As I am driving in the rain this morning, I am suddenly taken 12 years back to another car, in Detroit, MI. We just moved there a few months ago; didn’t know a single soul. Immediately, we located Detroit’s Ukrainian community, finding solace in its familiarity, so comforting in that defaced underpopulated city.
Ukrainian Orthodox church was our anchor. A cluster of groups – from the newly arrived to the well seasoned immigrants to the haughty Diaspora – all united by that invisible connection; no, not the ethnicity or cultural background or even the language. It is, as my mother so eloquently put it, the Slavic breadth of the soul, the need to pour out one’s feelings and heart into another person and feel safe that you are heard and understood.
Olga is a second generation Ukrainian, born and raised in Detroit. Speaks fluent Ukrainian, no accent; her life - a thick and solid braid of Ukrainian and American cooking, interests and culture.
In her car one day, I am doing my best at small talk but Olga shocks me with the detailed confession of her recent divorce. I remember the pitter-patter of the rain on the roof. I feel my fuzzy baby blue sweater and the weight of Olga’s pain in the tips of my fingers. I question the reality of the situation – has someone really trusted me to the extent of unloading her life and baring her soul in front of me? The feeling of disbelief and awe weighed down by the heaviness of responsibility I all of a sudden feel for the woman next to me.
We became very close friends. Olga was my son’s godmother and my family for over seven years. My move to Vancouver cut that friendship short. I still don’t know what to think of its end, as even six years later I can’t recover from the pain of losing her.
As I am sitting in the car on this rainy day, I wish for a friend in a fuzzy baby blue sweater who could hold my pain in her gentle hands and comfort me with true friendship while the walls of my life are slowly crumbling down.