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Good bye Europe, hello America!

9073E7C2-640E-4495-82CB-021D48353141Warsaw Chopin Airport, Poland, May 2022

I owe you a short update after a longer period of silence.

I have just arrived back to Panama, after a longer stay in Europe: mixture of a family visit, touristic wonders explorations and a humanitarian deployment to Ukraine
(
Gallery 1: Poland, Romania and Slovakia; Gallery 2: Ukraine, Slovakia and Poland; Gallery 3: Poland and Slovakia; Story 1: a short story from Lviv).

I really enjoyed the stay in Europe, even if the emotions were mixed. Despite Ukraine being an amazingly beautiful and friendly country, no-one is comfortable in experiencing all the violence and misery that the country is going through at the moment. What I will remember from the trip is the warmth of family and friends, and thousands of ordinary people on the streets in all of the countries I visited, determined to be nice and as helpful as possible to one another. It was an incredible feeling that overwhelmed me and made me very happy.

Now, after a very long journey back, I am sitting in may flat in Panama City, and try reflecting on the war in Ukraine, which perhaps affects me a bit more personally, as it is close so close to my home; but also attempting to re-enter to my professional and personal life in the Americas. As you can imagine, I am busy in reading all the pending emails, planning my activities here in the country, and also new trips, which surely will bring some excitements and adventures and provoke new reflections.

I will keep you posted on things to come, and in the meantime, sending greetings to you all. Please stay safe, wherever you happen to be!

A boy in Lviv, who cheered me up

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Lviv, Ukraine, May 2022

Ten days in Ukraine have passed: days filled with joy and worry; hope and fear; optimism and loss of it.

Lviv is considered to be a relatively safe place within Ukraine. Indeed, being far away from frontlines of Donbas, fighting in the south and east of the country, there is a sense of normality here. It is for its safety that many people fleeing the fighting elsewhere in Ukraine choose Lviv and its surroundings to be their new home - either for a short while, or perhaps, even for ever. A fact that so many people choose the city to be their shelter brings to its people a sense of mission that they provide to the rest of the country. Everyone seems really focused on helping those arriving, and as you can imagine, the needs are huge, as the newcomers often come with very little or nothing at all.

At the same time, Lviv is not spared from threats and dangers completely. It may not be close to the frontline, but missiles do fall on this city too. 10 days ago, the missile-launch killed 7 people. Then just three days ago, we experienced 5 rockets landing in vicinity of the airport. The attacks cause people's anxiety and plunge the morale a little, but amazingly, people don't give in. They worry, but they remain strong and resilient. This feeling is unbelievably heart-warming.

The air raid sirens go off three, four times daily, and as 9th May is approaching (Victory Day in Russia), the attempts of missile attacks visibly intensify across Ukraine. The sound of sirens is a nasty experience and fills us all with chills coming down our spines. But then, whenever there are evil experiences, there is usually something beautiful happening too! The other day, for example, we had a dinner just outside of the hotel, and the sirens suddenly went off again (that was actually a night of the actual attack on Lviv). As the atmosphere appeared tense, we decided to go down to a bomb shelter. Soon after, the explosions were heard at the distance and sounds of ambulances and fire engines joined in. Our shelter was situated in a cold basement of the old 17th century building, in the centre of Lviv. One could hear the drops of water falling, there was no light, but one candle. The chill was overwhelming and getting to your bones. It was spooky and uncomfortable. Then, I noticed a boy sitting next to me. Worried of is well being, and wanting to distract him a bit, I decided to chat a little, so I asked him what his name and age were. Realising that I was a foreigner, the boy brightened up immediately. He said his name was Vlad and that he was seven. He clearly took a responsibility of being a perfect host… In his mind I was a foreigner, a guest, and I needed to be looked after! All in all, a result of my attempts of cheering him up, turned out to be his opportunity looking after me and making sure I wasn't scared nor uncomfortable! The seven years old was even offering me his hand, in case I was unwell! Picture this!

It is this young boy, in the basement, that to me represents the spirit of Lviv these days. He is a wonderful personification of how people are in this besieged city and the country. Someone, who I thought was vulnerable and needed protection took a job of cheering an old humanitarian worker with years of experience of wars and conflicts, just because he was a guest to his home! I will leave you all there with this thought…

Also, I admire Ukraine and her people!