‘Every day is unpredictable’: a letter from disputed Donbas
I received this message recently and was stunned speechless.
Veronika: “Nina, I live in Eastern Ukraine, in the Luhansk, Donbas region. The war has been going on for more than four years here in the ‘grey zone'.
“I am near the front lines. The war is very close. Every day is unpredictable. We can hear bombing in the nearby villages.
“How I miss warm weather and palm trees!
“I look at your glorious photos of Bermuda on Facebook and I can't believe that such a life is even possible; it is a lovely fairytale for me.
“Our winters are long and this year it was bitterly cold. There was so much deep snow! I keep looking at that white blanket and dreaming about spring.
“My hands are itching to plant flowers and I miss my favourite roses.
“We are all waiting for spring although it is late April. We wait and we pray for peace. The stress never goes away.
“I am haunted by dreams in which I walk my beloved countryside looking for my house, but there are only smoky ruins, piles of brick and rubble and the birds are all gone.
“The world has forgotten our war, but we cannot.
“Your happy images remind me of what is possible in life. That is why I thank you for your positive posts and stories.
“The more I feel the touch of fear, the more I live in danger and uncertainty, the more I value the positive. To see you in your beautiful life is worth more to me than gold.
“I learn to resist despair with one great desire: peace. We all want peace, but how to find it? How to stop this struggle that is tearing our country in two?
“Every day I find meaning, despite the difficulties from the war.
“I take my dog Rada on nature walks near the woods while it is still light and the wind is calm. Then we come home and I cook borsch and draw sketches of jewellery I intend to make someday.
“Life goes on. I am still alive and I appreciate every quiet moment. I smile through tears.”
When I read those last few words from Veronika my heart broke.
I saw her in her house by the woods quietly typing this message to me and I wanted to fly to her, to take her hands and lead her out of her nightmare and into the sun and sea and clear blue skies of Bermuda.
I walked to the beach and shouted with all the force in my lungs: “Veronika, I want you to be safe!”
But the waves drowned out my voice and the longtails wheeled overhead in their passionate dance and the horizon stretched away to emptiness.
Just the vast sea and the thousands of miles that keep us apart. She is a prisoner of other people's desire for power.
Who are these men that fight and kill in a countryside of roses and dogs and forests? How often we ignore our good fortune!
How often we complain about what we don't have — a better house, a fancy car or designer clothes? We want more. We are unhappy with what we have. We cry, complain and envy other people.
I think that if it is safe where we live, we already have so much. Rarely do we think about it. We believe that it should just be this way.
Veronika thanked me for a dream that she can hold onto, a peaceful life in a gorgeous and exotic place.
And I thank her for waking me from my dream. Too often we take for granted the most simple things.
I have not heard back from Veronika and that makes me afraid.
Soon her roses will bloom. She will let her dog run through the green grass of spring and the air will be full of the songs of robins and meadow larks.
That is my dream, and I smile for her through tears.
• Nina London is a certified wellness and weight-management coach. Her mission is to support and inspire mature women to make positive changes in their body and mind. Share your inspirational stories with her at www.ninalondon.com