copyright rests with the individual writer
all writers showcased here participated in our inaugural Spark Your Writing course
Honouring Ukraine’s Heroic Women
© Kay Wozney
March 8, 2022: International Women's Day
The basement shelter is painted white, but close inspection reveals peeling paint, scuff marks, and indications of mold. An old woman sits on a cot with her hands wrapped around a hot cup of tea, her white hair spilling out from under her babushka. Her back is turned away from the two young women next to her in an effort to establish a small space for her thoughts. These spaces become more necessary as we grow older and our minds have taken in more of life. Both the good and evil that exists in life.
The young women, on the other hand, sit very close to each other. They are either sisters or friends who seem to find comfort in the other’s presence. They laugh nervously, without the experience in life that would have warned them of the impending danger looming just outside the doors.
Across the room a young Mother is being interviewed by a reporter. Her hair is shaved very short and she wears no makeup, yet she has a face and demeanour that keeps the observer hanging on every word. She’s holding the youngest of 4 children, an angelic baby that could melt the hardest heart. Her eyes are direct and full of courage as she explains in English why she has chosen to stay in Kyiv rather than escape to neighbouring Poland. She speaks of her country being threatened and her husband fighting as a civilian soldier to protect it’s autonomy. “How can I leave when over 8,000 have returned to fight for our country. I’ll stay here with my fellow countrymen to defend what is ours.” When asked about the safety of her children, especially the child that she held in her arms, she responds by saying, “everyone who touches her hand is comforted by her. She brings hope to this dire situation. How can I take her away".
This kind of courage is so inspiring and seldom found in this modern world. Women working together to maintain some semblance of normality for their young children, and trusting in God to bring them relief. Rations must be prepared, children cared for, sick tended to, clothes washed, not to mention the cleaning and tidying of cramped quarters, which helps in keeping hearts and minds calm and clear. Women in crises seem to be able to “live on life’s terms” and take care of necessary daily tasks while always keeping the bigger picture in mind. They are deserving of admiration for their strength and character.
Out on the street crowds of civilians are demonstrating against Russian soldiers in tanks. “Go home! You’re not wanted here”. The loudest voices were those of the women. Nothing quite so intimidating then the sound of a Baba telling you to go home!!! Shots are fired in the air and one of the demonstrators falls. Everyone runs away except a woman who runs to the man hoping to help him. There is a special courage we see in someone who runs toward the source of danger rather than away from it. Further down the street comes the sound of an explosion which causes the death of a young Mother and her 2 children. Seeing the children lying lifeless on the street would make the most timid of us stand up and say, “Go home! You’re not wanted here!!!”
What is it in us as humans that allows this kind of thing to happen. How do we allow our lives to be so negatively affected by those in power who have lost all sense of humanity and who see only money, power and the hoped for respect their fragile egos so desperately need. Each of us must be aware of not only the good and beautiful in this world, but also the dark and evil. It’s part of who we are as humans and we must as individuals constantly work toward the good and beautiful. Life is precious and not to be wasted. May we all learn from the character and bravery we have seen during this invasion.
© Florianne Soh
March 6, 2022
For every thought that you mess,
I will clean it up.
For every slash you give my heart,
I will patch it up.
For every tear you make me shed,
I will have a laugh.
Each time you push me to fall,
I will stand up.
You can try to kill my soul,
But I will continue to write.
© Darlene Derksen
March 6, 2022
A war of destruction
the sound of artillery
Play simultaneously with my creativity
My husband’s relatives
We don’t know them
They were lost
Cast on 9 stitches
knit purl 9 rows
Cast off 9 stitches
Squares in variety
Recreating with leftover yarns
unravelled sweater yarns
worn in another time
worn in the years of
World War II
The curly yarns
with memories of the past
resist the new form
I force them into submission
they are not smooth
Continue their non-compliance
Continue to resist
© Anna-Maria Pozzi
The sound of silence.
My favourite time of day.
I dress in something comfortable, casual.
I load my backpack. Book, journal, pen.
My water and maybe a snack.
I grab my phone and connect my headphones.
I head out and walk.
Walk, walk, walk
The sound of music, or audiobook, or podcast plays through my headphones and into my ears.
These are my friends. The melodies, the stories, the conversations.
All of them keep me company.
I stop for a coffee on the way.
Coffee, I love coffee.
Walk, walk, walk
Step, step, step
I find my spot. Under the tree, gazing at the river.
It is still early. Quiet. Only a few of us.
I put my feet up on the ledge.
To my right, a man I often see.
Reading a library book with his travel mug firmly in his hand, Birkenstocks on his feet, and a backpack by his side.
I like backpacks. I will always be a backpack girl.
To my left, the cyclist.
Taking a break from his morning exercise.
Headphones in his ears.
I wonder what he is listening to?
I get back to my coffee and keep my eyes on the view, sounds in my ears.
I love it here.
Here I am, by myself.
But am I?
I come here alone, but I do not feel lonely.
I feel extraordinary.
