War Diaries, March 11, 2022

This was the welcome speech at the general meeting yesterday:


I want to welcome each of you and tell you that it is an honour for Paul and I to receive you here at Sichów, here in our home.


We consider you as our guests and we are here to serve you. As a woman and a mother, I am particularly passionate about your comfort and your well-being.  In particular about your specific needs.


I am also very aware of the need for you to maintain your own sense of dignity, way of living and routine, as best as is possible under the circumstances.  Paul and I are here to help you with that.


There are a few things that will be discussed today that will hopefully make our lives together a bit more united.


Finally, it is of great importance to me, that for as long as you are here, you feel the freedom of protection and safety for yourselves and for your children.


We are a community now, even if only for a little while or a long while.  Being in a community means that every voice is important.  Please do not hesitate to ask for what you need and to share your feelings if you so desire.


I have fallen in love with Ukrainian women.  I think you are formidable.  Thank you for coming into my life.


With great respect.  Pani Amber


We achieved a lot as a group, setting up rotas for cooking, keeping the fireplaces stocked and burning, getting the children organised for school and information on passports, visas and so forth.


We offered psychological help, but nobody raised their hand. Sadly, though, everyone in that meeting is suffering to some degree from PTSD.


I think you will agree how this following development in the community supports my observation.


When I came home today from the store, I was met with Marina who could hardly speak through the floods of tears.  She took me upstairs to where her things had clearly been tossed into the hallway.  Natasha is the woman with whom she had been sharing a room and the one who threw her things into the hallway.  They know each other through Marina’s boyfriend, who is Natasha’s son.  Because of the language barrier, all I could understand was that Marina had been accused of kicking Natasha’s dog.


It took me a bit of negotiation to get Marina’s phone and her shoes back from the room but when I managed to do so, I relocated her to the Palace where she is spending the next few days.  (The Palace is what we call Stefan’s house.  It’s an old 18th C. manor home; in Polish, a Dwór.)


One of the things that Marina kept saying over and over again is, ‘I can do this.  I’m in control, I’m in control, I can do this, I’m in control.’


She is not in control.  She is in shock and she is traumatised and now she has jumped on to one of these volunteer sites where people offer to take you to various parts of Europe, usually into cities where there is promised work.  She has been offered such a ride to the Netherlands and been guaranteed work to which she cannot say what type of work because, in fact, it is nonexistent work.  She has no permit and would have to register in the Netherlands and follow very tight protocols to enter such a situation.  In theory, it would be a good idea for her to be in a city but to run off to where she knows no one is not a good idea.  She has no place to stay, no money, no job and knows no one.  I think I will ask for a translator and see if we cannot somehow reach some sort of reconciliation together.


I am frightened because of the human trafficking network whose perpetrators pluck young girls from Eastern Europe and Marina is a classic catch.  She’s twenty-two, wide-eyed, pretty, naive, and comes from a broken home.  Her vulnerability makes her an easy target.


I’m very worried about Marina and can only promise to write when I know something more.


I think what strikes me most from the point of view as a witness to the trauma of war and its effect on people is how far reaching and elaborate the system of disruption is.


This young girl has now not only escaped the shelling of her neighborhood in Kharkiv, but her boyfriend has abandoned her in favour of the mother’s side of the story.  She thinks she is alone but as long as she is here, she is not alone.  I can see in her eyes that she’s not ready to leave and I want to protect her until we can find a suitable solution.  She confessed that she is very nervous and unsettled when there is conflict, and all she wants to do is run.  And run, and run.


I assured her that conflict, conflict resolution and the finesse of such things can only be learned, they do not come to us naturally.  I gave her a warm hug and shared that I am now in my senior years and conflict resolution is still a challenge, but I’m learning.  There is quite a misconception among the young that everyone else has their life in order, everyone except them.  What I did tell her, is that most people on the planet are besieged by internal chaos.  She is not alone.


We will see how tomorrow unfolds.  Anticipating Day 17.