In Response to: Picturing Pandemics

I am keeping it together. This is what I say to myself second time around being separated from my family, and my work, due to political and COVID-19 issues. But, not to worry, I am stuck in a good city, in a good country, and with our eldest daughter whose European first name means illuminous and her Persian second name means “quiet heart.” So, I am quiet and peaceful until I picked up this edition of Princeton Alumni Weekly.

Magazines were always something I liked reading growing up in the USSR. Smell of printed paper of a freshly printed magazine is not like decomposed old book. I liked reading hard copies of scientific and educational monthly editions. A lot of thought provoking and artistic guidance towards poetry, prose, and art would be given by critiques. My mother was the one to blame for my love with regard to art and culture.  She was no ordinary woman. She was born in 1928 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and was one of five survivors among 13 siblings. She was a woman who saw her maternal lineage burn paranji (a traditional Central Asian robe for women and girls that covers the head and body in early 20th century). She also,was a survivor of TB in her childhood. Hence, she became a doctor in this subject, and a mother of four adopted children, which we only found recently.  So when I came across Princeton Alumni Weekly (November 2020), which we don’t have much opportunity to read, as my husband’s work and his love towards development work in post conflict areas and mountainious regions has taken us to Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan —to the land of nomads (actually thanks to some guidance in Princeton), I could not find my comfort spot to lean on. I stared at page 25 from the top image “Death in Sickroom” and the cover of that edition.  These two images were perfect.  Perfect in their small size and strength. It struck me, “so, this is what it must have been for my mother all those years ago to fight tuberculosis.” Images of fear, crying, and desperation of a young mind. Lonely and yet, so ready to start coping again.

It triggered me to use this magazine as an advertisement in Viennese subways, where one hardly sees people reading paper editions. Reading little paragraphs of eight images made my somewhat maturing motherly journey of April 2020–August 2021 momentous. I am going to call  it, “I lost something and I gained more.”

Thank you for this fantastic opportunity to remind myself where my life started: my mother. 

Munira I. Chudoba s*02
Vienna, Austria