Anxiety and job-seeking in Ukraine – a diary

Oil painting by correspondent, 2021 – if you would like to support the artist’s work, contact me

In the light of the ongoing invasion of Ukraine by Russian military forces, I am re-posting this piece, which is from a text conversation that I had with a Ukrainian woman that I met on a penpal website between 2019 – 2021. She spoke about her life, including anxiety issues and job-seeking. I last received a message from her some two months ago and I believe she is still living in the capital, Kyiv, which is undergoing attack as I write.

Please, if you can, urge your political representatives, in whatever way you can, from email to a public protest, that de-escalation and negotiation is needed now to stop any more bloodshed. There is no military solution to defeat Russia, due to their nuclear capability and their insistence that Ukraine is part of their sphere of strategic influence. The world has to negotiate and offer Ukrainian neutrality to Russia in exchange for troop withdrawal and return to speaking between foes. Ukrainian political alignment with Russia may not be ideal but it is far better than being destroyed and occupied.

Between December 2019 and April 2021, a Ukrainian woman in her 30s, currently living in the Kyiv area, shared with me some of her experiences of challenging her anxiety symptoms, searching for work and her efforts at painting. She told me she prefers to listen to stories than tell them but gave me permission to share some of her experiences anonymously, saying: “You can embellish the story with different romantic stories, whatever you want, but only my photo is scary to upload) it is better not).” At the start of the conversation, from which I have deleted my responses and most of her questions for me, to focus on her experience, she is living with her parents, near Kyiv, helping at her father’s small local electrical goods store and selling religious books by mail.


Dec 18, 2019

Today is a sunny day. I argued with my father that I would find work after the new year, and he would stop drinking)). Maybe at least it will drive me out of the house.

…we bet that if I go to work my father will not drink). This is not a quarrel, but a game. Once I argued with my brother that if I go to work in Poland, he will quit smoking. I went to Poland, but he did not quit smoking 🙂

Dec 20, 2019

I have not had time to buy gifts, instead, I got drunk yesterday, could not stand it)). Because of this, the state of health is not very good. But she swore to herself that this is the last time)

no, I can drink alone). I feel good only the first half hour, and then it becomes very bad.

I also drank 2 beers). I have not bought gifts yet, I have a big family, I need a lot of gifts.

Dec 22, 2019

Yes, I’m better, I swore to myself not to drink anymore, although often I really feel like it. I choose which country I should go to work. But it will be in six months, it will take a lot of time to draw up documents) Maybe Sweden)

I will go through a paid agency. But this is not soon, a lot needs to be done for this)…this is work somewhere in the factories. It’s very difficult there, but i can earn more than in Ukraine. Since I haven’t been working for a year, I need to pay for it).

No, I’m very cowardly, but in extreme conditions it’s easier for me. When everyone is busy, all Ukrainians who go to work are in the same conditions). Although in Poland it was difficult for me, and I even had to change the city and work, right in Poland. But the second time I will behave differently, calmer.

Dec 25, 2019

Thanks! Merry Christmas to you too !!

Today I sent parcels to my customers)….We celebrate Christmas on January 7th, so it’s too early to give gifts. We have Orthodox Christmas)…. And I will celebrate 2 times)

Continue reading “Anxiety and job-seeking in Ukraine – a diary”

Anxiety and Working Remotely

By Graham,


Like so many people, I’ve adopted the work-from-home life. It’s been great to just roll out of bed, make some decaf coffee, and sit down at my computer. I have more time for the things that matter, and I spend less time going to places I don’t want to go. I can work outside when the weather is nice, and if I have to work late for some reason, I can just throw an easy dinner in the oven.

It sounds like the life for a socially awkward introvert with an anxiety disorder, and for the most part, it’s pretty great. But no situation is perfect, and sometimes there are things I miss, or, perhaps more aptly, find less worse about a workplace.

My biggest struggle is the fact that 90% of communication at my job is via Slack or email. Again, that seems like the dream, but text-only communication opens the door for a lot of ambiguity. Anxiety, unfortunately, feeds off ambiguity. I find myself reading too much into feedback, or even just regular daily communication, that I wouldn’t read as much into in person.

Continue reading “Anxiety and Working Remotely”

You Can’t Quit, We Need You! – teaching during the pandemic

By Tangela, first published on her site. She is a writer and educator based in the US.


When people have to go to work physically, there is a chance for folks to separate the two worlds. You could leave the office at the office and worry about your home life at home. The stress could potentially be divided between the two places. However, with more people starting to work from home, people can’t leave their job at the job.

Myself, for example, I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to work from home. I have a problem with constantly stressing about everything, but I could kind of put my home problems out of my head for a while when I was a work. So when I worked from home, that line of demarcation was gone.

I include schoolwork in this too. I used to get to work early and work on some assignments there. Usually, I didn’t have the energy to work on things after work. Once I got home, I didn’t want to exert so much mental power.

When I’m working from home, it’s all anxiety all the time. Productivity is always on my mind. I stress about work decisions and schoolwork all the time, not to mention home stress. Let’s just say that I argue with my husband before work. I’m in a funky mood, right. Before, I could fume and clear my head during my commute. Get my mind right for talking to the kids. When I’m at home, I have ten minutes between clock in and showtime. Not long enough to decompress at all.

