The Sudden Voices of War

an improvisation of the Ukrainian flag, acacia tree against midday sky, American River Parkway 3/01/2022

I wake this morning from a swirl of dreams about traumatic injury and hazmat suits and treasures swallowed by a swiftly rising sea. Stretching long, I offer a prayer before rising, use the toilet, give Mocha a belly rub, turn on a reading lamp, prop myself up with a large pillow at one end of the sofa, cover myself with an afghan, one made for me by my grandmother. I write down my dreams.

“. . . . I end up at a beach with a small box of treasures. I’m looking for something to add to it. I put the box down and the sand swallows it. I am shocked at how fast it disappears and becomes irretrievable. . . .”

Comforts and solitude on all sides, I log in to my computer and search for the news story that will not leave my mind. I recall Inna Kozub, a mother who spoke to a journalist from her safe space in the Kharkiv subway, and Vladyslav Stadnyk, a father from Kyiv, both Ukrainian parents and now the voices of war. I find the story and rewatch the four-minute video segment. I read the abbreviated transcript.

Thinking of the mug of coffee I will enjoy soon, I pull the afghan over my cold toes and reread the words of Inna: “People are very frightened who is in apartment, because they hear constant bombing. And I understand how lucky we are because we’re in the subway station and don’t hear it.”

The sky lightens to what will be a day of mask-less errands, writing group, and gardening as I reread the words of Vladyslav: “What is absolutely incredible is how quickly all of us just simply changed. . . . I have — I have a regular job, like everyone else, which I go to 9:00 to 5:00. I travel a lot. I do a blog about heavy metal music for myself. Yet all of these things are — just suddenly became absolutely unimportant. And you understand that the only thing which is important to you is the safety of your family first, and then the safety of your country.”

I contemplate Inna and Vladyslav’s words in the English that is not their first language. I admit that this humbles me. I feel the arrogance and constraints of being monolingual in a moment when American media is drawn to broadcasting the voices of Ukrainians who speak English (as a second, third, or even fourth language) to capture the attention of the viewing audience. I acknowledge that many others, in Ukraine and other countries across the globe, also have voices and stories of war that American news outlets rarely convey from their mother tongues, because those voices, like mine, are monolingual. The morning has me feeling privileged in sudden ways, a new translation of terms. A warm cup of coffee, a whole sofa to myself, and a warm blanket made by grandmother’s hand.

Today I planned to post the final in Min Otroliga Svenska Resa aka My Incredible Swedish Journey series. With that on hold for a week, I invite you to go the PBS Newshour link to hear the voices of Inna and Vladyslav for yourself.

May peace prevail.

screenshot and LINK to page featuring the voices of Inna and Vladyslav

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