Ioana Pelehatăi, Scena9 editor

Bagajele abandonului

Wednesday, 23 February 2022, 9:44 AM. Drumul Taberei, from my short walk from home to the bus stop that takes me to the office. I live very close to the Romanian Land Forces headquarters. Almost every morning when I go to the office I send to my boyfriend, who works from home, pictures of trivial curiosities, small changes in the urban landscape of the area where we live – and, most of the time, of the neighbourhood cats.

This morning, I stop and notice these military buses. I don’t know what they mean, I have no idea where they’re going, but I can’t help thinking of all the news about the impending war in Ukraine. I’ve been reading them non-stop for weeks now. The queue at the traffic lights is unsettling.

Though I read compulsively, though the signs are there, though everything screams war, I still don’t think it will happen. Or I choose to desperately hope. I’m not an optimist by nature, in this case I probably chose to be simply naive. I have less than 24 hours of naivety left.

The first words that I say to my boyfriend the following day, at around 8 AM, ring clearly in my head. “The war has begun. This son of a bitch started the war.” I found out, obviously, on Facebook, and that’s just one element of the dystopia. We turn on the news and watch speechless. My head is spinning.

My grandfather was a war refugee from Ukraine. I spent my holidays there as a child. I knew the language. In 2018, I saw the sea in Odessa. I went to Kyiv in 2019, I heard Zelensky speak at the stadium before he won the election. I also went to Chernivtsi this year, to see how they celebrate malanca in wartime. Their neighbourhoods, almost like ours, bombed out. If a war were to happen here, my boyfriend, my friends, our parents would have to leave. I wouldn’t leave. Wouldn’t I leave? I’m listening to DakhaBrakha. On the morning of the 24th, I download to my phone some photos from my travels through Ukraine over the last few years. The first one is from the Maidan, the February 2014 revolution. It says, “Mom, I’ll be back.” I can’t cry.

I can’t tell how important Ukraine is to me and how this war has sedated me. I’ve been saying for the past year that my pain doesn’t matter because this is not about me. I said it to Romanian, Moldovan, Ukrainian friends. That’s true, but now I’m going to give myself room to say it. I feel helplessness, anger, obsession, frustration. I understand that people get tired, bored, discover other priorities, they get distracted by everyday life events. I understand that we cared about this war and these people more than other things, more than others. I understand that we can’t care as much about everything, all the time, over and over again. I also understand that this bird doesn’t actually solve anything – if we limit ourselves just to it.

I see no end, no resolution, only destruction and resignation.

Last Day of Peace, First Night of War is an interactive digital installation, part of the Museum of Abandonment, a digital wall of images showing the last days of peace collected from mobile phones.