School of Movement Medicine - Mindfulness in Motion

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Issue: July 2007
Butterflies and Demons

By Eva Maria Chapman
I am blessed to have met Susannah and Ya’Acov. They encouraged me to write and publish my stories.  I have had an amazing life and have learnt many amazing lessons. These I wish to share.  ‘Sasha & Olga’ my first book, published last year, is about what I had to face within myself to honour my parents- to honour a mother who, from a crazed wounded place, beat me mercilessly as she descended into schizophrenia, and a father, who from deeply embedded bitterness, banished me from his heart for 33 years.

I believe that everything that has ever happened under the sun is carried by someone. The particular crucible of suffering in which my parents were cooked, was passed on to me. I am proud to carry it, to bear it, to face it, to transform it. The famines, genocide, social experiments, battles, that raged around my parents, were felt in every cell of their bodies, and they suffered profoundly. I believe that in order to progress the world, this suffering must be communicated and received by another human being. My father took a huge step; he allowed my love in, and communicated his suffering to me in the last two years of his life.  ‘Sasha & Olga’ shows how he let this love trickle into his arid and bitter heart and what flowed between us, unravelled a giant ball of suffering. As they say it takes two to tango. Our tango was fiery and passionate and lives on in this book.

       His suffering was monumental and he had carried it so stoically, had built it into every sinew of his body, so that he could survive. When he at last opened up to me, his heart burst like a mighty river – the tears he held back when his father was imprisoned by the Bolsheviks for non existent gold, the tears he held back when his parents were marched to their deaths by the Nazis, the tears he held back when his beloved younger brother was killed on the Western Front, all burst forth like an almighty dam. Every sinew of his body was softened, every tightening of his jaw relaxed, every bitterness stored in each cell, was released and he died a happy man. I am proud of this achievement. It is a great thing to have done for him. In doing it for him, I feel I have done it for every Ukrainian or Russian who has tried to hide a terrible past. By letting me see his suffering and letting it go, Sasha could move on.  Extraordinary that he managed to let go a lifetime of bitterness and find peace in his heart. I was prepared to listen, to receive. In order to do so, I had to give up my own sense of injury, my own attachment to grievance and not being understood, my own catalogue of heartbreak. The lessons of life are humiliating- and during that journey, I faced a lot of humiliation.

      My mother Olga loved to dance and sing. She was born in 1924, in  little village in Ukraine, a bad time, a bad place for anyone to dance and sing.  As Norman Davies, British Historian said, ‘No nation lost more people in the twentieth century than the Ukrainians.’  Olga was hounded by the Bolsheviks, the NKVD and Stalin and at the age of 17 taken as a prisoner of the Nazis. She spent the last 17 years of her life in a mental hospital. She could not escape her past. It burnt a vivid hole in her heart- the injury and sadness were too deeply embedded.

     But despite all that she instilled in me a love for dance and song. I know when I dance and sing , I dance and sing for her and all my ancestors. I feel they are with me. They are overjoyed that I have managed to transform the suffering that is our legacy, into joy.

     My second book ‘Butterflies & Demons’ is about the place Sasha, Olga and I migrated to, Adelaide. Here I found a far older song and dance that had been trampled beneath the wide clean streets, the song and dance of the Kaurna people. They had sung and danced on the Adelaide plain for over 40,000 years. I feel honoured to uncover their story and blend it with my own. I wish to put royalties towards a statue of Mullawirraburka, the last Kaurna warrior, an unsung hero; a man who danced the ngunyawaietta, or ‘moving with joy event’, passed down from his ancestors, when all the Kaurna people would dance and sing what was happening to them at any given point. This is how they moved forward, literally.

      I am now looking for a publisher. Watch this space. 

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The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the views of the School of Movement Medicine. Roland Wilkinson, Nappers Crossing, Staverton, Devon TQ9 6PD, UK Tel & Fax +44 (0)1803 762255 http://www.