Tag Archives: #war

Just Expat Things – Day Three. Controversial Accessories

(Day Two was essentially Day One minus the sprinklers. You’re not missing anything.)




Today, the elephant in the room finally steps on me.

I was so close, though. Only one day from moving to a friend’s house, away from the constantly talking TV set, which is bad enough, and the constantly talking Russian TV channels, which is worse.

I’ve spent 90% of my awake time out of the house, and the remaining ten in my allocated bedroom. Leaving only for food and bathroom. Literally. Forced to listen to the living-room TV on those expeditions.  In the three days here, I’ve heard the TV talk about WW2 three times. One documentary. Two movies.

It’s 2015. It’s not even May. Not that I needed any proof that Russia has been bringing the 1950’s back, but. But.

Then again, whatcha gonna do, as a nation, when your last achievement was 70 years ago? (Yeah. Shots fired. Not that anyone will notice. Both sides busy firing rockets.)

My grandfather is 78 this year. He didn’t go to war, but he was alive during it. So I don’t begrudge him his memories, and the heroes of his lifetime.

I just wish he extended me the same courtesy. (Hah.)

Back to the elephant in the room. The one currently trampling around Donbas.

My grandfather is not exactly pro-Russian anymore. Not after people started seriously dying. But he will never be pro-Ukrainian.

Thing is, it’s easier when you’re pro-something. Things are more clear-cut. You can love some things and hate others. But when you’re forced to stop being actively pro-something, and don’t become actively pro-something-else, the logical outcome is to hate both sides.

The anger, it’s so real. So close beneath the surface. I kept quiet about everything and anything that could have brought it up. Stayed away from any dangerous topic. Was unaware that dangerous topics included the weather.

Kyiv was covered in smoke today. The same smoke I smelled on arrival, but more. Forest fires just outside of city, thanks to the super-dry summer.

“They said it might rain later today. Should clear the air, damp it all down.”
[vague agreement]
“I also read that they put the fire out fairly quickly, but there’s still lots of ash flying through the air.”
[instant expression of ridicule at my naivety to believe the media]
“…I mean…” [desperate backpedaling] “…obviously they’d write something like this…”  [not fast enough]

The rant about the lies in the Ukrainian media comes out of nowhere.

How you can’t believe anything they say.
(Okay, yes, it’s a good idea to take the media with a grain of salt.)

How if they say that the separatists fired artillery, that must mean that actually, the Ukrainian army did that.
(Where did that come from? I was talking about the weather, for Pete’s sake!)

How both sides are lying through their teeth about everything.
(Does that mean that when Russia says Ukraine fired, it actually was Russia?)

How everything is terrible and hopeless and everyone lies and…

I’m lacing up my boots, acutely aware of the blue and yellow bracelet on my wrist. Flag colors.

On my way to Ukraine, my mother asked me to take off my steampunk goggles if grandfather said anything bad about them. Why he would take issue with a piece of plastic on my head, I could not know. (And he didn’t.)

What I’m curious about is why she didn’t ask me to take off a much more controversial accessory. Did she forget about it? Or was she afraid of the response I would give?

I survive the rant by making several noncommittal grunts. (It’s a skill. You have to say ‘mmhm’ with the exact right intonation, neither rising nor lowering. Perfectly neutral acknowledgement, precariouly balanced on the edge between agreement and sarcasm.)

Then I escape the house, flag bracelet still unnoticed.

On my way to the bus stop (working from a downtown cafe today), I stop myself before I cry.

Look, I’m not stupid, okay? I’m pro-Ukraine. Not pro-media. Not pro-government. Pro-Ukraine. Pro people who are dying. Pro people who are trying to help them to not die. Pro people who were reporting on the war before the media did, who earned my trust back then and hold it still.

“I never claimed to be a saint.” ~Slipknot

I idealize. To survive.

I romanticize. To survive.

Am I too far outside the situation to see clearly? Maybe. I am privileged enough to be outside the situation. Privileged enough to idealize and romanticize.

But I’m not stupid. I know that life is more Game of Thrones than The Lord of the Rings. (One more reason to choose JRR over GRRM.) I know that life rarely has THE good guys and THE bad guys.

But I believe in the sliding scale. With very good on one end (which no one ever reaches), and very bad on the other (which is less populated than an idealizing mindset would prefer it to be).

And in this war, one that I am too far outside of to see clearly, I’m not assigning labels of perfect good and ultimate evil. But I will fight to defend my idea of the two sides’ positions on the sliding scale.





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