Vladyslava was relieved today to wake up and learn that her apartment had still not been bombed and her cat was still alive, though hungry. A friend from the West drove to Kharkiv to put food out for her wee creature. Today is good. Two mothers and their children arrived about two hours ago from Sumy where they dodged bullets and bombs to make their connection with a driver who took them to the West, where they were able to cross the border into Poland. They are staying for one night before continuing onto Germany.
Some villagers get on my nerves. I don’t know if it’s a language barrier or a cultural one. I’d guess a bit of both. Between the trade school next door and the variety of workers wandering about on any given day, that my alcohol vanishes is no surprise. From what I understand, it’s normal to discover small things, like vodka to turn up missing. It’s part of the culture I’ve been told. We live in a small community and being an old Jungian, I remember a story that Marie-Louise von Franz told about when she and her family moved into a small village when she was still just a child. The neighbor’s son came to door to declare that his father was a kleptomaniac, but, otherwise, perfectly harmless. He reassured them that when something went missing to please let him know and he would return it as soon as he found it. As an adult, von Franz became the leading authority on fairy tales, their meaning, a superior analyst and protégé of Carl Jung.
She sites this story because she feels we need to learn how to live together again without labeling each other or institutionalising those who struggle and are challenged within themselves. And as annoying as living next door to a kleptomaniac without limitations must have been, she said her father laughed it off and they lived alongside this peculiarity for quite some time.
It’s a successful way to integrate the shadow and if we are in a small community and accept these things about others, then the collective group is likely healthier.
What’s on many a mind in the Polish countryside is the story that asks, who among the Ukrainians is rich. Are there Ukrainians who have cars, for example? How much are the cars worth? We had four women drive from the Ukraine, so their cars are of particular interest. By the way, this is not a foreign topic of conversation in the cities either.
It’s an extraordinary phenomenon that the suspicion sets up early. To begin, there is a language barrier. Add to that a lot of assumptions and narrow-mindedness and suddenly, you have an inferior group of people called refugees, immigrants who are going to take away our jobs, our money, overwhelm our cities, and result in the ruination of our economy.
There is an attitude among those who are inclined to such attitudes, for example, to buy the cheapest cuts of meat, the block cheeses with no flavour, mealy apples, and old vegetables, good enough for soup. These refugees don’t need anything new; they will survive on donations and canned fish.
Sichów is full of the most interesting people. We have artists, musicians, our little six-year-old chess player, financial planners and probably a teacher or two. In time, I will discover such things about our guests. But for now, they are my guests.
How is it that the human being can so quickly fall into fault-finding, accusation, reproach, denunciation? It must be driven by fear.
That’s where dignity and shame come into play.
Thus, I refuse to call them refugees. They are my guests. They are on equal territory and have something to teach me. I can learn from their lives.
When Vladyslava was leaving our conversation today she said, ‘You know, we don’t think in terms of dates or days of the week anymore — we think in terms of war.’ It’s been fourteen days since the start of the war. Tomorrow will be fifteen.
(I have only about one hour each day to write these diaries so do forgive if they have mistakes.)