For the last few nights I have jolted awake every hour or so in panic and anxiety about the situation in Ukraine. My parents were Ukrainian refugees during the second World War and I grew up in England. Throughout my childhood I heard horror stories from my family about what they endured when they fled their home at short notice during the Nazi invasion not knowing where they would end up and carrying only the few belongings they could gather. Today I wept upon seeing footage of Ukrainian families having to run for their lives just like my own family did seventy years ago. I still have cousins living in Ukraine and God knows what is happening to them. I feel powerless to help. My mother’s home city of Dnipro was bombed today by Russia. I am glad she is no longer with us and spared the knowledge of this atrocity. She died three years ago. As a gesture of support and solidarity for the Ukrainians who are now homeless and terrified I am posting my poem ‘Heartland’. It is based on my mother’s story and is one of the poems in my recent book, The Rush of Lava Flowers available on Amazon.
The train is leaving but I am here in a yellow room with curtains of sky. The door is chained from the inside, the lock and the mirror are broken.
The train is leaving and you’re not here. The prints of army boots have scarred the wood I once polished on my hands and knees with melting candle wax.
The train is leaving, I can hear it’s wail. On the sunlit balcony above treetops where the birds have fallen silent, a young boy hangs from a rope.
The train is leaving to I know not where but my cat is hungry, my roses wilt, poor Mishka waits on the window sill and they will not fit in my suitcase.
Will I find you arched across wild waters? Will I see you in the sparks of burning pines? Will you shimmer like an island in an ocean of wheat? Will I smell you in the northerly like the promise of snow or grass that is limpid green? Will I meet you in the white lines in the middle of the road? Will I catch you like a ghost in a speaking mirror? Will I taste you in buttermilk pancakes or tea sweetened with cherry jam? Will I feel you in the blue fur of a cat? Will I discover you folded inside yourself like a secret at the back of my wardrobe? Will I fear you in my dreams of showers without water or scroll you on my screen as a drone follows the River Dnieper Mama once swam? Will I hear you in the trains as they scream through the night?
In the aftermath of the Hawaii ‘whoops apocalypse’ fiasco, here are a few tips for surviving a nuclear war gleaned from the internet. (A good sense of humour, a vacuum cleaner and a four leaf clover are also essential):-
Thebest advice for surviving a nuclear bomb is to be somewhere else when it goes off. If that doesn’t work out for you then remember ‘duck and cover’.
Think of radiation as dust that can be consistently and carefully cleaned and disposed of. Twice daily vacuuming of house hold surfaces is recommended. Warning! Do not dry dust or sweep because this will cause dust, and potentially isotopes, to become airborne where they can settle onto surfaces or be inhaled. Feather-type dusters should especially be avoided. Internal Contamination is 20 to 100 times more harmful than external exposures. Run the air conditioner 12 hours a day on the re-circulation setting. Warning! Do not use fans or AC units to blow outside air into the house. Be sure to try and keep indoor air from becoming too dry.
Some careful kitchen habits:-
Keep your dinnerware in clean cabinets with doors, or place in containers such as Tupperware bins. Remove covers carefully so dust doesn’t land on clean surfaces. Rinse your cooking utensils with clean filtered water before use. The best filters use activated charcoal or reverse osmosis which are very effective against radioisotopes. Rinse the outside of food cans before opening them.
Survival Checklist:- Think of radiation as an invisible layer of dust on all surfaces that needs to be carefully cleaned away and managed.
Create an air tight seal in your home. Seal all external doors and windows. Duct tape is handy and comes in twenty seven different colours and patterns to match your décor. I recommend Penguin Invasion and zebra print for a modern funky look. The glow in the dark option will help you find your way around when the lights go out.
Aggressively clean off surfaces in your home without creating dust (wet wipes and water filled vacuums essential). Keep food in clean, sealed containers.
When you go outside, wear a set of coveralls, goggles and good quality dust masks to cover your mouth and nose. Shower every time you return from outdoors. Sleep at least two feet above the floor.
Carry young children while outdoors.
Fight fall-out with duct tape, mop, water filtered vacuum, sponge, paper towels, plastic bags, sturdy trash container, hand-held radiation detector.
Essential reading: Step-by Step Home Butchering, A Beginners Guide to Hunting, Self Defense for Dummies, DIY Burials.