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An incurable dreamer and romantic, a lover of art and poetry, but despite all this a student in the faculty of heartless science (pharmacology) at the University of Montreal.
Some things happen to others, but never to you. It never happens to you to win the jackpot of a lottery. You never get into the heat of battle (if you are used to living in a peaceful country). According to Sigmund Freud, you also unconsciously believe that you will never die. Until recently, a global pandemic, closed borders, quarantine, and the personal risk of infection with a new dangerous virus were also things that never happen. It looks more like a Hollywood movie script rather than a real chronicle of the events of 2020. I think this is one of the main reasons why officials delayed the closure of borders, and many people did not comply with quarantine measures. At the end of February, my friend Laura invited me to a mini party to mark the middle of the session. This is not the type of event that I like. As a social phobic, I avoid social contact with strangers. If I had to describe social phobia in one word, I would say, “Shame”. You are constantly ashamed of what you do or say in public, and you cannot stop thinking that others think you are weird or even stupid, and because of these thoughts, you become even more awkward. Since I am trying to fight my phobia, I accepted the invitation, although I really did not want to go there. A week later, my body temperature rose sharply up to 38°C. I developed severe weakness, but I couldn't sleep because of the hellish sore throat. I spent two days in bed, and on the third, people in chemical protection suits called at my door and said that Laura was in the intensive care unit with suspected COVID-19. I got tested. The results came pretty quickly: the test was positive. Since my case was considered mild, I was left to be treated and quarantined at home. Staying at home and not talking to anyone is not new or difficult for me. But I had no idea how to organize my life without the possibility of going out to buy food and medicine. Constant home delivery is a heavy financial burden for a student. I had to ask my parents for help, and as a result, to listen to my mother's lamentations, and endless questions about my health 4 times a day on Skype. Every morning was very difficult. No matter how slowly I got up, my legs gave way, and my vision went black. I slowly walked from the bedroom to the toilet, and somewhere in between, I had to sit down for the dizziness to stop. I contacted other guests of that ill-fated party. It turned out that everyone had a confirmed coronavirus, and everyone got sick with it in a mild form. If Laura hadn't been admitted to the hospital, we'd all just assume we had some weird flu. The first week Laura did not call me but only sometimes sent SMS messages because the doctors asked her to talk less. Apparently, at first, she also thought that she just had a cold. But then she began to cough violently with blood along with phlegm. Her grandmother panicked and called an ambulance. “I felt a sharp pain when breathing as if I was being pierced from the inside. It was like there was a devil inside me. It was hard for me to breathe, there was no room in my chest,” Laura described her feelings. “I went through all the circles of hell, including artificial lung ventilation, deceased roommates, and even the fact that some “caring” people managed to tell my family that I would not be able to handle it.” Soon I learned that the grandmother, with whom Laura lived, also ended up in the hospital. My first thought was that she would die, and I myself was horrified by the calmness with which I thought about it. Unfortunately, I was right. Laura told me about it over the phone in a trembling voice. “She died because of me, it was I who infected her.” “This is absolutely not your fault. You didn't know that you had coronavirus,” I clumsily tried to calm her down. “After all, she could have been infected from someone else, now the number of cases is on the rise.” I was lying. I knew this. But worst of all, Laura knew this too. What can be worse than the death of a loved one? Only the understanding that you are guilty of his death. Even if it happened absolutely involuntarily, the feeling of guilt will be hanging like a heavy stone around your neck for the rest of your life. Thoughts in a chaotic dance swept through my head, colliding, and scattering in different directions. I was frantically searching for words of comfort, but I could not find them. The silence was becoming too long and heavy; I wanted to hang up and return to my life, which turned out to be so comfortable. I always do this when I can't carry on such a simple, and at the same time, difficult small talk. Only now it was not a small talk; it was one of the biggest talks in my life. “Anyway, I should get going,” Laura herself decided to end the conversation. I felt disgusting. Only 3 hours later, I learned that the government had declared a quarantine and closed all educational institutions. Several things that never happen happened in just one week.
