It seems that, for me, this is the most difficult piece of writing. To describe not the first days of war, not evacuating under bullets, not surviving the brutality that has been crawling onto the surface, not life far away and the all-consuming, aching longing for home. All this time, you keep falling—into a long, long, never-ending hell.
But coming home—that's the treasured bottom. A sharp bottom strewn with shards of debris. Finally you hit the ground at top speed, on your face… smack against your reality.
After the liberation of Bucha, I already had photos of the inside of the house. I was not going into the unknown. But when you go in… You’re happy because your love is there, alive, beaten up and tortured, but alive. Yet at some point, you pick up a postcard from the avalanche of things and you double over and scream inside… of a scrap of paper someone once signed for you with love.
Everything you thought was about choice and love is turned inside out… Everything’s covered in dirt and dust, some things torn… Shoe prints cover the papers that you won’t throw away. You later wipe them off. Before you is a pile of books and papers—each one needs to be picked up and wiped off. You clean up one square meter and go on to the next one, and the first one is dirty once more. You look at all of this in a frenzy and don’t understand—how?!? Then you swallow the dust on your tongue and simply keep going.
I cleaned for seven days. Only on the fourth day did the chaos come under control. And this is not just a matter of cleaning up: first off, you need to find something to clean with. In your house, just like your life, nothing makes sense like it did before.
It was impossible to call professional cleaners. I mean, it was possible, but I couldn’t. My space was my self. For me, to call cleaners would have been the same as calling a professional and saying, «There's my love, after a crash. Make things like before, or wipe away what can’t be fixed, so that I can’t see it, because seeing it like this and continuing to love it is rather hard…» Maybe I should just exchange my love? Take my things away and rent a different apartment, because this beloved one has scars—both outside and inside.
My space is alive. I loved it and it loved me back. We helped each other and completed each other. To clean is to look at my love, to see every scratch and every wound, to recognize all of its pain and stay with it. To discover new wounds and not turn away, but wash and wrap them, to wash them again and wrap them. To wash every centimeter, to not close my eyes at the mutilation, as if to caress and kiss, saying everything will be ok. Of course, everything will be ok.
That first evening, after spending the day working on the ruins, I sat on the balcony—the only clean and free space. Feeling like a stoned fox. I cleaned, I cried, then I stared at the pine trees and smoked nervously, then pulled myself together and went at the piles again.
The first amazed realization: the 70 days away from home were in a kind of temporary time limbo, a parallel reality. Life went on there, seemingly, with its pains and joys. But when you walk into your building, it’s as though you left yesterday. And nothing else happened in your life—it was just a dream.
The second and the most important realization: my own walls heal me. It’s a mess, it’s all torn up, the elevators don’t work, there’s no gas, finding food is an issue, but when you look at your pines, your walls, your streets… your strength comes back. At last, you feel alive.