This word “limbo” is a cool sounding word. I mean, it just rolls off the tongue and it has a fun feel about it. But it is not a nice place to be in.

This is the definition I found on Google : an uncertain period of awaiting a decision or resolution; an intermediate state or condition.

We have been in limbo for almost a year now. All we want to do is return to our home in Kyiv. We believe we will later this year. Ukraine will win this war and the vast majority of people who left will return home. I am confident that this is the case. Things do sound and look intense when you watch the news on TV, but when I chat with friends in Kyiv they are spirited and determined. Life is different and there is a lot of anxiety, but life goes on.

I communicate with friends and colleagues in and outside of Ukraine on a daily basis. Every week we share thoughts and stories with people in Kyiv and with those folk who moved abroad. One interesting observation is that the people I chat with in Kyiv always seem to sound a lot calmer than those who left Ukraine. I am still trying to understand why this is. I have not been to the movies in a long time, and yet in Kyiv, I have friends going to the cinema. Sometimes they have to leave the movie in the middle to get to a bomb shelter, but when the air raid siren is over, they head back to the cinema.

We are leaving SA end of April and heading to Wroclaw in Poland. There is a big Ukrainian community there and from Wroclaw we can go to Kyiv on the train. It is a long journey on the train and not something one wants to do too often. I did it last year from Krakow and it is intense, but it works well and has become the new norm for getting in and out of magical Kyiv. We will be renting a flat in Wroclaw and waiting there until we can return properly to Kyiv. Our main priority is the Bunster. We don’t want to have the little man exposed to air raid sirens and bomb shelters, so the limbo will take on a new chapter, but we have to try and be responsible here.

Wroclaw is the prettiest city in Poland and if you check out the travel videos on YouTube it looks fantastic. At least we will have a change and there will be some new adventure as we settle in. We believe we will be back at home in Kyiv by the autumn. And if this war does not end this year, then we will have to think what to do, and where to go. Not easy on the soul this, but at least we are all ok. We should not complain. There are men and women fighting everyday, risking their lives, so that people can live peacefully again in Kyiv, and all around Ukraine. God bless these brave souls.

What we stay alive for

There are two parts to a person’s existence, physical and spiritual. Yes, it is wonderful to sleep in a clean and comfortable bed, but there is more to life than sleeping. To simply go through the motions is not to live. Not to say that all days are good. Most of my days are a struggle – the work I do is not easy on the soul and sometimes you feel like you are stupid and wasting time. But when things do fall into place it can be a magical experience.

To live life is to struggle and grow, to learn and laugh, to ache and love, and to build. Not everyone follows their dreams or is driven by a sense of purpose. And that’s ok. I have often said that purpose is both a privilege and a curse. But one thing is for sure, most people fall in love, have heart ache, and fall in love again. Most people have passion. Most people feel, and that is what it means to be alive. To feel excitement, to experience wonder, to be inspired, to embrace motivation. To not welcome any of this is to be a zombie.

Talking to my friends in Ukraine I am inspired by their passion for life. It has captured the world’s imagination. Yes, things are not easy in Kyiv, where I consider to be home. All over Ukraine there are air raid sirens, and infrastructure challenges, and it is winter now, and being in a bomb shelter every other day is not easy. But life goes on. People are going to cinemas, eating burgers, dancing, shopping, riding bicycles, giving birth, getting married … in cities across the land.

Avatar is all the rave everywhere on the planet and movie lovers are breaking box office records. And Ukraine is no exception. There is a war, and infrastructure challenges due to the evil Russians bombing the electricity grid, and there are cinemas that have been destroyed, and it is winter, and curfew, and yet, people are lining up to see this blockbuster. Ukrainians may be under attack but their spirit is alive and kicking.

This makes me think back to the Dead Poets Society and that unforgettable scene :

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?

What we stay alive for. I love this thought.

The Profound Defiance of Daily Life in Kyiv

“The technology is now so advanced that Ukrainian citizens can know, more or less in real time, where the Russian missiles are coming from and generally where they’re going. In this case, Russia had just launched some seventy missiles, headed to sites all over Ukraine. The assumption was that they were directed at power substations, meant to cripple the country’s electrical grid. Vladimir Putin’s recent strategy has been to knock out the power in the depth of winter in hopes of breaking the spirits of everyday Ukrainians.

So far this strategy has not worked.”

It is always about the people

When any of us travel to a new place and go exploring we are very fortunate and privileged. I have a feeling that if you are reading this text then you are one of those lucky folk who have seen different parts of the world. The thing about visiting a city for the first time is the people – they make the difference. New York city is a good example. I know many folk who go to this exciting place and love it, and then I have met people that wonder around there and hate it. If you meet or know one good person and have someone look after you that always makes a big difference.

The people I am friendly with in Kyiv, my close circle, are mostly middle class people that are either entrepreneurs or professional folk or artists. They are not better than anyone else, but that is the group of friends we have, and enjoy, in that magical secret of a city. And I would argue that it is still pretty much a secret to most. As my friend Dave in California, who has been to visit us a couple of times in Kyiv, was saying to me this week on the phone, “Most Americans see Ukraine as something out of a Borat movie.”

The world constantly is seeing footage from this nightmare war in Ukraine but the one thing we don’t see to see on the news are my circle of friends from Kyiv, and like-minded folk from other big cites in Ukraine like Lviv, Odessa, Dnipro, Kharkiv, Vinnytsia, etc. Yes, Ukraine is not filled with affluent people and for most life is very hard. More than half the country was surviving on less than $500 a month, and that was before this evil war started. Now things are way harder. But still, Ukraine has a growing middle class, and it has talented film makers, tech unicorns, celebrated musicians, cool restaurateurs, funky retailers, and a whole lot more. We just don’t often see these kinds of people on the TV war coverage. So it makes sense that the world knows little of Ukraine other than what they see on the news from the front lines of the Russian invasion, which doesn’t looks good.

As I have written many times, I laugh a lot in Kyiv. People are very very funny. And they are seriously creative and soulful. This year we believe we will be able to return to our home in Kyiv, to The Nest, and we are excited to see all our friends and family again. Yes, it is always about the people, and Ukraine has wonderful people in abundance. When you do meet hard-working people that struggle to get by they are always so humble and so kind. So much soul. And the more privileged people, they are often a bit less humble, unfortunately, but generally very kind and warm too. To know Ukrainians is to embrace the magic in the world.

Happy new year !!!