A few days after the war broke out in Ukraine last year, my 80 year old grandmother embarked on a solo journey to Moldova from her home in Odesa. A bus journey got her part of the way there, but the remaining 10km was done by foot in the rain and snow to the border, alongside highways of gridlocked cars. I travelled to the edge of a warzone to meet her, and together we faced one and a half excruciating months of waiting in bureaucratic limbo for her visa, trapped in Romania.
The last time I saw my grandmother was 15 years ago. Once settled in the UK, we slowly became reacquainted with one another and I became her fulltime carer. Living with her has helped me to reconnect with my Ukrainian heritage and learn more about her life.
I have portrayed her as a Slavic folkloric heroine to reflect her resilience, hope and strength during this difficult and unprecedented chapter in her life.
Although she had many freedoms and access to better food, healthcare and general lifestyle in Scotland, the language barrier, the culture shock, and a dawning realisation that she might never return home were a heavy burden to bear.
My grandmother stayed consistently positive and optimistic, but there was still an underlying sense of being unable to escape from the situation in her motherland, and not feeling like a settled resident in her new one. Watching the daily Ukrainian news updates helped her to connect with home, as painful as it was to hear.
She spent the majority of her time at home in my flat, occasionally gardening or tidying the communal areas, as she did back home in Odesa. Everyday routines of seemingly mundane tasks helped to give her some sense of stability and distraction from the war.
Knitting socks was my grandmother's meditative way of passing the time, keeping her hands busy and her brain sharp. I noticed gaps in her short-term memory and occasional confusion or slowness. She knitted socks because they were "useful items" and gave away many of these to friends and strangers alike. She also kept a note book recording her knitting projects through notes, thoughts and simple sums like addition and subtraction.
Across many cultures (including Ukrainian), there is a belief in an inherent magic imbued in crafting and stitching items by hand. It is said that the energy of the person transfers into the object, thus only good thoughts and well wishes are allowed during the creation of the item. I like to think that each sock my grandmother knitted has this golden magic which protects the wearer.