Babushka Vera

She was introduced as “Babushka Vera” and immediately she was “grandmother Vera” for us too.
A frail old woman from Mykolaiv, very thin, with white hair.
She was the first person we used to say good morning to when we woke up and goodnight before sleeping. As Vera, like us, slept in the basement shelter.
She had decided not to leave despite the war, because that city was also her home.
So, every night around six, she used to come to the shelter.
Maybe because finding ourselves and being together, the bombs that fell at night seemed less scary.
Or, maybe because, despite the great fear, she was not alone.
She had worn-out green plastic slippers that she left under her bed/sofa every day.
Who knows if they are still there.
Vera loved us!
She used to smile at us, always glad to see us, she hugged us and in the evening she used to chat and joke with us.
Once her son came to visit her, we saw her sitting in the backyard with her granddaughter. Who knows what she was talking about.

The little girl was all absorbed in listening to her, never looking away from her grandmother.
Sometimes we helped her carry the water jerry can to the tram stop.
"My house is on that way, but it is close," she used to repeat.
A cluster bomb, a bomb that bursts into pieces in order to hurt as many people as possible, killed her on September 29th  probably while she was waiting for the same usual tram.
It hurts us so much because it is like our grandmother was killed.
We still miss Vera these days.
We knew that war leaves no room for people.
Not only it does want them to leave, but if they dare to stay, it kills them.
That is why Operazione Colomba stands by them in order not to leave them alone and with the aim  to take back that space together.
Not only a physical space but also that one made of humanity, relationship, and love, like the one we lived with Vera.
What place do these people have in our lives?
I often ask myself this question these days, among the news on Ukraine slipping halfway through the newspapers’ pages. Our lives here in Italy that continue to go on and a whirling voice in my head telling me “In the end there’s never room for them”.
Then I stop and I remember her.
And I cry.
We miss you Babushka Vera!