Self Portrait

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Self portrait by @_opasno For Burn Diary My last days in Ukraine were spent holed up in a damp hostel on the outskirts of Kyiv, laid low with bronchitis, and spending hours every day on the phone with low-level military press officials trying to talk my way onto a base to interview men who had been mobilized, while a faded portrait of Yuri Gagarin stared down at me from a corner where an icon used to hang. Much to my disappointment, my persistence still failed me, and I left without the footage I needed to finish the project. . . I spent so much time before I left New York preparing myself for Ukraine: studying field safety guides, planning exit routes, reading local papers and military analysis of the conflict, talking to friends on the ground. But what I hadn’t prepared for was coming back home. I held my friend’s hands, kissed her cheeks, told her to be strong. I got on a plane.  And the next morning, I was having brunch in Brooklyn, while she was still wondering what would happen to her family.  I picked up my dry cleaning. I bought a new swim suit. How could I be doing this while so much else is happening elsewhere? I went to church that Sunday, and could barely keep it together after well-meaning friends each greeted me with the question, “How was Ukraine?!? You must have had so much fun!” . . . It’s the hardest part of modern life–compartmentalizing things so we don’t fall apart from information overload or trauma fatigue. I’m still learning how to cope with my own helplessness in the face of so much suffering. I realized all I can do is be there to witness, and the tell the story of what I saw to those who will listen. . . . I’ve come to the end of my time here at Burn Diary, and want to thank you all for following along, for listening to these stories.  You can keep up with me on my journo/photo handle @_opasno or my brunch-and-kara-walker personal handle @ecce_b . Contact info is on my website, linked in my profile.

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