Corona Diaries

20 years ago I wrote The Diary of a Political Idiot, reporting daily life in Belgrade, Serbia under sanctions, political repression and finally NATO bombings. Some years before I collected stories from women refugees from ex YU, The Suitcase.
Now, I am collecting first person stories mostly from Italy that reach me, as important emotional, fact checking political and literary voices dealing with Corona virus emergency: the globalisation of the balkanisation, viruses and wars have many things in common because they don’t count the victims while equalising the differences. And the target is always the weakest and most vulnerable part of the population, so let’s hear them, in different languages as they write.

T. Roma

March, 9th

Ciao Jasmina. Hope you and your family are doing well. We’re in voluntary isolation, because of G.’s health issues, and I am not coming back to work for some time, and I hope my employers won’t fire me… I cannot risk bringing germs at home. If I need to go out, I take all the precautions, but I can’t find masks, so I wear scarves and gloves, take off my shoes as soon as I enter the door and wash my hands all the time. I am trying to protect myself and G., since it’s hard to understand what the government is doing to protect us: measures and ordinances have been very confusing since the beginning, and when they decided to declare the red zones, they made a huge mess by let the news leak out before the decrees were signed. As a result, a lot of morons ran away from the north to go back to the south of Italy, that was still relatively safe and with less cases of Covid-19. That’s the (in)famous italian way of life…. I guess you’d better stay away from this country for a while, because I seriously think our politicians have no idea how to properly manage extreme measures. I mean, what do you expect from a country where the prime minister’s counselor is an idiot from a reality show and where people say: well, I feel fine, why should I stay home for a flu? The most concerning thing is the state of our sanitary system: decades of fund cutting and tax evasion have destroyed everything, hospitals are already collapsing and a lot of doctors and nurses are already in quarantine or infected. And this is happening in the north of the country. Just wait for two weeks and we’ll see the same, in a larger scale, in the south, where the population is older and poorer. That’s why now I am scared for my parents… they need to go to two different hospitals this week for some very important check ups, and I am literally terrified they could catch something while there. Plus, a couple days ago, my brother who lives with them had a fever and cough… you can imagine how I felt! It seems it was only a bad cold because he went running on a freezy night, so he’s taking antibiotics and seems to be recovering very fast. But I swear I’ve lost five years of life just thinking about it.
Anyway, we’re trying to stay calm, to make activities at home. He’s lucky because he can smart work, but it’s not the same for me. I am not getting bored (for now), but I am trying to figure out what to do for the next weeks, because I am sure this situation will last for some months. This virus will be a milestone for everyone. Things won’t be the same again, and it’s our fault (in the largest sense possible)… Until now, very few people understood the relationship between the emergence of virus, disturbance of the ecosystem, and capitalism. Maybe from now on we just will have to learn how to live with new viruses constantly adapting to our way of life: viruses will change faster, will change their way of spreading and their lethality in parallel with the crisis of our system. We have loved dystopian movies and novels because of the thrills of the unknown, and now we’re in it and we’re scared, and we’re panicking, and everyone’s trying to act as a doctor or a virologist or a containment expert… I am trying to find some irony in all this, and there’s for sure some irony, like in all human things, but I haven’t enough distance because I am not living on the top of a mountain, but in a big city that will likely be the next one to be closed, after Milan, and even though I am quite healthy, my partner is not. Well, I hope I don’t seem too desperate 🙂 I just wanted to share some feelings with you, and hope you’re safe and protected. How are you doing with all the plane travels and all the people you meet daily? Have you got anxiety episodes? Is your daughter fine? At this moment I really would love to be well versed in mathematics, to understand more about the mathematical models of epidemics or know more about political ecology. I was thinking I should write a pandemic diary, it would be a way to pass the time while secluded at home.

March, 9th
It’s official, all Italy is now ZONA ROSSA. The last time I was in a zona rossa was in Genova 2001.

