What's War Got To Do With It?
It was the beginning of August, when the Black Sea began to cool, and the familiar sound of gusting winds and waves slapping against the cliffs returned, setting a backdrop to my days. I was looking forward to the end of the summer and returning home to New York.
There was a tense feeling in the lakeside atmosphere, as my country, Georgia, was being subjected to political pressure by Russia. It was August 7th and the Russian Federation was on the border of the ancient Kolkhins Mountain ridge – but they were not here for hearty borscht and high tea. It was then and there, as the news was breaking on TV, that the haunting reflection of reality pierced through the pinholes of my pupils. I had no reaction, standing motionless like Auguste Rodin’s “The Thinker.” Russia had invaded the breakaway region of southern Ossetia, and my family and I were in the middle of a war zone.
The overwhelming mixture of music that emanated from the clubs near my house began, like a tone-deaf chorus. I slowly made my way to the balcony, where all I could see was a deserted beach and waves crashing against the terrain. The words of the CNN commentators echoed off the living room and flowed in one ear and out the other, like a Hymenolepis tapeworm scavenging for food, or in my case, a dash of reality.
I spent the rest of the day trying to study my Italian. “Va bene, come sta?” I repeated, trying to block the farce that I was building in my mind, the idea that this war would end up being nothing. It felt as though lichen had grown in my stomach, and a colony of black-spotted butterflies called my intestines home.
Later that evening, the moon set high above the blackened coastline of Gonio; the waves continued to slowly roll. In the darkest hours of the night my mother rushed in, panicked and yelling that Russian fighter jets had passed nearby, bombing a town only a few kilometers away. It sounded like they were returning. I followed her with a flashlight as we both quickly settled on the balcony. I looked out and all I could see was darkness and the onset of chaos. Streaks of bright vein-like flashes reflected in the mountain ridge like firing neurons during a seizure. Most of the town was dark. I could only see the highway lights flickering. Everything seemed too unreal. Shrieks and shouts echoed through the streets like an uncanny soundtrack. I could feel the burst of blood that rushed through my arteries. The fear of dying, the fear of never seeing my friends and family again struck me. I was not only in a physical battlefield, but in an emotional war with myself, trying to overcome my torrential feelings and stay strong.
The next few days were like continuous bursts of epinephrine; every few minutes I would hear some rumbling and my heart raced. My life had transformed into a Poe story – as he wrote, “I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.” I continued to wonder if I would really make it out alive. I feared for my father, who was courageously aiding wounded soldiers at the frontline; I worried for my aunt in the city of Borjomi, set aflame by Russian troops.
I was angry with myself for not understanding what other people in such situations go through every day. I had never thought about them, always more interested in when my TV show would return from a commercial break. I felt like a hypocrite. I promised myself that no matter the outcome, no matter the circumstance, no matter what college I attended or what life I lived, that I would somehow make a difference. I would not become some facet of a materialistic world and numb myself from the events that happen around the globe.
So, what’s war got to do with it? Everything. I hope that my knowledge and experience will help someone in this hostile world. As the American poet and diplomat James Russell Lowell once said, “True scholarship consists in knowing not what things exist, but what they mean; it is not memory but judgment.”