“It will be strange to hear songs in our language”, said my young Ukrainian neighbor Tatyana last night. We were going to a benefit concert to hear an indie-rock band “Odyn v kanoe” (One in a canoe) from Lvyv, Ukraine. I had been introduced to their music by one of my new Ukrainian friends and I had hoped to see them live one day. Since February 24 when the peace in Europe was shattered, there have been many Ukrainian artists using their gifts to raise finances for the needs of Ukrainian military and civilians by giving benefit concerts outside of Ukraine. So, I was very excited to hear that “Odyn v kanoe” were going on a tour through the Baltic countries and making a stop in Rīga.
The audience was mostly young and Ukrainian. Predominantly women, of course, because under the martial law it is forbidden for men aged 18-60, Ukraine citizens, to leave the borders of Ukraine. As we observed the crowd, Tatyana confessed that it is difficult for her not to react when she meets Ukrainian men outside of Ukraine. The first thoughts going through her mind are, “You don’t look handicapped, and you don’t have children. What are you doing here? How did you cross the border of Ukraine?” It is common knowledge among Ukrainian refugees that some men cross the border illegaly.
I was looking at these young people, some of them couples, and reflecting on the many tragedies that Russia’s military invasion and unprovoked war against Ukraine has created. To feel the guilt that you are in a safe country, enjoying a nice concert with good music, while others are facing daily bombardment and intense fighting in eastern Ukraine. To feel suspicion or even anger when you meet a Ukrainian guy, even though he is a stranger whose story and reasons for being in Latvia you don’t know. To be brought together in a concert in Latvia because there are no concerts in your home country, because you had to leave your home fof the unforseen future.
What is home? How do we understand and feel what is home? Miroslav Volf, the well-known Croatian American theologian, talks about home as material and social space that is defined by the relationships we have developed in that given place. Home can have a wider meaning where we speak of our town, our country or even the whole earth as our home.
You could sense certain feeling of physical and psychological homelesness in the audience – they seemed calm, but restless, relaxed, but tense, friendly, but reserved. Like ships that have been pushed into one small harbor to shelter from the storm and wait for better conditions to journey home or to some other destination. One of my favorite songs by “Odyn v kanoe” talks about not having a home. The singer sung it beautifully and made a remark before singing, “I hope that some day soon we will sing this song and it will be not an emotional trigger for all of us who are separated from their homes – their family and friends, their community, their city and country.”
Here is the first verse:
” The crux of the matter is that I don’t have a home
And by the rules of common decency, as if by the rule of good force,
I will remember the tribe I am from, will remember the town I’m from.
I’m waiting for my Grammy, It’s just that I have nowhere to sit down to write my speech.
I don’t have a home… “