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  • Writer's pictureMelody Wu

"Carpe Diem"

Updated: Sep 14, 2023

Introduction by Christian Kim

"Carpe Diem" by Anastasiia Kolesnikova

 

Introduction

“Carpe Diem” serves as a poignant, insightful, and revealing recounting about the Russo-Ukrainian war through the eyes of Anastasiia. Throughout the piece, through all the external stresses, beautiful personal growth is to be had as the author struggles with and learns how to cope with the pressures of the war.


It is impossible to hope to understand the struggles and traumatic experiences of war, yet through this piece, one receives the small blessing of knowledge of the totality of war, of its physical and spiritual destruction. War persists because of fear. Fear is inevitably pervasive. How is one supposed to continue through war unfazed and unchanged? Even more so, how does one put together the pieces of their old lives, as they must?


As you read, consider the words that the author capitalized. Lifeline. Wonderful. Peaceful. Even is. Though all of them do not have such positive connotations, these words highlight the developing and molding personal identity that the war has forced her to come to terms with. If you are to take one thing away from this piece, glean an admiration for the personal growth that the author experiences in the most difficult of times.

How to put together your broken self. Art. Mothers. The brain hearing what the ears

cannot. An ever-nearing reality of war. Friends. Moving on. Experience the power of war and the power of humankind to overcome in this honest and heartfelt recollection. Ultimately, Anastasiia’s beautiful narrative serves as a valuable reminder to learn how to make the most out of the present day, as one John Keating would charmingly and often point out: “Carpe Diem. Seize the day.”


 

"Carpe Diem"

Art by Anastasiia Kolesnikova

The alarm went off at 7 that day. I didn’t want to wake up, but my inner voice

prompted me, “Wake up!” Then it was a nightmare – explosions, panic, headlines,

tears, support chats. On the morning of February 24, all the world was shaken by

the horrible news of a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.


That Thursday, I woke up very early for a person who likes to sleep until twelve in

the afternoon. It was only 7 a.m., and I didn't want to get up. I wanted to forget

about studying, just wrap myself in a blanket and fall asleep again. But something

inside persistently told me to get up. Turning off the alarm, I forced my body out

of bed and dangled my feet on the cool floor. My mind was still sleepy, so I just

continued to sit and stare with half-open eyes at the opposite wall.


I don't know how long I would have sat like that if it hadn't been for what

happened next. Before that, the street was very quiet, the shutters were down

covering the windows, but this did not prevent me from being sure that most

people were still sound asleep. I closed my eyes... and suddenly I heard a sound

that was not typical for the area where I live. The plane was flying. Oh, demons! It

was not a passenger plane flying at all. And his flight was very low.


I froze like a statue, listening. It flew over the houses, and then the sound

disappeared. After a second, the cry of a flock of crows, which fly together from

place to place only in the evenings, began to reach me. Everything fell silent, but I

continued to sit tensely with my eyes wide open. My ears were ringing, the vein on

my neck pulsated from the accelerated heartbeat. And an obsessive thought

sounded in my head: animals and birds feel everything... these cries of crows are

not good...


And then there was an explosion.


Not near, but not too far from the city. Panic clung to my brain with its sharp

claws. My heart was pounding so hard that it seemed like it was about to jump out

of my chest. But I continued to calm myself down, deny it... No! No, no! I'm just

hallucinating! This cannot be true! Simply impossible! What other war in the

twenty-first century?!


As if on cotton feet, I went to the bathroom. My throat was completely constricted

from nausea, my head was spinning, my whole body was shaking as if I had drunk

several liters of coffee in one gulp. I turned on the cool stream, looked in the mirror – the usual shade of the face became pale, and the previously clear eyes

turned red and filled with tears again.


In place of panic came anger – anger at myself. Is now the time for tears?! You

need to be collected and calm! Hold yourself in your hands and keep a cool mind! I

wiped my tears with trembling hands and poured water on myself many times,

trying to control my emotions, but all attempts were unsuccessful. I took a few

deep breaths, exited the bathroom and saw my mother leaving her bedroom. She

was so calm!


None of us ever thought that we would find ourselves in the middle of a war, but

now it’s happened. And what can we do now? Will tears stop the onslaught? No.

Then why the hell do you keep bawling like a little girl who can't take care of

herself? Get a hold of yourself!


Anger helped to calm the trembling in the body a little, and my breath and

heartbeat gradually normalized. Yes, my mother is stronger than me, but I am not a

weakling either. If she can keep herself in her hands, then I can too!


...In between the emotional outbursts, I clearly remembered the moment when I

got a notification of a delivery for the painting by numbers that I ordered in my

past, PEACEFUL, life. I decided to still pick it up – perhaps, it could distract me

and help me get myself together. There were huge lines near the stores. The sun

was shining brightly. Feeling isolated in my own bubble and joining in the ironic

“taunts” of the serene weather, I passed all the lines with a smile, enjoying the

weather, the fresh air, and trying to cling onto my normal life while I still could; as

if it was only THEIR war, and I was alright.


