“Do not disturb us if you are from Donetsk.”
This is what you usually say when people from Donetsk want to rent a flat you have to let. You do not want us to rent your flats. You are not very happy to hire us and sometimes you even stop reading our CVs after you have seen the “place of residence” or “work experience”. You do not like our cars in your yards, we park badly and in general we do everything badly. Sometimes you even shout at us.
Still, we are not offended. We understand that you are angry with us because of the war, you think that we are to blame. It really hurts when we hear this but we hardly ever try to explain you something. Firstly, because we did not invite this war to our land and we even tried, sometimes risking our health and life, to oust the war from our territory. Secondly, because we cannot afford the luxury to argue. If we start shouting, we risk not to manage to pull ourselves together again and falling apart completely.
We are from Donetsk and we are really very strange. It will be hard for you to believe, but we are like dolls now, not like people. We have lost the most precious things we used to have and it is sometimes difficult for us to recognize our own reflection in a mirror. We have no home. We have no more home. When we realized this, something broke inside us and this is the reason why we seem so strange and ridiculous to you now. We have heard badly something you have told us, we have taken a wrong turn, we have not find a necessary street. We are often ill and we bother you with our complaints. You try to cure us but in vain, medicines do not help us, our fractures take an enormous amount of time to grow solid and we keep coughing all the time. We are difficult to deal with and we do not know ourselves what is to become of us now. We are weird as we are lost. There has already been a lost generation in history, but we are not that generation.
We are much worse — we are a lost family.
Of course, a lot of us have new homes, some people have managed to keep their possessions... You should see us when we were crying over our old anoraks and trousers which had arrived in scrunched up parcels. In our previous life we used to say haughtily that we never wore anoraks for more than one season, but in our new life our hands were trembling when we were unfolding those anoraks and burying our faces in them. You cannot even imagine what it means — to feel the fragrance of the past which does not exist any more.
Even those who have no considerable problems in their new place of living, lack the most important thing — the basis. We have been uprooted from the our soil and they have forgotten to plant us in a new place. We are like flowers on sale - dug out stems with lumps of soil on their roots. Usually, they are put into a plastic bag and left like this to wait for their new owner. So, we have been put into these sterilized bags and placed on a counter to wait for a new owner. However, no one wants to buy us. We blossom badly and it is problematic for us to grow in another place. Of course, we love your Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk and Lviv. We adore them. We enjoy their beauty. We are grateful to you for being so hospitable and caring. But those lumps of our previous life which are stuck to our souls prevent us from being happy at a new place. A lot of people are irritated when they learn this. “Oh, come on, pull yourselves together! You are in a beautiful European city now, people are so nice here, no one will hurt you. Enjoy yourselves!” But somehow we are compatible with Donetsk only.
It is hard for you to understand (and this is good that it is not happening to you!) what we feel. You think that we are stupid and naughty. However, you are wrong. We really cannot overcome ourselves.
We are scared because we have nothing to look back at.
After this weird months we are not even sure if there was any past in our lives.
If you want to understand at least some of our feelings, try to imagine this episode from a horror film. It is a usual day and you are coming back home from work. You know all the details of your way, all the traffic lights, a grocery store near your house, a birch whose branches touch your window. You go up your floor, you remember how many stairs lead there, you open your door without even looking at it... Then, you open the door, your door and you family meet you behind it. You tell them: “Hi, I am home.” They look at you in an alienated way and tell you that they do not recognize you. First, you think that this is a silly joke — this is me, what nonsense are they saying? Later, you understand that they are serious. The world around you has shifted and changed its orbit. You remember that this is your home, your family members, but you are a stranger to them.
Anna Khrypunkova, DonPress
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