I’m not saying I was in a hurry to get back to class. On the contrary, I want to work as safely as possible. It’s just that people like me that can’t “turn it off” are really burned out. Plus, this new school year feels so much different from years in the past. We are currently three weeks into the year and the stress level feels like a typical late April/early May. The teachers are overwhelmed, and a lot of the kids are over it already. Plus, the ever-present threat of being sent back into quarantine because of the new COVID variants. None of the students in my building are old enough to get vaccinated. We won’t quarantine as a district, but several classrooms have been sent back to virtual learning due to illness.

Over summer break, I felt so much better. I didn’t have deadlines breathing down my neck. I didn’t have work expectations to meet. It was amazing how different I felt. Now, that summer break is over, the stressors are back, and I can feel my nerves starting to fray again. That’s no good.

Other people must be feeling the same.

11 Sept, 2021

Tangela Williams-Spann

Freedom Day in England? Drastic lifting of lockdown restrictions

Today is being labelled by some as Freedom Day or Free-dumb Day, here in England, as the government has lifted remaining lockdown restrictions concerning face mask wearing, social movement and assembly.

In what is being called an experiment or a gamble by some, the government is acting knowing that cases will sharply rise even faster and are relying on the vaccination programme to stop too many people ending up in hospital or dying, as well as leaving it to local authorities and the public to largely manage themselves, as best they can. There are still national self-isolation and quarantine rules for those who get or are in contact with Covid-19 and for travellers from certain countries – but these too, are being watered down.

The cases in the UK having been increasing significantly, recently, due to the so-called ‘Delta variant’ strain and the previous ending of the stricter lockdown measures that prevented indoor gatherings, with daily cases now hitting over 50,000 a day, recently. Such was the concern, ‘Freedom Day’ was delayed for a month, from the planned date of 21st June. The number who are actually hospitalised or dying of Covid-19 in England is relatively low compared to last year’s disaster, as a reported 68.3% of the population of England have been fully vaccinated and 88% part vaccinated and this is reducing spread and number of serious symptoms. Antibodies from having had the virus and hospitals improving their treatment of patients is also likely reducing numbers of serious cases.

Many scientists and members of the public are concerned that the abrupt end to these restrictions, at this time, is going to accelerate the spread and, some fear that 50,000 cases a day could become 100,000 cases or higher within weeks or months. The National Health System, in England, is experiencing a lot of pressure from influx of patients whose treatments were delayed due to the pandemic, as well as staff burnout and, also, staff shortage as they are being required to self-isolate or quarantine. The NHS was already understaffed and overwhelmed, prior to the pandemic. There are fears that sharp rises in cases could lead to hospitalisation levels that become unmanageable and this could even lead to the need for return to restrictions just to protect the health system from breaking down.

The government is recommending continuation of some public anti-contagion measures, such as wearing face masks in indoor gathering spaces and social distancing but no longer making it compulsory. They have ended, completely, guidance on working from home. The drastic relaxation may affect vaccination take-up and observance of the rules that remain in place, if a culture of resistance or indifference grows, encouraged by ‘Freedom Day’.

Some local authorities, such as the mayor of London, are using their limited powers to make it compulsory to wear face masks on public transport within their areas but not all authorities have such powers. Some retail store companies say that they will insist staff and customers continue to wear masks, whilst others say they will recommend it but not insist from customers, to avoid their staff receiving abuse. It is hard to see how such a piecemeal approach can be effective or fair on customer service staff.

Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, as devolved administrations that have control over their own Covid rules, are not removing all rules and face mask wearing and social distancing restrictions remain as do some restrictions on how many people can gather indoors. They may be taking heed of the experience in Netherlands, where most restrictions were lifted on 26th June, as cases fell, only for the government to backtrack soon after, as cases increased from 1,000 to 7,000 a day, by reimposing social distancing rules, meaning the closure of nightclubs and earlier closing for cafes and restaurants.

A difficult balance must be struck and the public need to be convinced. In France, rising cases has moved the government to make it mandatory for health workers to be vaccinated and gone as far as a plan to require a health pass for access to restaurants and cafes, either showing vaccination or a negative Covid test. Whilst polls show the majority of the French population are supportive of such measures, on Saturday, July 17th, over 100,000 protestors marched in major cities in opposition to what they see as an imposition on civil liberties and effectively, a compulsory vaccination programme for anyone who wishes to participate in social life.

A safer approach and one that protects the national health service, in England, would have been to wait until a higher proportion of the public were fully vaccinated and to retain some national anti-contagion measures such as face masks on public transport and for indoor meeting places and retaining social distancing and work from home guidance.

However, the government have put pressure on themselves through promises of a freedom day and have lost popularity for the handling of the pandemic, including through high profile cases of ministers or advisers breaking their own rules and, they seem keen on diverting responsibility from themselves. They have also been under pressure from some business lobbies and other campaign groups to end restrictions. Unfortunately, they are not giving sufficient weight, it seems, to the National Health Service, which will be under immense pressure again and more people will needlessly die or be seriously unwell. How this experiment plays out will likely greatly depend on the number and speed of the take-up of vaccinations in the coming weeks, how much support the NHS receives and, perhaps, the responsible actions of the English public.