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The keys of the abandoned houses

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March 24, 2022
It is spring in Berlin. And even if I were to stay at home today because of corona, no one can forbid me to sit on the balcony and breathe in the spring air. I don’t normally have time for this, but right now I’m in the quarantine office.

The last time I saw my street from the first floor for more than 15 seconds must have been before Corona and I was surprised to find that everyone who passed under my balcony spoke English. Someone is on the phone right below me, in Ukrainian.

Every night the bride dreams of the clothes she hung up a month ago

“Well then maybe you can take them to the border, if you don’t want to come with them yourself then they can cross the border to Poland by themselves and then take a train, that’s free now I heard, just think about it Father.. .”

Five minutes later, two young women walk down my side of the street. Surprise! – these two ladies are also speaking in Ukrainian. The only thing I hear from the dialogue: “… in the salad, but he doesn’t even like these tomatoes!”

A few weeks ago, a German television journalist interviewed me and asked me if I thought this war could come to Germany. Yes, of course, I replied – I do not rule it out! She looked at me briefly in disbelief. She now she could have said, yes, you see, the war has caught up with us after all, with the hundreds of thousands of affected, traumatized, often disoriented people who have now arrived here. When the conversation with the journalist took place, they were still not there.

[Alle aktuellen Entwicklungen im Ukraine-Krieg können Sie hier in unserem Newsblog verfolgen.]

A month has passed. A month since that early morning when the first rockets were launched and fell on Ukrainian cities. “We all called our mothers that day,” says a friend…

Many write today about the keys that you still have in your bag or anywhere else. All those who left their villages, of course, pocketed their bowl. Some no longer have houses that they can open with these keys, their houses were destroyed by Russian bombs. And nobody knows when they will be able to return.

Residential building in Kharkiv after a Russian attack.Photo: Aris Messinis/AFP

Many newcomers still think about the things they left at home. During our phone call, a classmate who has been in Hanover for a week asked me if he knew someone who could bring something from Lviv to Hanover. He talks about his new sneakers, which he forgot in the corridor of his apartment in Kharkiv.

“Do you think that if I call my neighbor and ask him to collect the sneakers and mail them to Lviv, someone will be found to take them to Hannover? I love them so much I have only used them twice!” Another friend of Mykolaiv’s says she dreams almost every night of the clothes she hung out to dry on February 24 before leaving her apartment.

[Wenn Sie aktuelle Nachrichten aus Berlin, Deutschland und der Welt live auf Ihr Handy haben wollen, empfehlen wir Ihnen unsere App, die Sie hier für Apple- und Android-Geräte herunterladen können.]

Last week I went to the social welfare office for the first time in 25 years, accompanying my Ukrainian relatives. It was a shock, I have never seen the office so crowded: young and old with children and pets, standing, sitting, lying on the floor, no one speaks German, no one knows exactly what this agency is about.

Employees are also overwhelmed and interpreters have been added to speed things up a bit. Our appointment is at 10 am, but we won’t be done until a little before 5 pm Almost everyone I’ve talked to talks about how and when to come back. To Ukraine. House. After the victory. After our victory!

Read the other parts of Yuriy Gurzhy’s war diary here:


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