In September, I moved to Moscow expecting to stay for three years.

I moved to Moscow to continue on campus the job I had been doing remotely for a year already at that point, a job that I took because, after having submitted more than 200 applications, it was the offer I received.

But I also moved to Moscow to make changes, to live alone for the first time in my life, to write, to feather my empty nest.

When my sister and I were finishing up high school, starting college, and living apart from my mother, I watched as she rediscovered herself, her hobbies, and her talents. In those years, she unpacked boxes that we had moved several times and finished projects she had started before I was born. As we needed less, my mother had more available for herself.

I moved to Moscow anticipating that for myself.

I took writing projects that exist only as piles of books and notes. I took fabric earmarked for garments, but still not cut. I took embroidery floss and yarn and thread. I took my spinning wheel and my cello.

When I moved to Moscow, I took the dreams of what my career, my creativity, my life could become when the only human being I had to care for was me.

From September until March, as I rediscovered my self, I also worked hard to build community with my church, to connect with colleagues, to integrate into my neighborhood. When I bought the airline ticket I eventually used to leave, I thought of it as just an insurance policy. I expected to cancel it.

For several days, canceling seemed possible. For several days, life in the capital did not change. My students and colleagues and I watched the news in horror, but the daily routine at our private, independent university went on as usual. Moscow then felt a lot like the US in 2003.

In a matter of days, the sanctions by Western governments, the boycotts by Western companies, the new laws about information and further restrictions on speech and the press all made staying in Moscow untenable.

I packed my two meager suitcases and divided everything I was leaving behind into two piles: Things You Can Donate or Sell and Thing I Will Pay to Have Shipped. The former pile is much larger than the latter.

I continue to teach my students via Zoom, Google Suite, and Canvas. My non-Russian colleagues and I–now scattered across the US, Europe, and the Mediterranean–are holding out hope that our students inside the Russian Federation will continue to have access to these tools, that these companies will not join the wave of boycotts.

I continue to earn a salary, which is paid, by law, in rubles to an account in a Russian bank. My bank is not on the sanctions list, but Visa and MasterCard’s boycotts and the RF’s restrictions on exporting currency mean that I cannot access that money. At our now-weekly Zoom faculty meetings, the topic of our salaries dominates our conversation: What do the rules say? What do they mean? To whom do they apply? Can we use cryptocurrency wallets to move money across borders?

I continue to pay rent to my landlord for The Gallery. Perhaps I will be able to return long enough to reclaim my things before my visa expires. Perhaps relations will normalize enough that international shipping will be possible. In the meantime, if my salary can’t help me in the US, at least it can continue to support this family as they face astronomical inflation.

Perhaps I will renew my contract and continue teaching remotely. Perhaps my university will open a satellite campus somewhere. Perhaps relations will improve and I will move back to Moscow in September or January. After all, this job remains the best career prospect I have. The hiring cycle for English professors at US universities for Fall 2022 has ended. All the submission deadlines have passed.

My heart breaks for the people of Ukraine. The wanton destruction of a vibrant and complex nation is a global tragedy. I am angry that this is happening. But also I am angry that the West has only just figured out how to welcome refugees. The speed and scope of efforts to support Ukrainians shows that we in the West were always capable of coordinated humanitarian mobilization. I am ashamed at us that Yemenis, Syrians, Afghans, and Kurds have not been met with the same welcome. I am ashamed at the horrific “welcome” extended to asylum seekers at the US border with Mexico while universities across the US are mobilizing to accept students, researchers, and faculty members from Ukraine. This is the way we should always have been doing it, and we damn well better respond to every future wave of refugees with the speed and compassion we have mustered here.

And in a very personal, very selfish way, I am angry that my life is in tatters again, that I am dependent on the kindness of my friends and family again, that my plans and dreams are null and void again. After being widowed at 34, it took years to feel like I was standing on solid ground again. Here I am at 43 living in my aunt and uncle’s guest room with two suitcases worth of life and a cat.

I am so very fortunate that I was able to leave and was able to bring two whole suitcases. I am so very fortunate that I got a ticket on a flight that was not cancelled. I am so very fortunate that I have generous family who have space for us. I am so very fortunate that my late husband’s investments funded an IRA that I can now raid to support myself and to pay the kids’ tuition bills here in the US while my salary is held hostage.

I am so very incredibly fortunate that I have a safety net and that it has caught me.

My compassion for Ukraine and my awareness of my own good fortune, though, do little to temper my anger and frustration at the world. I am incandescent with rage.

I just don’t fucking want to have to keep rebuilding from the mess.