After picking the picture up, I spent the next few days in the living room in front of

the TV. An endless stream of terrifying headlines and videos from hot spots gave a

sense of false control of the situation. The bright paints and a thin brush in my

hands absorbed the tremors of my body and the constant fear of disappearing after

only twenty years... This picture became my LIFELINE in the stormy ocean. Now

it sits proud on the wall of my room.


The next three days, the city was calm. My mom and I believed that the invaders

wouldn’t care about our little town – there were no strategically important targets

here. But we still prepared an emergency suitcase and backpacks just in case. On

February 28 we heard our first air raid siren. The first horror was intensified by the

realization that the city had problems with its sirens – we miraculously learned about the danger from the local news. Trying not to panic, we got dressed quickly,

put the cat into the carrier and ran to the basement. Some of our neighbors were

already there. There were a few that we didn’t know, but we all talked and joked

like old friends.


It ended in two hours. We went back up. My entire body hurt, and I wanted to

sleep. And if that wasn’t enough, the lock got STUCK and then another air raid

siren went off. Then, a few days later, we heard another explosion. After another

all-clear, our neighbor helped us open the door. Then we could change and eat.

And then this cycle kept repeating like a nightmare: alarm – shelter – all-clear –

apartment. At home, we went to sleep right away.


When the siren went off at 6 a.m., we thought, maybe we shouldn’t go to the

shelter? We were exhausted and wanted to sleep. We decided to stay at home and

follow the two wall rule. We made a small nest out of pillows in the hallway under

the retaining wall. We were separated from the windows by the kitchen (which

would have been destroyed by a shell) and the bathroom (which would have

protected us from debris). Our cat joined us as our neighbor was banging on the

door to wake us all up, encouraging us to go to the basement. My mom grumbled

sleepily, but I was pleased that someone out there CARED, even if we were

strangers.


We spent a few hours in the hallway every day. Every loud sound made my heart

miss a beat, my breath caught, my body tensed up and threw me into a fever. In

time, I started hearing phantom sirens. Their shrill sound penetrated to the bones. It

sometimes intensified, then subsided, like sea waves rolling onto the shore. And

when the sound was accompanied by the understanding that a missile, capable of

destroying your entire life in a SECOND, could fly right at us, I had to ask my

parents if they heard them too. Often they were only in my head.


One day, after the air raid alarm went off, I went into my room. When I approached my desk, I heard the sound of an airplane in the air. The sound was so

loud, it sounded like the airplane was falling!


My body automatically tensed, my heart started pounding. An invisible force

pushed me away from the window. My legs flexed with each step. I wanted to fall

on the floor and cover my head with my hands, but I tried my best to hold back this

impulse, reminding myself that there was no siren, so it was not an enemy.

However, it was still so scary.


A minute later he flew by. He did not fall... But after a few minutes he returned

again! On the balcony, the sound of his flight was so loud that my insides clenched

with fear, I felt slightly nauseous and shivered. The body threw me sometimes into

heat, then into cold. And then he disappeared as suddenly as he appeared...

Two weeks after the war, I lost touch with my friends. I was so worried. They

finally sent word in a few days. Turned out their parents persuaded them to flee

abroad: one was in Poland; the other, in Slovakia. At first, I was happy they were

safe, but then I got lonely and sad. Missing the people that were so important to me

became more and more unbearable every day. But life still went on; as did the war.

Ten months later, one of my friends returned, because studies at the university had

began. I remember running down the street to see her faster, to hug her, to feel her

closeness. Finally reunited, we stood for about ten minutes, hugged and CRIED.

We were so happy!


I had planned to learn to enjoy every second of that year, not to worry about small

things, not to forget that I am an ORDINARY person who can be imperfect and

make mistakes. But the war was a cruel wake-up call to reassess my life and learn

important lessons. Now I realized that life couldn’t be put on hold because you

might never live to unpause it. We need to enjoy every moment, our movement,

every word we read.


Everything has its beginning and its end. But there is NO need to live waiting for

the end, or, on the contrary, not waiting for it at all. As sad as it sounds, we need to

adapt to our reality and continue to live the way we lived before. This is what will

help you to stand up morally, not to break down.


I am in the epicenter of the war. But my life is WONDERFUL! My mother and my

friend are with me. I can read books, paint pictures, listen to music and study. The

sirens continue to ring, but they cannot prevent me from loving myself, recharging

myself with energy from any weather. I can breathe with a full chest, fill my mind

with clean air. And no one will ever take my freedom away from me.


Life is not what “was” and what “will." Life is what IS, it’s happening now!


Content Editor: Sanya Tinaikar

Blog Writer/Editor: Christian Kim

 




The Author, Anastasiia Kolesnikova





 

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