28 March 2022



The first warm day of spring
and I step out into the garden from the gloom
of a house where hope had died
to tally the storm damage, to seek what may
have survived. And finding some forgotten
lupins I’d sown from seed last autumn
holding in their fingers a raindrop each
like a peace offering, or a promise,
I am suddenly grateful and would
offer a prayer if I believed in God.
But not believing, I bless the power of seed,
its casual, useful persistence,
and bless the power of sun,
its conspiracy with the underground,
and thank my stars the winter’s ended.

Paula Meehan

Flowering fruit trees, bees pollinating, warm sun, lunch on the patio. There will be rain, maybe even some snow in the coming days. April.

To date, 1 500 refugees from Ukraine have officially arrived in our city, in the coming days, weeks, this number will go up to about 10 000, schools and kindergartens, youth clubs, hospitals, vaccination centers, churches, local community centers are organising language support, extra teachers, staff, volunteers.

As a result of one of my new year's resolutions (concentrating life's necessities to within cycling/walking reach) I walk to the new dentist. She also meets another resolution (switch to female medical experts), and she hums while she polishes and cleans. She laughs when I mention sage tea, yes, yes, the stronger the better, rinse every day.

My country's government is considering installation of a vast missile shield system, an iron dome. Our nation's elected leader explains on national tv during Sunday prime time why and how "we will not become militarily engaged there" and that "even if they are called peacekeepers, they are troops."  We try to consider this, R coming from a neutral country that was brutally colonised for centuries, I was raised in the country that brought about WWII and the genocide of 6 millions Jews. My sister-in-law, a pastor in the Lutheran church and peace activist, sends me links to anti-war songs, urgent petitions to sign, war resisters statements on non-violent solidarity. My child and her family live peacefully in an insignificant far away country.

Later, we bake the first rhubarb crumble, a bit too sour and too soggy but delicious as every year.


25 March 2022

 This song was written for times like these.

The pianist is Davide Martello. He turns up from time to time in places and at rallies in my city too. There are some interviews with him online if you want to know how and why he travelled to the Polish-Ukrainian border, just google his name.


19 March 2022


Spring, definitely, colourful, noisy and thanks to the winds from Africa, sandy. 

I am not well, what else is new. Yesterday, I gave a short presentation of a woman in her 60s who is fed up with chronic illness flare ups and the tedious pretense of remaining cool and calm. It was quite a performance, if I may say so, which was met with a solid round of applause from the one person who has seen it all over the years. Bless him.

I cancelled all appointments and tasks for the coming week which was supposedly a holiday week, with plans to climb mountains/cross the seas and have a haircut, obviously, and now I am blissfully resigned to listening falling asleep to podcasts and getting lost on the internets., while R has taken on my assignment for today, namely power cleaning the patio and greenhouse. He usually hates power cleaning and gave a little speech just now to tell me that he is doing this in exchange of me getting better. We shall see. 

So, here is what keeps me entertained.

More sheep and sheep dogs.

Stuff about dreams. Although I would have guessed, flying is on top of any list.
Human evolution, briefly:

Groundbreaking scientific findings: 


Benefits of swearing

Swearing in the physical therapy setting should be used to accomplish specific goals, such as relief from pain or stress. When swearing is based on biopsychosocial utility, it may add significant value if used correctly. Swearing tends to be more tolerated in private settings and among peers as opposed to a more formal and public setting. Swearing can lead to tighter human bonds and create informal environments where people are more likely to be themselves [3]. Social groups depend on some degree of shared willingness to participate in risks or taboo practices, swearing being one of them. In the physical therapy setting, an improved relationship or positive connection between a patient and a physical therapist, otherwise known as the therapeutic alliance, has been linked to improvements in musculoskeletal pain.

 It is advised to use a swear word that you would use in response to banging your head accidentally [15]. If no clear swear words come to mind, the S-word and F-word are the two most common swear words [8, 9] and were used by many of the subjects in the research showing the positive effects of swearing. There is evidence that a patient needs to use an actual swear word, not a made up or bad sounding word, to elicit the pain and physical performance improvements.

I can only recommend that you read the complete article, it's an excellent read, click here.

13 March 2022

Today, I wake early. Spring and birds do that to me. I make tea and look out into the garden listening to the BBC World Service where various people from Ukraine are carefully explaining their situations. I set the table for breakfast and later, when R sits down with me, I tell him what I remember. By the time I get to the part where the poet spoke about the taste of blood he suddenly had in his mouth when he heard that all four bakers of his most cherished bakery had been killed, my voice gets tight and I am struggling to breathe. 

Our Sunday is peaceful, I sort out the week's laundry, clean the bathroom, cook while R fits a new drip feed watering system to the greenhouse, after lunch, R makes coffee and we drink it sitting out in the sun - a first - by the flowering peach trees. I've had a rough two weeks health wise and for the first time in two weeks, I manage my 10 k cycle and arrive back home tired but triumphant. I call my father and we discuss the state of the world. 

I hear him turning pages and he tells me, he has been browsing an old edition of The Odes by Horace, and he reads to me (in German, not Latin, the English is mine):

 The wicked man advances, but punishment, though lame of foot, has rarely let him escape. 

There you have it, he tells me. It'll all turn out right in the end. We proceed to talk about the weather.

12 March 2022

being afraid is not the problem, brooding is

Hope is not a form of guarantee, it’s a form of energy, and very frequently that energy is strongest in circumstances that are very dark.

