I wrote these lines sitting on the balcony of my grandma’s apartment, smoking and watching a big flock of crows fly over the roofs of khrushchevka houses, already covered with snow. The crows flew to the west, as if running away from something terrible.
11/22/22. It’s been nine months since I came to Ukraine. One day later, Russians launched a rocket attack on Kyiv, killing at least ten people and leaving the city without electricity and heat. The blackout lasted for 36 hours. Kyiv submerged into the cold and darkness. All of this time, I didn’t know what was going on in the outside world. It felt like a vacuum. At the end of the blackout, I almost ran out of gas but managed to make coffee and heat up some food. I’m still struck by the absurdity of this situation, taking place in our times of technological and social progress.
Before February 2022, I haven’t been in my homeland for almost eight years. In 2014, I moved to Portugal, trying to arrange a resident permit. My immigration process got stuck, locking me up without chances to leave the country. When I finally received the resident card, I got tickets to Kyiv and landed in Ukraine two weeks before the invasion.
After 8 years, Portugal has become my home. During this time, I have changed a lot. In fact, I have become another person, with a different worldview and a complete understanding of myself. It was in Portugal that I found my love and got connected to nature.
Immigration is a survival test. War is also a test which brings pain, death and destruction. War destroys everything — life, family ties, homes, the psyche. 272 days since the invasion, I see new changes in myself and people around me. War reveals who is who, highlights our souls — light or dark, finally making people genuine.
Until now, I’ve never witnessed such a strong unity of people doing good without expecting anything in return. Neither have I seen a person dying nor how the war cripples people, wiping out entire cities. I’ve never known how it felt to survive a shelling and being one step away from death. I’ve never seen so much pain, courage and joy of life, at the same time.
And now, here I am, thanks to my blue Ukrainian passport. Locked up again, in a reality where you feel death and life walking hand and hand right beside you. For me, this blue passport is not only an artifact of war, but also of freedom and it’s value. I’ve been through unforgettable times. How will this experience transform me? Only time will tell.