“Toxic Neighbours; Toxi War” – Experience Living In Georgia During The Ukrainian War

A Newsletter by Marija, our team member who lives in Georgia, Tbilisi.

“Living with a toxic neighbouring country is a lot like living with a toxic person in a small, confined space. Tension never leaves you because the feeling of not knowing how your day may proceed is nerve-wracking. You are constantly on vigil, checking news and social media platforms: facebook, instagram, telegram, personal calls, chats in the street, shop queues, bus rides, family meetings, television… Checking to make sure that as as soon as a real threat arises you will instantly know. 

The reason you need to instantly know is to be able to act – while you still can – your action becoming that last control you have of your life when the world feels so out of control. Is it time to leave? Do we pack up and uproot our family now? But where would we go? 

The war is actually not here yet, in Georgia, so no one is as supportive of us as of people who need relief and help instantly. Are we exaggerating by holding onto this fear? Should we attempt calm and rationality instead?Will it even happen at all? You can go through your day to day activities, morning breakfast, news, counting casualties, which cities have been bombed, going to work, checking the news, has there been a deal yet? Wondering will sanctions hit us now? Will we be next? What about our funds? Should we move money so that we don’t end up penniless? Will my husband be sent to war? Will I end up alone? 

Being in constant vigil is a way not to miss any pivotal information.  But it also is a route towards persistent stress. My head has been aching perpetually and I constantly wonder if I should find a way to relax instead, to manage this stress as Julia says often, deep breaths…

But this fear everyone is feeling is persistently surrounding us. We go out to protest. Stand hours in the streets with people supporting Ukraine, all shaken up by fear. Conversations circle around what our escape plans would be if war hit us next and would we be next or would there be other countries first closer to Ukraine. Whatever happens to Ukraine could happen to Georgia too, to the Baltics, to Poland… 

And what about Corona? Suddenly it has almost disappeared from news and it feels that Corona would be a nicer, simpler problem to worry about rather than war. At least you feel more in control with Corona as you can always improve your health and thereby your immunity. War is so much more difficult to control, especially when it is raged by someone as uncontrollable as Putin.

This feeling on unknown is a persistent stressor threatening to hit and devour you at any time. Isn’t it funny that now, what seemed so tremendously stressful now seems so much more familiar and controllable? 

So how to cope with so much doubt, fear, uncertainty? 
The truth is, I do not have control of any of this…. I have to trust my body to react correctly when the time comes. I have to trust my mind to react when the time comes.  Perhaps these years of global crises: Pandemic, War with Russia is teaching us that stability cannot be found externally (as Julia always says) – it is like the laws of nature: everything changes, destructs itself and yet life goes on. 

The witnessing of war from a distance, with a very high chance of being the next target, is a separate phenomenon that needs be studying. In this experience, we see the reality which is a high possibility, and combine it with our imagination – which for me is a deadly combination. By now, we know just how much our imagination and thoughts influence our lives. That is why we practice awareness, thoughtfulness, meditation, positive thinking . WE have acknowledged that change of  mind patterns influences individual’s life too. But we are yet to acknowledge just how much the negative thoughts, fears, constant news stream, images of war damage us because they trigger the most powerful tool of all – imagination.

So perhaps the answers to peace can only be found within. I continue my quest. Today yoga and meditation is on the agenda.”