The mother of one of my Ukrainian friends leaves London next month. She’s going home, my friend says, her eyes lowered. For how long, it’s not clear.
“What? How?” I ask, staggered to think the middle-aged lady will return to a country that’s still being bombed, where the war haunts the local parks and neighbourhood streets and lurks in the skies over your home.
My friend explained the situation.
Her mother, a small business owner, also has a second part-time job in a school. In Ukraine, schools that have access to bomb shelters are opening as normal on September 1. Her mother’s school, says my friend, has a huge and sprawling bomb shelter from World War II days. That good fortune means she gets to dice with death. That bomb shelter means she has to return to her job in Ukraine, or quit. If she does the latter, she needs to sort out her pension. She hasn’t decided yet, said my friend, but she needs to go back to Ukraine. Even a Ukraine at war.
Of such monumental inconsequentialities are life and death decisions made.
I consoled my friend, as she looked at me with dry, hard eyes. “No parent wants to be dependent on their child for money, shelter and every bit of emotional support,” I argued. “Your mother too, has to sort out her life. Whatever it is, it’s hers.”
My friend nodded and made a little moue, smiling faintly as if to suggest it was something trivial of which we spoke. “Parents too can think their children suffer Ukraine fatigue,” she said.
I thought it was a good point. My friend’s mother had arrived in London three months ago. The war in Ukraine is now in its sixth month. How long can anyone rely on everyone – or even anyone’s – compassion and goodwill? Can a mother count on her daughter’s consistent care forever, with no end in sight? A sister on that of her sibling? At what point does the horror and desire to help start to dull?
Consider the manifest indications of the western public’s fading interest in Ukraine’s cause. According to the Financial Times, “data from the media monitoring service Newswhip, as shown in this Grid News chart, indicate that global media coverage of the Ukraine war dipped sharply between February, when Russia invaded, and the end of May. Published news articles on Ukraine have fallen from a post-invasion peak of almost 77,000 a day in March to 10,000 in June.”