The anniversary that was (not) meant to happen
Kinds of thoughts you might have when your country has been at war for a while
Today is my mother’s anniversary. She is 60 today. She hates her birthdays. She hates getting older. She hates to fight with my father prior to almost every family celebration. And today, on the day of my mom’s birthday, they are not talking again. Because one should never break family traditions. She is working today, tending to her patients, always loyal to her calling. I want to be there for her today. I want to hug her. And make her a cake. And sing her a happy birthday. I want to tell her that everything’s alright. Or that everything will be alright. I know that everything will be alright, but I don’t know when. And nobody knows.
Today should have been very different. My parents were supposed to come and visit me in Odessa, and stay in my little flat in the city center. That’s because I used to live in a small cute flat in the very center of the beautiful and majestic Odessa only three months ago. On this day we were supposed to take a coffee to go and stroll along the Prymorsky Boulevard. Today we were supposed to enjoy a meal in one of the cozy inviting restaurants. My mom and I would want to go to one of the Italian ones, but my dad would absolutely insist on one where they serve fish. Today we were supposed to feed seagulls at the beach. My dad was supposed to tell one of his many not-so-funny-but-adorable jokes and after that my parents were supposed to start talking about the old days, which would be boring, but cute anyway. Today we were supposed to be a family.
On days like this I get very angry. I get angry because I can’t help, but imagine what my life and the life of my loved ones was supposed to look like today. On days like this I can’t help, but think about all the things that I had to lose, and that we all had to lose, because the Russian government decided that we were in need of saving. I can’t help but think when I see my family and friends again. And when the war is over. And when I get my life back. And if there will be anything left for me in the city that I was in love with, that I wanted to make my home. I can’t stop thinking about my Kharkiv, the city where I spent the first 20 years of my life and that used to be my home. I can’t stop looking at the photos from my last visit. It was beautiful, charming, and alive. And now, now it’s in ruins.
On days like this I’m angry. And I’m asking: Why? Why should it have happened to us? Why is it continuing to happen to us? And how much time, resources and lives have to be wasted for the devil to stop?
On days like this I’m careful. I remind myself that I should never take for granted my security. And a chance to have dinner with my parents. And to hug my best friend. And to live in the city of my choice. And to have a walk in my favorite park. And to drink coffee in my favorite coffee place. And to have a chat with my colleagues. And to go to the beach in winter. And to enjoy the nightlife in the city where there is no curfew. And so many more and’s.
On days like this I’m grateful. I’m grateful to be alive and to feel alive. I’m grateful to have people who hold my back. I’m grateful to be able to continue working and sharing my knowledge with my students. I’m grateful to be in love and to feel this love inside me, no matter how unrequited it is. I’m grateful that my loved ones are safe. I am grateful to know that they are fighting. And I am fighting to. For my mental health, my present and my future. For my parents, my friends, my home and my country. For the chance to turn every “should have” into “is” and every “would” into “will”.
I need to believe that in a year, on my mother’s next birthday, we will go to Odessa, and we will walk along the Prymorsky Boulevard, and we will fight over which restaurant to chose, and my dad will tell ridiculous jokes, and we will laugh anyway. I need to believe and I need to fight. It’s the only way.