I am writing from the desk at my old apartment in Kyiv; I found the place where I lived before the Russian invasion listed on Airbnb and rented it for a couple of nights while passing through the city. Climbing the three flights of stairs and walking across the threshold to meet the landlord felt like the last steps of a muted nostos, even if my journey wasn’t by sea.
After shaking hands and exchanging thoughts about the war, the landlord departed and I was alone in the familiar geometry of the flat. There was snow on the ground when I left in February, yet now the doors and windows moved and shut differently in the humidity of mid-summer. Later, as I walked down the dingy stairs and out the front door of the building, I noticed a sign in Ukrainian saying that, in preparation for winter, the hot water for the complex would be off for the next month. I leaned against the wall next to the basement stairs, lit a cigarette, and stared at a hand-written sign reading “укриття” with an arrow pointing down. The old lady who once tended the building and surrounding park was nowhere to be found.
The next day, after a cold shower in rust-tinted water, I drove to the left bank of the Dnipro River to deliver a load of nitrile exam gloves, wet wipes and backpacks to a local church, whose drivers would take the supplies to the front line the next day. After a meal of homemade borsch and a discussion of the multiple meanings of the story of David and Goliath with the pastor, I headed down the unkept mud road in my Nissan Patrol toward the city center.
That was the second of two deliveries on this trip, the first being a load of personal effects given to me by a Ukrainian refugee family in Poland. The mother asked that I forward along the boxes via Nova Poshta to her husband in the east. I sent the goods from the post office in Lviv before heading to Ukrainian Catholic University to pick up the load of backpacks and sanitary goods from their volunteer coordinator.
While packing my things and checking the cupboards here at the flat in Kyiv, I discovered a host of personal items that I had left behind during my frantic exit in February. A single cup French press, a coffee grinder, a thermos, Christmas lights and ornaments, super glue, masking tape, a pile of dried rose petals, half burned candles, unused birthday balloons, a cake pan, lacquered chopsticks, and an unused diary. I stuffed it all in a brand new trash bag, threw it in the back of my truck, and will head south for Romania shortly.