I feel extraordinary in the ordinary.
Earls Court Road, London 1948: a memory vignette
© Anne Le Rougetel
It was 1948. There I was in London, sharing a double bed-sit in a house in a pleasant square just off Earl’s Court Road with Nadia, a friend from college. Nadia’s widowed mother, super careful about the wellbeing of her darling only child (as well as super ambitious for her to ‘marry well’), found the bed sit and checked out the landlady and the neighbourhood thoroughly before agreeing to take it. It was perfect for us. A shared bedroom on the second floor, a shared sitting room on the ground floor (with a couple of gas rings for cooking) and only a short walk to Earls Court station for Nadia to get her Tube to Whitehall and her job in the Foreign Office and for me to get my Tube to Westminster and my job in the Typewriting Department of the House of Commons.
The first thing to do was to register with the grocer of our choice for our food rations (butter, bacon, sugar, meat and much else was still rationed in Britain for several more years after the war). I chose to deal with the local grocer, just round the corner from us on Earls Court Road. Nadia, taught by her socially ambitious mother, registered with Harrods, luxury department store patronized by the upper classes, and put in a standing order for her butter ration to be delivered weekly to our address — everything else to be ordered as needed.
It was a fine arrangement. Nadia and I got along well, cooking minimal suppers over the two gas rings in our sitting room, and worrying Miss Carruthers, our landlady, by going to bed so late. ‘You’ll pay for it later,’ she would say dismally in the morning as we hurried past her, racing to catch our different Tubes to work.
Within a few weeks, Nadia acquired a social life at the Foreign Office. Girlfriends would invite her for sleepovers and for weekends, and if the girlfriends had brothers, it was even better. She vanished from life at Miss Carruthers. Her share of the rent was still paid. Her ration of butter was still delivered weekly from Harrods. But she was never there to sleep or to eat. I wasn’t worried for a minute. I was perfectly sure she was on a hunt for a husband in the Foreign Office, good luck to her, and I was enjoying working with the infinitely courteous, middle-aged MPs who visited me in my office in the Typewriting Department of the House of Commons.
Dialogue with my inner voice
© Leslie Pitchford
I have been having an internal debate with my inner voice over personal items I have kept since my husband’s death. Every time I looked at my husband’s personal items, I would wonder why I kept some of them. After all, it has been over 4 years since his passing. Most items I had given away in the first year, but there were a particular few with special memories I held on to.
I have had this nagging in my head, questioning my lack of action each time I looked at his cowboy boots, and realized it was my inner voice asking me why his personal items remain. I am reminded of my lack of action and emotional consequences on my heart each time I delay this decision. I remained undecided in response to my inner voice until one day…
Nostalgia filled my being as I retrieved the worn cowboy boots from the closet.
‘Why are these boots so significant?’ I continue to gaze at them with sadness.
Defensively I think how I am grasping at anything that reminds me of my life with my husband.
However, my inner voice continues. ‘Those are just old cowboy boots serving no purpose anymore except to make you sad. Memories of days gone by with your husband.’
Defensively I reply, You don’t understand. Remember when I used them as part of my Christmas decor, putting ornaments in them? It wasn’t long after my husband had died, and I felt a lot of joy doing this. This was a way to honour my husband’s memory.
That annoying inner voice returns. ‘But why do you continue to hold on to them four years later? You only took them out once. Isn’t it time to let go and move along? Cherish your memories but don’t act on them.’
I can’t deny the reasonable dialogue, or at least reasonable on one side. I concede that even though these cowboy boots have given me great comfort during my deepest grief, I must considering letting them go, it is time.
My wise inner voice responds, ‘Ask yourself why you are living in the past. How does this help you now?’
My emotions take over and I ask, Do you now understand my grief?
‘Maybe not, but I know life is worth living now in the present. Don’t you think you can carry memories, with you cherishing them without holding on to things?’
It hurts as I consider letting the cowboy boots go, a personal item that once belonged to my husband.
‘Maybe it will hurt less if you look ahead at what life has to offer. When you live in the past you stay there. The more items you keep, the more you are trying to live the way it was. Join me and listen. I will show you the way and hold you up when you feel defeated.’
I directly respond to my inner voice: What would I do without your strength and wisdom? My heart was ruling my head? I just wasn’t ready to listen to you, but your voice is getting louder and resonating with me. I want joy and laughter the way it was before. The cowboy boots represented such fun memories. ‘You will laugh and have fun by making new memories.’
With tears in my eyes and a picture of my husband close by smiling, I realized the cowboy boots would travel no longer.
I could imagine what my husband would say seeing me now. ‘What the heck are you doing with my old cowboy boots. Think of me with love, not things.’ I realized that was what my inner voice had been advising me all along.
After finally coming to the realization that it was time to let go of these boots, I understood I would always have my precious memories. I felt my spirit lifting, so grateful I had listened to my inner voice who knows me so well.
I now know I can move forward with my grief and look ahead, carrying these precious memories with me. I found peace in my decision.