Life here is fluid, changing, volatile. It’s real.When the electric goes out, our world goes dark. When the bombs fall, we feel them explode. When someone dies, we see their coffins, and we never see them again.
As I sit down to write this week, I worry that some people at home have lost interest in the war. No, not interest, appreciation for the reality of it.
This is normal, but it’s not good. The opening days, weeks and even months of a war – one that is televised, anyway – always succeed in capturing, haunting, people’s imagination.
At first, its horror is felt by viewers as though it is happening just around the corner from them. 24 hours, seven days a week, people watch in real time as cameras feed images of unthinkable, barely-believable destruction into their living rooms.
But now it seems like the pained faces of fathers forced to fight don’t hurt as much to look at. Familiarity breeds apathy, and people can get so accustomed to seeing something awful that they almost become anathematised to it.
But the horrors of the war are just as real as they were a few months ago, regardless of whether footage of it carries the same power as it once did.
However, maybe it isn’t as bad as I imagine. Maybe most people do care. Maybe.
Anyway, what I know for sure is that Legenda – the NGO I work for – have signed a landmark agreement with the Ministry for Reintegration. It cements, validates, galvanises our place as an aid organisation in this conflict. I’ll focus on that for the rest of my time today, and explain what it means for me and my teammates.
Who are Legenda again?
LEGENDA is an NGO that is now 22 years old and has recovered the bodies of around 20,000 people killed in many different wars. We have given soliders, civilians and victims of war crimes their last dignities. In terms of the deaths produced by a war, Legenda has helped everyone.
There has been a real willingness from the Ukrainian authorities to engage with Legenda, and it’s because of our ethos; everyone deserves dignity and respect upon their death.
The Ukrainians understand this at a human level. They recognise that all death is, at some level, tragic. Not everyone does. Especially not during a war like this.
Since signing the Memorandum of Understanding with the government, we’ve got our first Ukrainian volunteer.
I guess the interesting thing is that I came here as a volunteer, but now we have been conferred with a legitimacy, and with that comes a seriousness of responsibility.
At the start it felt like I was here alone. Now I feel like I am part of something bigger, more coherent and cohesive.
ON another note – a dark one – I met up with a friend who runs a charity in Lviv recently. He told me a short story. I’ll share it.
He was saying how he had lost quite a few friends recently, and recalled the morning that he attended a quiet graveyard to see one of them lowered into his resting place. A couple of months later he went back to visit the plot where his friend lay, only to find tombstones stretching far across the once featureless site, like flowers of death that had bloomed over night.
Yes, the Russians are taking humongous loses, no question, but, as my Lviv friend’s story highlights, Ukraine’s youth are also paying the ultimate price to hold onto their freedoms. Death strikes both sides daily.
Everybody needs a break
EMOTIONALLY, you need a break sometimes. I’ve realised that.
I think it is important to get out for a week, just to do some normal things.
To remember what things were like before the Ukraine war.
But, I guess, there is some fire burning inside me that really wants to see an end to all of this. It burns with a deep determination. It’s the deepest thing I have.
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