Every day I start with crying at my desk.
Today I wake up after a half-slept night, I pour myself a cup of hot black tea and sit down at my desk to check e-mails. My Internet takes its time to load. I open my Instagram to scroll through the horrors of war as I wait for my work day to begin.
Northern NSW has been affected by floods, and one of my clients has now spent almost a week cleaning up their flooded offices and homes. The entire community has been suffering, news has been flooding in, and Australian government has been slow to act.
The Internet doesn’t load, so I message my clients to inform them. The rain starts again. It’s been over a month now – it only stopped raining for one day – last Saturday.
I look at the rain, throw my face into the palms of my hands and sob.
I cover my mouth, because I am afraid I will scream.
It’s been 14 days of war. It feels like a year!
On 24 February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine, plunging cities of the neighboring country into horror and disbelief. This isn’t Russia’s first rodeo. Russia has been invading and killing for centuries. People around me are telling me, many countries have. I find little comfort in that.
I try reaching out to two of my Ukrainian friends. Their despair and pain are impossible to comprehend. My messages don’t seem to do what I intend. I feel I make it worse so I disconnect. I disconnect from those I want to help. I think about them every day.
I start posting news, updates and resources on my social media, offering people who watch my plants and books updates information and ways to support Ukraine.
First few days into the war I feel like I have been knocked off by a shock wave – I feel disorientated, angry, afraid, clenching my jaw with a new strength.
I am due to join a Mardi Gras float, and I feel like a traitor – how dare I celebrate queer love right now, while my home country is killing people. But then I remember that love is love; it doesn’t have colours or nationalities, sexual orientation or socio-economical status.
I buy a Ukrainian flag and intend to fly it as hard as I can. I do that as I enter a Sydney Cricket Grounds Stadium filled with thousands of people celebrating their freedom while only a few dozens are on the street next door protesting against the war. “Why are you not there?”, I am asking myself as I march on. I hold my tears back to prevent my makeup from running – I want to able to see the faces of the people around me. I feel like a traitor again, so I wave my flag till my arm goes numb. I don’t feel it anymore, so I keep waving it and waving it.
Next morning, I wake up and stare into my phone before I get out to pee. I post photos and videos of my flag and I, woven with my words I am unable to contain. None of my social media friends share anything about Ukraine, so I am feeling increasingly alone. I am counting hours, waiting for the clock hand to point at the reasonable hour in Russia. I am waiting for my family to notice what I say on social media and contact me in horror or support. Guess which one it is?
I am horrified by the Russians in Russia and in Australia (!) who either support the war or say that propaganda and misinformation is a thing of the past and they don’t exist anymore.
My family begs me to stop posting about Ukraine, because it can affect their jobs and wellbeing. My father tells me that just for the use of the word “war”, Russians are threatened with prison. And my family is divided by their own values.
I block everyone I know to protect them and care for self. My heart is breaking.
I reach out to a Russian woman who has been attending and broadcasting Sydney protests on her social media, risking losing connection with her family and receiving death threats. Her heart is breaking.
I feel that the world’s heart is broken. And yet I receive a message from someone I know who says that the war sucks because their relatives in Moscow are trying to refurnish their home, and this war is making it difficult to source the material they require. I tell them that this feels like a too small of a bother in comparison with people losing their lives. They tell me all wars are bad. I find little comfort in that and unfriend them.
I get a small window of working Internet, only a few seconds, so I quickly compose and forward an email to my therapist asking to see me earlier this week. I tell her that I am feeling increasingly isolated, afraid and useless, that I have been using some of the tools to self-regulate my nervous system but as people continue to die I find it increasingly infuriating that my support of Ukraine is inconvenient for many people and dangerous for my family.
I make myself another cup of hot tea, remembering that it’s March, and must be still cold in Ukraine. I want to send them tea and hot water, blankets and ammunition.
I look at the rain again; check if my Internet is back. It’s not. I throw my face into my hands again and sob.
Such are my days here, on the island, away from the war.