This morning while drinking my morning coffee and checking messages on my phone, I type into Google “Russia and Ukraine World War III”.
I had to stop myself there and didn’t even see the search results.
I put the phone down and contemplated why I did that. It’s not a way to start a new day. Admittedly depressing, but it’s come to this as I try to pretend that I have some level of control – even a modicum of control while the world goes to shit.
I grew up in an environment that had seen and experienced abject poverty and destitution, the remnants of World War II and the Greek Civil War.
The stories were drummed into us from our grandparents (who had seen and lived horror in the war), parents (who lived in extreme poverty and raised by their absent parents who all of whom had PTSD) and uncles and aunts (all of whom had similar poor backgrounds) who gave us these as lessons and warnings to focus on our education and never take our life of freedoms for granted.
At the same time, we were encouraged to learn and follow the ideals of Greek philosophy when it came to living moral and ethical lives. (In our household, it was more about philosophy and less about religion).
We even had the kooky uncle or two who were conspiracy theorists. They would morbidly comment at happy and joyful times and bring the tone down a notch or two (until an aunt loaded their plates with a selection of meat and dolmades or poured another glass of VB – beer – to shut them up).
It’s a bit bizarre to realise that those crazy uncles were right all along after all these years.
As a young girl, I would look at all these adults enjoying a meal together, yelling out to a wayward noisy kid every so often, with a mix of curiosity, shyness and fear.
How can you react to such comments about war as a kid?
Was I meant to do something about it?
Take some action? What?
Most of the time I didn’t know how to react. You just don’t know when you’re a kid. So I just put it down to this is what ALL adults were like. After all, ALL my cousins were going through the same things. Maybe this was typical behaviour of Greek parents.
“Skip” parents seemed normal by comparison. I wished I was born to Skip parents. They let you go out and do stuff. They didn’t speak about war, poverty or force feed you tons of food while recounting stories that they didn’t have food like this growing up in their village so we should be thankful and eat it all. (This was a term we would describe the Australians – Skip=Skippy the kangaroo).
On the one hand, they’re telling us to grow up and enjoy our lives but on the other, forewarning us about impending doom. That it was up to us, as “innocents” (meaning we hadn’t seen or experienced war or invasion) to recognise signs of unrest and to prepare for it.
Behind a positive there was always a negative. There was always a fear of ‘don’t rest on your laurels too much’.
Don’t get too cocky.
Don’t think that everything that you have built up in your life cannot be taken away – because it can and it will.
To be aware that there’s power plays that we aren’t aware of – and whose patterns we can recognise – we must recognise – in society that can bring about global unrest.
No wonder I grew up confused and fearful in some way. Maybe even reflective.
It’s a bit disconcerting as a kid to be told many times “in your life time, mark my words, you will see and experience war“.
Yeah fun times for a kid, right?
However, joking aside. In some way, I’m glad that they did forewarn me because I only now realise that everyone had been carrying some form of trauma. (It’s become far more evident in recent years especially through COVID).
Moving to a new country, to start a new life was a way for people to overcome the past and set forward a new path, one was a way they were getting back some control especially if they felt it had been taken away from them.
The stashing of cash in different hiding spaces around the house; the stocking up of pantries with food; learning skills such as growing your own food, mending your own clothes and being handy all had some way of not being reliant on a system – especially government – that may not support you when you most need it.
These things are things I have grown up with and experienced first hand.
Over the weekend, I was chatting with a friend who mentioned to me that to maintain a level of control and preparedness during COVID she bought a heap of face masks, sanitisers and other equipment ready if anyone goes into isolation at home. She said that it made her feel prepared in some way – to give her mind a rest.
She was not alone. I had done exactly the same thing!
In the second bedroom, I have prepared a “COVID Kit” and talked with my husband, a plan for how to manage if one of us gets it. We are getting our affairs in order over this year just to be prepared. It’s a bit morbid to think about it but it’s necessary.
I’m sure many people have done similar things around the world trying to navigate uncertainty and to give themselves a feeling of being in control somewhat. I don’t want to be depressing and negative about the future so doing this small thing made me reflect and understand my parents and their generation a little bit better.
This is what they have been talking about for the last 50 years of my life.
In some way, I have also seen how we all have become traumatised in our own ways.
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