March, 11th
It’s almost sure I am going to  lose my actual job, the mayor of Rome said that taking public transportation is not safe, they’re extending permission for cars in the restricted traffic zone to help people go to work, but this won’t change anything for me, as I don’t drive. So, for this month I will get only half of my salary and don’t know what is going to happen next month. Last month I was sure that this would have been the happiest moment of my life: a quite steady small income, a new home with my partner, a lot of life projects… and in ten days everything has changed at an impressive pace. I guess I will have to adapt 🙂 
I cannot sleep anymore. I’ve been up until 3 am scrolling the news, the number updates, I count the recovered people and the dead ones, and I oscillate between desperation and hope. In Italy, the infection curve is slowly going down in the first locked down areas, but we should see an impressive peak of infection in the centre and south next week, as the incubation time for the people who ran away from the north and went in contact with their families should expire in a few days, and I am scared as hell for my parents. 
Conspiracy theories are gaining ground here, too. Fortunately, almost all the people I know are smart enough to trust science, but even the most trusted leftist sources I used to read are starting to say strange things, like…they make weird connections between the spreading of the virus and the arrival of US soldier in the italian military basis, like there’s an occupation coming and the virus was just an excuse. Some people also said the soldiers were already vaccinated against Covid-19. I don’t know, but this sounds crazy, even knowing the role USA played in Italy for seventy years, since WW2. The truth is: a scheduled training was in the program, but now it’s cancelled because of the pandemic, so no mystery or conspiracy at all. The other night I had a discussion with my younger brother who was bothered by my worries and told me I was falling into the “mediatic psychosis”. He’s living alone here in Rome, he’s a street musician and now can’t go out to raise a few bucks; we can not meet right now, as Giuliano must avoid contact with people, so I am acting a bit like an anxious mom even if he’s almost 30… Hope he’ll stay safe and won’t go around too much. Then my parents at home…We really need to be grounded and think rationally. I hope we will be able to build something better after all this, I was talking about that with a friend just minutes ago. I like to think that people will learn solidarity and the value of protecting the more fragile people, but then I see the majority of us acting like nothing is happening and go mad. But I know everything will pass. We will need self-discipline, a steady mind, collaboration, empathy, solidarity, and we will finally put under discussion also the current production models, and the exploitation of our planet, and the distribution of wealth… At the end, everything will be fine 🙂 
 March, 11th 
I had a short walk in my neighbourhood, fifteen minutes to go to the pharmacy, withdraw some cash for emergencies, buy some wine to relax on the couch after dinner, and I saw more people wearing protection. There are red or white stripes on the floor in every store, to help us keep the correct distance. The woman at the small grocery store told me I should have worn a mask. “We can’t find them” I told her, and I showed my homemade mask made of baking paper fixed in some way under my big blue scarf, tied around my neck. 
Every time I come home, I leave my shoes in the garden, then clean my hands, put my clothes in the washing machine, and try to clean all the bags. 

March, 12th 
Hello! Yesterday evening our prime minister made another announcement, following the declaration of pandemic from the WHO. The measures to contain the pandemic are now stricter, it’s a kind of lockdown but without a complete lockdown, as manufacturers’ associations do not want to stop their productions and there are no social safety nets for certain categories of workers. The situation is always confused and contradictory, as people do not know for sure what they can or cannot do. The people who can work from home are lucky. But many workers – especially the ones who are in direct contact with the public, or the ones who work in non deferrable services – are on strike because they are not properly equipped to protect themselves while doing their jobs. Big unions are completely absent in the public debate about how to handle this situation, as far as I know, and it’s like we’re navigating by sight while expecting the worse. The saddest situation is in the jails: in the last few days we had riots in jails across all Italy. When the prisoners and their families heard of the anti-epidemic measures, they panicked because of the fear of the contagion and because all contacts with relatives were suspended, and riots began. More than ten people are reportedly dead, officially from overdose (as they assaulted the prisons’ infirmaries); we all saw the hundreds of policemen entering the jails in anti-riot gear but we did not see what happened inside. I guess that “dead from overdose” is the new “he accidentally fell from the stairs”. People protesting outside the jails in Rome have been beaten and arrested. There has been a spectacular prison break from a jail in the south of Italy, but many of the prisoners are already been caught and transferred in other jails, far from their families. 
There are also a few cases of Covid-19 among prisoners and cops… Can you imagine a mass contagion in jails and its consequences? And we’re talking about jails that are already out of their capacity, in which no medical care is guaranteed even in ordinary conditions.
Today I went outside, bringing with me my self-declaration (we need to write on a piece of paper why we are outside our homes, in case the police want to check out) and the prescriptions for the pharmacy. It took me an hour to get ready before going outside, because I had an anxiety attack at every step. It’s not the quarantine itself, I am an introvert and I have always loved solitude, but now it’s different, because loneliness is not a choice and because we are doing something that hopefully is going to have a big impact on public health, so I feel responsible every time I have to go outside. I think there will be a lot of changes in the perception of collective behaviours, and maybe this could lead to new form of social control, like many are saying, but for now the most important thing is to contain the outbreak by diluting the velocity of the contagion, so hospitals won’t collapse too soon. We can talk about the rest later, and I am very sorry that not everyone is able to understand the gravity of the situation. 
Today I am forty, and I am happy that at least I am allowed to spend this day with my partner. “Quarant’anni in quarantena” seems like an appropriate bitter-sweet pun for the occasion 🙂 

