Reconstruction by Diana Shypovitch (Ukraine)
Ukraine Special Dispatch
My fingers are sore from the cold; my coat is soaked with rain. I am clinging to the blue stripe of the flag, trying to stay grounded, keeping my thoughts under control. But they scatter. I am staring blankly at people who prepare for the approaching march, while the white noise from their excitement fills my ears.
Main street is busy during lunchtime. Some, hurried by the rain, throw a quick look at us, before disappearing in the warmth of a cafe. Some stop and scrutinize our procession. Do we look silly? Threatening? Or, perhaps, miserable? Curious, I survey the gathering. Ordinary people with extraordinary hearts—they answered to the plea in the local magazine to join the march.
“Let’s go!” someone cries out, impatient to start moving.
Blue, yellow, together and separate, orange buckets, grey coats, “squak-squak” of boots in puddles. They proceed through the street, pushing me forward. I move, unable to say a word to the people whom I give a rain-beaten leaflet about Ukrainian refugees, bombed houses, humanitarian crisis and a link for donations. They seem to understand what we do the moment they see blue and yellow on the leaflet. A smile is given to me, but I catch it too late and smile back at the emptiness.
When the sun finally comes out, I realize: everyone in the procession has sore fingers and soaked clothes. Same as me. Someone holds another side of the flag. Others carry the buckets for donations. The rest distribute the leaflets. Are their thoughts scattered as well? Do they know what they are doing? They keep smiling, but their gaze is tense. Do they smile merely to reassure themselves that the march is the right thing to do? What if... My thoughts jumped from one doubt to another.
Since Ukraine has been invaded, I feel that my inner world has been invaded as well. I do not feel it belongs to me. The boundaries of my pain were crossed, and I was left with a bullet in my rationality. I have experienced the war twice. Can a person die two times? I surely did. Both in 2014, when my roots were cut, as I left the Donetsk region where I was born, and in 2022, when it affected the whole country—people I love.
This is why I concentrate on the people around me. Try to peep into their sane worlds, try to find a solution to the problem or a place to hide. Until the war ends, I do not have my world. The Me before is now a stranger, the Me now is nobody, the Me in the future...Whom will I be? I look at a leaflet for the answer and read my own words: ‘Open your eyes. Take responsibility’. Printed on the paper, they feel so distant. But they are mine. One day, these words and the actions they lead to, will define who I am.
We continue walking. I turn on the corner of the street and march, trying to reconstruct my world. Little by little. Step by step under the rain.
Diana is seventeen years old and was born in the Donetsk region of Ukraine. In 2014, she was forced to move to Cherkasy, as Russia began the war. She was abroad, studying in the UK, when Russia invaded Ukraine on 24th February. Together with her friends, she has organised marches to fundraise for Ukraine .