Usually, I don’t write in English. But I am looking at my English boyfriend, how he, a news junkie, is struggling through the Cyrillic alphabet. Being a complete beginner with Telegram for years, now he’s quickly navigating through tones of channels and using “terrorist messenger” like a pro.
The night before the war, I spent in a hotel in London. I made a mistake by booking the very last flight to the capital of Great Britain, which was late as I chose the worst airline in the world (sorry, Irish people, you have many great things but not Ryanair). I barely slept, the ridiculously tiny timezone change made my perfectly tuned body wake up at 5 am, and the first thing I saw was the notification with the only word – ВОЙНА. Over a few days afterwards, I saw people asking here and there – what does it mean? Why does everybody post pictures with this weird Cyrillic word? A couple of times, I heard Cyrillic frightens people, used to Roman letters. Well, it finally makes some sense: ВОЙНА means war.
I was born in USSR. The country that doesn’t exist anymore. I was born in a Lithuanian family that stubbornly celebrates Christmas in December, women do not change their Lithuanian last names, and everything feels right when in Vilnius. My grandparents used to say that nobody ever thought that being Lithuanian could mean being a foreigner. We got compliments on being tall and blond. And my grandfather made me speechless when once in Vilnius just opened his mouth and spoke Lithuanian. I never knew he could. He hadn’t been using it for 20 years. But he is still Lithuanian. Soviet-born. Russian passport. 100% Lithuanian.
My grandmother is a Chekhov lady. Three sisters, all stunning, strong characters, very different. The youngest one lives in Latvia, my grandmother has settled down in Russia, and the oldest has built a nest in Ukraine. Not a nest, more like a Fazenda – a big house with an enormous pear garden next to Dnipro. They are all Chekhov sisters at the end. The oldest one took the family business seriously: three kids, six grandkids, 10+ great-grandkids. I met my cousins a couple of years ago in Berlin. They live in Slovakia. One family spread across Europe. Relatives, not foreigners.
That morning I found myself sitting on a hotel bed and screaming “Суки! Суки! Суки!” Another Cyrillic word to learn, it contains all your powerless anger and hatred. It seems you were right – Cyrillic is scary. I texted my close friends. To the north of England and Munich. Both Ukrainians. I was devastated. I felt something got broken inside. It was hard to breathe. I didn’t know what to do.
It was supposed to be a lovely early spring trip to London. I meant to introduce my friend to my old long-distance lover – London. My English boyfriend thinks it’s a mesalliance. I guess he’s just jealous. It was so sunny I couldn’t believe we were in London. The sky was jeans-blue. Corona is officially over here. Instead, I got a panic attack right in the middle of a massive chaotic crowd on Westminster bridge. It seemed so normal. Like there is no war 1600 miles to the east.
On my way back, I got questioned on border control in Germany. After nine years in the country, full working proficiency in German, and confirmed naturalisation, the officer saw my passport, gave a signal to his partner, and took a questionnaire. It was unnerving. It was unknown. It was an old feeling from childhood that something terrible happened and nobody told you what. At home, I pulled out from a mailbox an invitation from the German authorities to talk about my status in Germany. “Don’t forget to bring your vaccination passport”. No details. Just come to talk.
Over the last five days, I’ve constantly been skimming through my social media. Ukrainian flags, links to the donation sources, requests for help, stories from the anti-war protests. And then suddenly somebody’s celebrating his kid’s birthday. Wait. What? DON’T YOU KNOW?! These jolly sweet posts make me cringe like in a horror movie. I see a shadow of a mad old man with nukes behind a smiling kid. Yesterday I came back to work. We had a morning sync. People were talking about new clients, exciting projects, and nice weekends. And suddenly I’ve realised: there is some life out there. There is war, and there is life. There are dead people, and there are newborns. There is a lot of hatred. But there is love. And maybe that’s why we have to stop the war. To make love.