My grandfather and I were going to have dinner when lightning flashed outside the window and a few seconds later thunder rumbled nearby, confirming with its grunts that rain was about to fall. Large raindrops hit the pane of glass with force, tapping the sad melody known only to them. Sitting in a warm room with a loved one and watching the bad weather outside the window gives a unique feeling of comfort, peace, and inner harmony. I know that my grandfather had a very difficult life. He survived war, famine and the loss of his beloved wife. What strikes me most is not that he, despite all this, lived to be 90 years old, but that he has been carrying around his whole life the cheerfulness and the indestructible faith in humanity that is sometimes so cruel. I ask him about it. He takes a drag on a cigarette. “In 1944, I was arrested and sent to the Buchenwald camp. Appendicitis partially saved me. I was operated by a prisoner of war. And then every day I ripped open the wound so that it would strongly fester, and I would not be forced to work. I was in the quarantine block, where 1000 other people lived. We were packed in like sardines. Every morning 10-12 corpses were pulled out of the barracks and taken away on a gig to the crematorium. Before burning them, clothes were removed and golden teeth were ripped out. The commandant's wife regularly went out to the parade ground and openly chose people with "beautiful", in her opinion, skin. The prisoner got a commemorative tattoo, and after his death, bags and purses were made of his skin.” He lifts the sleeve of his pullover. “Look” He shows a light strip of skin on his left forearm. IT was here. The number that he got tattooed when he arrived in Buchenwald. Number 23724. He says that after his return from the concentration camp, he became an atheist. “I swore to myself that I would not bring Jewish children in this world. The world was saturated with anti-Semitism, and I did not want them to be offended or killed at any time, simply because they were Jews.” He sits in silence for a moment, takes a sip of the tea, looks out the window. On the terrace, several alpine violets bravely resist strong gusts of wind and the first winter colds. “I joined the international underground organization of Buchenwald, which was preparing an uprising. A receiver was hidden in the bucket of one of our members' hut. The Americans easily entered Buchenwald, whose liberation had already begun from within by our underground resistance. Later many wondered: how could a group of deadly exhausted people break through the armed guards and meet the Americans? What inhuman willpower had to be possessed? After all, every day only half of the prisoners returned from the quarry. The rest perished from exhaustion. In fact, those who are called people with a strong will are just people who know how to long for what they are fighting for. For a desire to be effective, its strength must be directly proportional to challenges that must be overcome on the way to the goal. This strong desire cannot, however, be blind, unreasonable. It should flow from the firm values and the principles of behavior of a man, should be determined by his worldview. I will never forget the night on the train bound for Buchenwald. It was snowing everywhere. The compartment was deadly cold. We were left for many days in wagons without beds, thus, without the possibility of somehow warming ourselves. An old man, who was very loved in my city, was sitting next to me. He was trembling all over and looked terrible. I wrapped my arms around him to warm him. I hugged him tightly to give off some heat. I rubbed his hands, feet, face, neck. I begged him to stay alive. I encouraged him. Thus, I kept this man warm all night. I myself was tired and cold. My fingers were numb, but I did not stop massaging the body of this man to warm him. Finally, morning came, the sun began to sparkle. I looked around me to see other people. To my horror, all I could see were frozen corpses. All I could hear was the silence of death. The frosty night killed almost everyone. Among the few survivors was the old man and me. The old man survived because I did not let him freeze, and I remained alive because I kept him warm. Let me tell you the secret of survival in this world. When you warm the hearts of others, then you will warm yourself as well. I do not call for abstract humanism where everyone should help everyone in everything and turn the other cheek when somebody hits them. But fixation only with oneself and one's problem only aggravates the situation. It creates an artificial wall between the person and the rest of the world, which leads to loneliness. When you support and inspire others, then you also receive support and inspiration in your life. As Zig Ziglar famously said, “You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want.”