Our life was a beautiful dream. Every time I walked the streets around the converted old mansion that housed our apartment in downtown Kyiv, I found myself thanking God that we got to live in this charming district, filled with historic buildings and dotted with trendy cafes, interesting restaurants, and all sorts of shops. We had a close-knit church family who all lived within walking distance and a wider community of friends who were in and out of our home on a regular basis. To top it all off, our new landlords had told us that we could stay in their apartment for at least 5 years, and we planned to do precisely that. We had moved 14 times since getting married 18 years earlier, and now, we were finally settled. I couldn’t have been more pleased or content.
I never could have imagined that the dream would last a mere 9 months, or that we would soon be less settled than we’d ever been, moving 7 times in the space of 3 chaotic weeks following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
When we finally landed somewhere we could stay long-term, we found ourselves in a little apartment in downtown Budapest. If we’d had time and options, we would have looked for something bigger, but we had neither, so we made the 2-bedroom, 1-bath unit work for our family of 8 people, 1 dog, and 2 rats. After some creative furniture rearranging and a few trips to IKEA, it actually serves us remarkably well. My dad jokes that I have a future in interior design for submarines.
We have wonderful neighbors, an amazing park a block away, and a shopping center and grocery store practically on our doorstep. We’ve discovered that Budapest is a great city for dining out if you have dietary restrictions—which my husband and I definitely do—and we’ve been enjoying regular dates since getting settled in our new apartment. Some of our friends from our life before the war ended up in Budapest too, and we see them regularly.
In many respects, you could still say that we are living a beautiful dream.
But it doesn’t feel that way, at least, not most of the time. There are moments—like when I was walking back from the grocery store today, smiling broadly for everyone to see, because I was filled with the simple joy of living and the anticipation of the delightful rain that the darkening sky told me was coming. But when I remember that we didn’t choose this life, that we are only here because a life we really loved was stolen from us, I am suddenly aware again of the grief and loss that are the current backdrop for my emotional landscape.
While I know it’s healthy and necessary to acknowledge what we lost and make room for grief, I try not to dwell too much on the negative these days. This summer was a time when I allowed myself to sit unapologetically in the middle of my pain, to feel sad for days on end without trying to distract myself from the unpleasant feelings. It was excruciating to come to terms with the fact that we can never go back to the way it was. I did not want to bid farewell and turn away from that chapter of our life. But I knew I needed to do it.
We had it good. Really good. Those nine months before the invasion were truly lovely. I miss the sweetness of it all, the happy times spent with friends, the joyous hospitality, the deep conversations, and the sense of permanence and stability we enjoyed for a very short time. But now I’m finally ready to move forward with the business of living, to receive from God with open hands and an open heart whatever He has for me. As I do that, I am convinced that my future can be just as lovely as the beautiful dream I had to put to rest.
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