Last night I dreamed I was back in Ukraine. I could hear air raid sirens and smell cordite but somehow life was going on around me in a steady purposeful way. I woke up after midnight with such yearning for the time I spent in my grandfather’s country. I’d thought I’d return, but will I?
I think of the people I met, The woman showing us how she wove a lizhynk, a thick wool blanket, using fleeces she’d spun herself, and how she had a ladder leading to a place under her house where the Rybnysya River had been channelled through big wooden tubs where the blankets were tumbled in the river’s currents, their threads shrinking and tightening. The woman in the market who tucked extra apples into my bag when I told her my grandfather was from Bukovyna. The man who stopped on the road down the mountain near Tiudiv and let me stroke his horse’s face.
Last night I dreamed. And when I woke, I felt helpless. Day 78 of an unnecessary and cruel war. I remember the fields of sunflowers, the horse-drawn wagons, like the one in the photograph, carrying lumber and potted trees, the things that wouldn’t fit in a small practical car (and there were lots of those too), the vans pulling up at the market and unloaded the bags of nuts, jars of milk, homemade mouse traps, tiny thong underwear. It was a world both beautiful and functional, the old wooden houses in orchards with grazing sheep, the new houses nearby, fleeces draped on railings to dry after their rinse in the river, a tractor crossing a field with Nirvana playing loudly over the noise of the engine. I remember coming down to a hotel breakfast room with tables spread with homemade cheeses, butter, smetana, warm rye bread, bowls of peaches and red currant jam, and a smiling woman telling me that everything came from the farm owned by the same person who owned the hotel. Who wouldn’t want to return?