woke up with a bitter feeling of shame that I had shirked a working day. What was going on in my head at that time! It is difficult to say when the category of the present has passed into the firm position of the past and it has become absolutely clear that there will be neither that pre-war work nor those friends.
Accepting that my life before the war suddenly appeared to be past from someone's decision was very painful. For the next two years, I rushed to all my acquaintances in the pre-war life, as if they could give me a lifeline. Many avoided meetings, because each of them had their own fears, their anchors. Not everyone was ready to talk about the war, about the past or present. I met a colleague from the same pre-war life just recently, who… took some time to recognize me. He apologized later – his eyesight worsened dramatically. But for me, it was a sign that four years are still too long to keep your past so safely.
Olha Kucher, Luhansk, for OstroV