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  • Writer's pictureNery Duarte

Alberta, Canada. May 15/22

Don't let your happiness depend on something you may lose.

C. S. Lewis

My son, Jonathan, spent almost ten years in Russia completing his under and post-graduate music education. I had the opportunity to visit him and get to know Russian culture since my son had developed a network of friends all over Russia. Jonathan’s friends were happy to welcome me into their homes, giving me the unique privilege of learning to appreciate the Russian culture and erase all stereotypes I had created about the Russian people.

As a humanitarian worker, I have seen firsthand my share of human suffering. I admit that what I witnessed in Ukraine has far surpassed all the suffering I have assisted worldwide. After the retreat of the Russian army from the outskirts of the capital Kyiv, I was one of the first foreigners allowed to enter the surrounding communities of Bucha, Irpin and Chornobyl. Here, every other person I met along the way seemed eager to share their fate suffered at the hands of the Russian soldiers. Most confusing for me was that many people who shared with me those atrocities had some Russian heritage. Upon hearing all the cruelty committed against them, you can only imagine how torn I felt as I silently carried warm memories of the people who had so sincerely welcomed me to Russia.

I am currently in Canada planning a stopover in Costa Rica and hopefully Venezuela before I return for a second mission tour into Ukraine in June/July with the plan of teaching relief workers, emergency response and survival skills. I am still dealing with what I would call “reverse culture shock.” For almost two months, I was in a place where my life could suddenly be ended, plus I witnessed firsthand how the earthly livelihoods of thousands of people were destroyed in a matter of hours or even seconds. While I heard to the point of dullness story after story of soldiers stealing and ransacking, someone was doing the same thing to my home back in Costa Rica. God has unique ways of dealing with us...

“We live in a bubble,” said my son Jonathan while visiting him in Canada. My response was that sometimes I feel like God has allowed me to step out of the bubble and watch all of us inside it. My perception about me and all of us after Ukraine is to realize even more how frail our bubble is. We all seem to be mindful that humanity, as we know it, may suddenly disappear with the push of a button. However, we all seem to carry on with what we have fashioned as “normal life” without a sense of urgency, relishing our lives inside the bubble…


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