When? I don’t know. – By @elisaczerwenka

By Elisa Czerwenka


When? I don’t know.


We are all isolating now. And with the physical distancing comes the feeling of total isolation. The realisation that we are, after all, alone. A couple of days ago when everyone started to think where to isolate the answer was quite simple: at home. With flatmates. With partners. With family members. For me, isolation means total isolation. I have a small studio in South London and live by myself. My family lives all around the world. My parents in Austria. My sister in Denmark. My boyfriend in Amsterdam.

I have always dreamed of living internationally and have travelled so much during the past years. I did internships in Berlin, Amsterdam, Vienna and London. Being away from my family was never easy, but for me a sacrifice that always felt worth taking. After all, homesickness is easily fixed with a cheap flight home. And I was always proud how well my partner and I have managed our long-distance relationship (which is reaching its 2-year-anniversary soon!). Sometimes we could see each other every couple of weeks; sometimes it took longer. But there was still a certainty, a flight already booked before the other one left.

Since this pandemic started, I feel differently. My heart is breaking, not being able to be with my loved ones. I know that many people worldwide, maybe even you, reading this have the same problem (at the moment not even families that live in the same city are spared from being indefinitely separated from each other). But It’s not just about the distance, for me, that’s always been there. It’s about not knowing when I can see them again—the uncertainty.

Just over two weeks ago, my boyfriend was at the airport getting ready to board a flight to see me. That was when there were only a handful of cases in the Netherlands. The Coronavirus was already on our radar – Who would he be sitting next to on a plane? Was it safe? – but it was still early enough that traveling seemed to mostly be a non-issue.

Just as the boarding started, he received a message, that one of his coworkers tested positive. It was hard, but we decided he shouldn’t fly. He needed to isolate. “We can see each other in two weeks, when the isolation is over, don’t worry”. How naive. Looking back at it now, it reminds me how quickly everything escalated; we had no idea what other measures were necessary.

The Austrian Embassy sent me a message yesterday, announcing the last flight to Austria before all airports shut. My last chance to get home before … ?

And even now I can’t take the trip. First of all, I know that travelling right now is not the right thing. And deep down, I know I need to put society’s best interest before my feelings. What makes maters worse is that my dad is a doctor and is still treating patients in Austria. If I fly home, I risk his health and therefore, his patients. I couldn’t do that. As long as we can, my family needs to be able to make money. And the most important reason, which also prevents me from leaving my tiny studio: I got sick myself. Since yesterday, I have been coughing and barely able to breathe. They say you need a fever to have corona, but I don’t feel that’s necessarily the full story. Whatever this is, it does not feel like a typical cold. I will be fine, but it feels ten times worse, not knowing and doing this by myself.

Every time I facetime my boyfriend, we speak of potential dates when we can see each other again. We joke that being isolated together wouldn’t be so bad. I couldn’t imagine anything better than being stuck with him for a month, to be honest. But in reality, we know, it will take a while, and we will wait.

At SCA, we always say that writing down our feelings is one of the best ways to deal with them. This has never felt as right as it does today. For now, I will put myself into work, my hobbies, painting and playing the piano, and I will facetime until my eyes twitch. And I will rest and hope that my family and yours stay safe and well.


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