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Heading into the 4th week

17 Mar

A number of years ago, I started a gratitude practice I call my gratitude session. I sit at my breakfast table and, before I take a bite or sip, I get into a slightly meditative state and ask myself: What am I especially grateful for right now?

Often the answer is simple and quick — the sunshine, the flowers in the park, my central heating, or the food on my table. Sometimes it takes longer and says more, like in 2015 when I had been helping distribute food to largely Syrian refugees at Westbahnhof. Then it was that I have some control over my life.

The last few days the answer has been the same: that I am still here in this city I love, that I can still practice my profession and earn a living, and, today, that I can still meet friends for a drink in the evening.



10 Mar

A few days ago, I heard that the friend’s sister mentioned in my post from February 24 (link below) and her charges, co-workers, two cats and a dog had made it safely to Poland and will be relocated to Germany.

I haven’t seen my Ukrainian neighbor in the last week.

I have once again been amazed at how wonderful the “children” in my life are. When I, at my wits’ end, asked the older of my Viennese nieces what she wanted for her (29th — you see why “children” is in quotation marks) birthday, she asked me to donate to Neighbor in Need, a very reputable Austrian charitable organization that did wonders in the Balkan war.

And so we stumble into the third week of war in the Ukraine.


3 Mar

Every morning I send an e-mail to my mother in the U.S.A. to check in. Sometimes I literally just write “Checking in.” Below is today’s mail.

Boy, it’s been a long week. Still, in terms of acquiring business it hasn’t been bad. Whether things will actually take place given that Austria is already seeing the impact of the war is another question. (The BMW plant — in Steyr, I think — has cut production because they can’t get parts from Ukraine and one Russian bank with offices in Vienna has already gone bankrupt.) C. has also advised stocking up on sunflower products, like oil, because they come almost entirely from Ukraine. 

I saw my Ukrainian neighbor on Alser Straße yesterday. She was on her way to the university. How much she will be able to concentrate is anyone’s guess. She did say her parents had left Kyiv and moved west. With the news this morning that may turn out not to have helped.

For me, the war is pretty much all present. I’m getting on with what needs to be done, but it is always there. You know what this feels like, I know.

Sending very much love 

Ukraine’s First Lady takes a stand

2 Mar

Crying again and then picking myself up again.


24 Feb

This morning I awoke to beautiful sunshine in Vienna and about 3°C — a perfect late winter day. As always, I went out with Maylo without checking my phone. We enjoyed our walk.

Then at breakfast I checked the headlines. The NYT: Russia attacks Ukraine. ORF: Russland greift Ukraine an. Both sites with videos of the shelling. And I realize that Europe is once again at war. I think of a workshop participant on Tuesday who was joining us from Moscow and felt it necessary to emphasize that many Russians do not want war. I think of a neighbor, a student at the University of Vienna, who comes from Ukraine and whose family who is still there. I think of the wonderful members of a Ukrainian choir who passed through Vienna on their way to a church choir festival in Switzerland in the heady, hopeful days of the early 1990s. I think of a U.S. American friend’s sister who has lived in Kyiv for many years working for an organization that takes care of orphans, who has chosen to stay and continue her work. I think of them all and can hardly type this for the tears running down my face.

When I can, I will wipe my tears and will carry on — as my parents did growing up in Germany and England respectively in the Second World War and my grandparents before them in the First World War, and as so many generations have and so many people around the world throughout time. No doubt I will cry again, and wipe my tears again, and carry on again. And in the meantime I will leave sunflowers for my neighbor to let her know that someone in our house has noticed and cares, and I will donate to Caritas for humanitarian aid to the Ukraine, and I will sit and try to maintain my own peace so that I do not contribute to the violence of this world.

I have loved and tried to be guided by this quotation below from Etty Hillesum for years. Now more than ever.

“Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it towards others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world.”

If she could write that from the despair of a concentration camp, surely I can begin, at least begin, to do it surrounded by the beauty of a perfect late winter day in Vienna.

Another lockdown?

19 Nov

It’s supposed to be announced this morning whether we will go into another lockdown, Austria wide, on Monday. And our numbers are terrible. (Our 7-day average of new cases per 100k population is three times that of Germany. Three times!)

Has the vaccination made a difference? You bet it has. Last year on 18 November there were 4,525 COVID cases in hospital in Austria, including the 658 in intensive care. 113 people had died of COVID in the 24-hour period before that. And that after two weeks in a partial lockdown. This year on the same date there are 2,744 in hospital, 486 in the ICU, and 39 have died. Still too many. Still shocking in a population of about 8.9 million, but quite a different picture, especially given that most people have been out and about with only an FFP2 mask as a sign that the pandemic is still raging.