John Berger

Things I do, apart from work. I pin the leaflet from the local health offices about the free distribution of iodine tablets to households on our notice board in the hall. We used to have some in stock (because several French nuclear reactors are close enough and in really bad repair) but I cannot find them. I stalk the social media accounts and wikipedia pages of the sons and daughters of Russian oligarchs and especially the offspring of the five men we have been informed are Putin's siloviki, his inner circle. On google maps, I look up their villas in Italy and Turkey and France. I get lost in glossy media stories about their interior decoration and pool table settings, the instagram world where the sun always shines. 

I brood, I speculate. What if they don't like what their dads are plotting. What if the dads don't want to go along with what their boss is doing. What if their dads' friends figure out that things are not going to plan. (Plan meaning blitzkrieg/coup, speedy occupation, locals waving flower garlands etc.).

Of course I am afraid, isn't that one of Putin's political goals. But I tell myself that fear must not paralyse me, or at least not for long. Is it because of my parent's memories that I am afraid, the war generation so particularly sensitive, or my own memories of nuclear war threats throughout my childhood? Or is it the old image of the Russian as a semi-civilised monster that has been popularised over and over again for the last hundred and fifty years? I'm thinking of James Bond antagonists, of World War II legends.
That what we want to call civilisation is only a thin layer, everywhere. Man's inhumanity to man runs through us all. My country, my parents and grandparents passed on to me the burden of genocide, gas chambers, an unforgivable war. My continent is not peaceful. Several years ago, we cycled along the river Neckar in southern Germany, passing through picturesque Medieval towns and villages for a pleasant sunny week in early autumn. One of these pretty towns, Oberndorf, is home to three of the world's leading weapons manufacturers and exporters (grenade launchers, rapid-fire rifles and tank weapons). You would not guess it. There is a Holocaust memorial on the town outskirts next to the picnic tables and the adventure playground. 

Wars have been raging on every continent for as long as I have been alive, some are silent, others atrocious, devastating.  How long ago was this?


And yet, I need to move on, we need to move on. Peaceful minds must prevail. Maybe some gestures, some deeds are not totally helpless. Have hope!

05 March 2022

here we are watching from our ringside seats

The above is a quote from an opinion piece by Ian McEwan in today's Guardian. I am lost for words or maybe I am simply ashamed for not having proper words, deeds and thoughts right now. 

I get mad when clever people try to tell us that for the first time since the end of WWII, Europe is facing war. Not true. As the hundreds of thousands casualties of the war in former Yugoslavia should testify. In my memory, two days immediately come to mind. 

One, a sunny Saturday in 1992, we are getting ready for a month in the country with S and her best friend. While they are packing the car, I have a last cup of tea reading the newspaper, the big article about women in Bosnia, the first report on systematic genocidal rape. I know I left the newspaper behind because half way through our holiday, the friend who looked after our plants and cats phoned and told me that she had read the article while having a cat moment on our balcony, lost too much sleep and was now joining some women doctors travelling to Bosnia to help. 

Two, on an early morning in 1999, with my colleagues at work. Since last night and for the first time since WWII, the German army is actively fighting, participating in the NATO air strikes against military targets in Yugoslavia. Good grief, we thought, our naive pacifist hearts crushed.

 "For all our pity and anguish, our status as onlookers is luxurious." writes Ian McEwan today.

 Over breakfast today, this is what we listened to:

Dear friends,

humanitarian organisations in Sarajevo are collecting aid for you and I am sitting in front of the closet in my apartment trying to remember what you would be needing the most. It's not my warm socks or my jacket or my warm boots that you most need now. It's my 30-year old t-shirt imprinted with a slogan that kept me up during the 1425 days that Bosnian Serbs fired at will and held my city under siege with no water, no food, no electricity, no heating, and no communication with the outside world. I wore that shirt and read its message as more than two million shells fell on our heads and I dodged countless bullets. The t-shirt says, Sarajevo will be, everything else will pass.

Bad times are ahead of you, my friends. But weapons are being sent so you can defend yourselves. We Bosnians fought back but the world imposed an arms embargo on us. It did not understand what the fight was about in Sarajevo. Thank God it understands now in Kyiv. 

You are going to be hungry, thirsty, cold and dirty. You will lose your homes, your friends and family members, but what will hurt you the most will be the lies. Lies, that you are somehow to blame for what is happening to you. Lies, that you are actually doing what's being done to you. Those lies will poke countless holes into your hearts but without stopping them from beating and without freezing them. 

I see they destroyed your tv tower. Ha! They want to keep you in the dark just as they kept us in the dark. They want to turn the lights off so we cannot see what they are doing to you. 

Write down everything. Record it. One day it will define your history. It will explain to Ukrainians who are yet to be born what happened and most likely, it will end up being used as evidence and proof in a court against those trying to kill you. 

In the dark times that are ahead of you, you will lose faith sometimes. But I am writing to you from the future and I am telling you, you will prevail. Just as we did. I was supposed to be dead. But I survived. I am going to take my grandchildren for a walk tomorrow. You will one day too. Because I can see in you the same resilience I saw here. I hear you singing your anthem while pushing tanks away with your bare hands. 

Over time, you will sing, as we did, new songs. About your courage during this plight. And you will come up with your own slogans that will keep you alive. But for now, I am sending you the most precious thing I have. It's my slogan. I modify it for you. Ukraine will be, everything else will pass. 

Aida Cerkez. You can also listen to her reading it here