By Alexandra Paucescu
It’s been more than a year now since our lives changed, the whole world, as we knew it, turned into something different… a pandemic, like nothing any of us had lived before, changed the way we interact to each other, slowed down the pace of our hectic lives and proved to us that we are so small, powerless and fragile as human beings.
One year ago I was frenetically preparing to launch my first book, ‘Just a diplomatic spouse’, I was making travel plans (like I always did, several months in advance) and I was fully enjoying the benefits of an active social diplomatic life in Berlin.
Little did I know of what was about to come and how our entire universe was going to be challenged, our inner strength tested and our nerves stretched to the max.
Day by day, the disease came closer and closer, we had to give up our travel plans, the list of guests got erased and the first lockdown in our lives came upon us and our families. Luckily, Berlin and Germany imposed quite mild restrictions at first. We were still able to go out freely and take long walks in the many parks and forests around the city, and, although social contacts were severely narrowed, we had the great comfort of our family of four.
I guess we are lucky because we greatly enjoy each other’s company. That was sadly not the case for many others. I heard many stories of breakups and divorces post- COVID lockdown. Spending all day long with the same few people can be tricky sometimes. But, as I often advised others too, I tried to establish some kind of lockdown routines in our daily schedule, in order to find balance and lower the pressure of the whole situation. As we all know by now, when you constantly read and hear news about raising infection numbers, crowded IC units, exhausted medical staff and dear people around you getting sick, it’s only inevitable that your stress level will go high.
I will never forget the staggering images of empty streets, ghost cities, famous landmarks all over the world completely alone, people singing together, each from their own balconies, rounds of evening applause supporting the effort of tireless doctors and nurses fighting to keep sick people alive.
The world stood still and what we had left was hope…that maybe it was just a bad dream, that maybe this whole disaster would pass soon…
One of the most impressive images that come now to my mind is one from Easter 2020, when I watched online Andrea Bocelli, the famous Italian tenor, singing in front of the Milan Dome, in an empty square… just him, the majestic building and his marvelous voice echoing into the air. Beautiful image, but equally terribly emotional!
Online meetings, online concerts, online schooling… as if we tried to move our entire lives into the online… but we are social creatures, human beings will always crave for social contact. We miss terribly meeting our friends for lunch and dinner, going out to the cinema, having a night out clubbing, celebrating big days with our extended families, New Year’s Eve big parties and fireworks, travelling worry-free…
Oh, yes… travelling… a painful subject… empty airports are another weird image of these days. We managed to travel a bit, but I confess that the feeling was different. From the luggage, half full of disinfectants and face protection masks, to all the additional precautions, tests, delayed or cancelled flights, quarantine conditions and changed holiday destinations…2020 had it all… and sadly, 2021 doesn’t seem much different.
A year has gone already and the news of several effective vaccines, available at global scale, offers now a glimpse of hope for a better near future. But I know the way back to normality is going to be long and hard and the scars will be with us for years to come.
Some countries went through this pandemic maybe a bit softer and wiser; others paid a much bigger price. Economic recession showed its teeth to all and the cruel statistics, which worsen daily, are really frightening: worldwide close to a hundred million people infected, more than two million deaths, millions of lost jobs, countless bankrupt businesses, billions of lives affected.
Have we learnt anything out of the present experience? I certainly hope so… This pandemic offered us the chance to maybe reinvent ourselves, to discover new hobbies and forgotten talents, new personal ways of expression. And, above all, I hope we learnt to appreciate more our closest ones, to value our time more and to guard our health.
I would like to believe that we will no longer take for granted our liberties, our freedom, nature, friends and family. Please, take time to call people you love, express your feelings, promise yourself that you will spend more time doing the things you really enjoy, that you will visit the countries you long planned to visit, that you will be grateful for each healthy day you are given and will show gratitude for all the good in your life.
No matter how difficult the situation is, how long the pandemic lasts, kindness and solidarity must prevail.
Be kind, after all… it’s free!
About the author:
She speaks Romanian, English, French, German and Italian, gives lectures on intercultural communication and is an active NGO volunteer.