War Diaries, March 29, 2022

‘For the good of society, should cosmetic facelifts be prohibited?  Are they a crime against humanity?  What you do to your visible image has societal implications.  Your face is the Other for everyone else.  If it no longer bares its essential vulnerability, then the grounds for caring, the demand for honesty, the call to respond on which societal cohesion rests have lost their originating source.’  James Hillman, The Force of Character


The call to respond.  There is no one here whose face has been cosmetically altered.  Visible on each one is the disturbance and the surprise of war.  Their vulnerability exposed, there is no filter.


In one sentence I can tell you that Daria’s husband is now here with us at Sichów, though I will not be able to say how he managed or by what means.  When he came to my room last night, the face of relief greeted me.  A mixture of relief, gratitude, disbelief, wonder was all at once discernible.  Daria, on the other hand, had only one distinguishing emotion coursing through her entire body and that was the overwhelming presence of joy.  The human spirit, its will, had prevailed over death and destruction and war, at least in this story.


Earlier in the day, Y. came running up to Paul looking for a ride to Warsaw.  Her tear-stained face, unmistakably anxious.  She wants to run vests and protective gear to the other side of the border.  This is a frequent activity from what I understand, but I have no idea the risks involved.  What I do know is the impulse to do such a thing is driven by desperation and fear.  Not everyone will survive this war, which means that at some future celebration, some wedding, some baptism, some Easter Sunday morning, a family member will be noticeably missing.  There will be more graves and more grief and more tears with each passing day.  How do we know the fate of all the brothers, fathers, uncles and husbands related to the women here?  The likelihood that one of these women will be left widowed with a fatherless child is highly probable.  Thus, Y. does what she can.  In a moment of helplessness and despair, she runs military supplies to those she can. 


Irina’s blood pressure has been running high since she ran out of medicine.  She waited to tell us and then had to go to the doctor yesterday morning.  I wish she had come earlier to us but at least it’s been resolved for the time being.  The call to respond.  Without one word spoken, through hand gestures and a look of disquiet, her need for help was conveyed.


Before bedtime, Marina came knocking at the door to our room.  She was visibly agitated.  Something was wrong with Danilo, her five-year-old boy.  He had a high temperature, and she had no medicine.  Paul leapt into action, grabbed the children’s acetaminophen and joined her at her quarters.  I jumped into the car to warm it up because she was insistent on going to the hospital.  But after about twenty minutes, his temperature was going down, though Paul said Marina was a mess and that every move the child made she would jump up and hover over him.  Paul was finally successful in convincing her that the medicine would work and with rest he should be fine.  Even Danilo said, ‘Mama, please let me sleep.  I just want to sleep.’  From what I understand, it was a sleepless night for Marina, but Daniel is feeling better this morning. 


The call to respond.  Marina’s husband had brain surgery, three times. The neurological damage has left him with a face that doesn’t ever change expression.  I can’t imagine what it’s like to be in this situation with two children, one sick, and a husband who is limited and unable to make decisions.


Everyone is looking for work.  It’s the topic of discussion at the table; it’s the look of apprehension on everyone’s face. 


We are developing a work program here, but it takes time.  We are looking to provide one that will make integration for our residents as seamless as possible.  Ideally, a work-study program, whereby one can also learn the language and then leave with references when the time comes to do so.  It’s very important because there is already an emerging resentment among the locals where our residents are concerned.  The Ukrainians are offered free public transportation.  In my own home, there is the occasional raised eyebrow because I buy good jam for the table.  Today, one of the women who work here declared how much work there was, and when I asked what I could do to lessen or redistribute duties, she suggested I put the residents to work. (Without pay, of course.)  I asked what would she have them do?  They already clean their own rooms and bathrooms, they cook for themselves, and they clean up the kitchen afterwards, they rake leaves and are altogether most helpful; did she have a particular idea in mind.  ‘The windows,’ she blurted out.  The windows, I mused.  We do the windows only twice a year.  It’s quite a job and we usually hire others to help.  So, we do.  Besides, she muttered, it’s going to rain tomorrow.



I am growing in my faith in a way I never saw coming.  I am learning to actually trust.  I am learning a deeper patience.  I have lowered my expectations to a level that allows me to be more open-hearted with those who cannot.