In spite of it all: Why do Ukrainians return home to welcome the New Year?

30 December 2022, 12:00 PM
New Year's tree on Sophia Square in Kyiv (Photo:(Фото:kyivcity.gov.ua))

New Year's tree on Sophia Square in Kyiv (Photo:(Фото:kyivcity.gov.ua))

Spending New Year's Eve right at home, in your own home, is currently the greatest privilege.

My colleague at work is an IDP. He has been living in Kyiv since February, having evacuated from Kharkiv with his wife and small children in the first week of shelling. For those coming from Kharkiv, Kyiv feels quite safe, as it is in the deep rear (everything is relative). He rents an apartment, continues to work (which he was able to take with him), has adapted perfectly to Kyiv, and is generally satisfied with life, as far as it is currently possible. But he is going back to Kharkiv, to his place, to celebrate the New Year. He is going home. He is taking his wife and children, getting into the car, and driving away. To welcome the New Year at home. In spite of it all.

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My friend is writing a research paper at a prestigious university on the other side of the planet. She received an invitation to work for a year, with rather strict conditions of stay, as usual in such cases. Just now, when I am writing this text, she is flying by plane to celebrate the New Year in Kyiv. It was difficult and expensive to organize. I don't even know how she managed. But she will celebrate at home.

My friends sent their teenage daughter to a foreign boarding school, and they stayed to live and work in Ukraine. Now, for the holidays, the daughter is flying to meet them in Kyiv, to the horrified screams of the entire staff of her foreign school. How?! How does a child saved from war voluntarily and with the knowledge of his parents return there, and even during expected danger? But the girl is already in Kyiv and will celebrate the New Year at home with her parents.

Oh, did you hear? Stepan the Cat has returned home, too! Stepan, who has more than a million followers on Instagram, who together with his owner evacuated from Kharkiv's Saltivka, received an invitation to live in Monaco and to attend the World Influencers and Bloggers Awards in Cannes. But Stepan chose to celebrate the New Year not on the Cote d'Azur, but in his native Saltivka. There is a photo of him on the windowsill on the Internet, with a half-burnt Kharkiv high-rise building standing outside.

All of us, everyone who has at least some opportunity, from different parts of the world are traveling by plane, car, train, and foot back home today - to celebrate the holidays at home. Everyone feels how important it is this year, and everyone who for some reason cannot come home is more upset than usual on this occasion. Do you remember? In recent years, it was not so important. We were adults, not superstitious, modern, mobile, and ambitious, and the world was so big and beautiful. People planned trips for the holidays, preferring to be by a warm exotic sea or on a cold exotic mountain, in a hotel, at a friend's house in another country, or elsewhere. Some just lazily surfed the city from club to club or from host to host. I myself met the New Year several times somewhere on the street with a bottle of champagne in my hand, not having time to get to the next festive table, and once in the subway - without any regrets, since it was what it was, and was even interesting.

But not this year. And it's not even a matter of wartime restrictions. Indeed, people are not particularly complaining about the New Year's curfew, because almost nobody wants to go anywhere anyway. After all, the idea is to be at home that night, in your own home, and not somewhere else. Because this is now the greatest privilege. It used to be a luxury to travel, while now luxury is being able to stay at home, or at least be home for a short time. At least for the holidays.

The desire to spend the holidays at home is the desire for normality

 The desire to spend the holidays at home is the desire for normality. If we still have holidays and we celebrate them properly, it means that normal life continues, and we have not slipped into the gray zone of existence. The desire for holidays at home is a part of the same daily, constant victory of life over death, which happens in Ukraine every moment and everywhere, and which is so difficult to formulate in words. This is the same life strategy, mostly unconscious, which gives strength to our country to stay alive - in spite of everything, in spite of death.

People go from peace to war, from relative safety to being under possible bombardment. People cover huge distances and drag children across half the world – to be home. Because this year, it is the best, most desired choice. And home the best place in the whole world to celebrate the New Year.

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