Franca Balsamo, 9 March, Torino

Care amiche e amici non ho più usato facebook da tempo ma ora ho qualcosa di importante da dirvi. Mio figlio da ieri è ricoverato per corona virus con una grave polmonite. Ma era già da molti giorni che stava male, aveva già la polmonite e non veniva ricoverato e NON GLI FACEVANO IL TAMPONE perché NON ERA STATO IN CINA. NON ERA STATO NELLA ZONA ROSSA DI CODOGNO/LODI E NON SAPEVA SE AVESSE AVUTO CONTATTI CON PERSONE INFETTATE DA COVID19 CONCLAMATO. QUESTE SONO STATE FINO A L’ALTRO IERI le DIRETTIVE MIMISTERIALI cui dovevano attenersi gli ospedali. E sicuramente l”hanno fatto l’Humanitas (già Gradenigo) e l’Ameddo di Savoia. Le direttive del governo italiano hanno privilegiato la ricerca della catena dei contagi alla cura e isolamento dei malati. Sono state direttive pericolosissime e non hanno fatto altro che aumentare la diffusione del virus: mandato a casa con febbre e polmonite mio figlio può aver trasmesso il virus alle persone in attesa al pronto soccorso dove è stato scaricato, al personale sanitario senza mascherina a due taxisti. Con il timore anzi la certezza di avere il virus per quanto stava male si è responsabilmente messo in autoisolamento. E per due giorni gli ho portato da mangiare e medicine lasciandogliele davanti alla porta. La terza volta che si sentiva soffocare e ha richamato il 112, sentendosi fare la stessa domanda: ha avuto cintatti con persone con il virus accertato? HA MENTITO PER POTER FINALMENTE ESSERE ASCOLTATO e accedere al test. Che purtroppo è risultato positivo. Nel frattempo la polmonite è diventata o è stata riconosciuta grave e mio figlio sarebbe stato comunque ricoverato anche se non fosse stata virale (questa volta dopo forti insistenze da parte mia per evitare l’Humanitas, era al Maria Vittoria). Solo dopo che è stata riconosciuta la positività gli è stata data all’ennesima crisi respiratoria la maschera per ossigeno. La dottoressa del pronto soccorso del Maia Vittoria è stata meravigliosa. Ha saputo comunicarmi chiaramente la verità ma con la capacità di accogliere persino con gli occhi i gesti la voce il mio stato di disperazione. La ringrazio di cuore. Ho avuto e ho (ora sono in isolamento in casa) una rete di amiche meravigliose che mi stanno aiutando da ogni punto di vista materiale psicoligico affettivo. Questo mi fa pensare che questa guerra con la natura del corona virus potrebbe anche essere l’occasione per far emergere e sviluppare l’amore e tutti i comportamenti di solidarietà e cura reciprica che ci uniscono quotidianamente nel nostro piccolo mondo come in quello più grande. Questa è un’esperienza molto dufficile complessa dove paura disperazione si incrociano con una enorme gratitudine e gioia per vedermi arrivare insieme allo tsunami del virus anche quello dell’amicizia. PERÒ vorrei anche che jn futuro quando sarà passata la nottata insieme al riconoscimento dei meriti ci fosse anche quello degli errori: su quelli grandi delle scelte politiche si aprirà sicuramente il dibattito (già l’avvocato di Napoli infettato e che ha dovuto insistere per avere il tampone, ha evocato il Diritto alla salute: le nostre insistenze non sono bastate perché si trattava di disattendere LE DIRETTIVE MINISTERUALI – e questo essere ligi alle direttive contro l’etica del giurmento di Ippocrate mi ricorda qualcosa del passato… ) ma per quanto riguarda quello di non ricoverare un paziente con grave polmonite per di più in un momento in cui era noto a tutti anche ai non medici che quel tipo di polmonite (bilaterale interstiziale) era tipica cinseguenza del corona virus, di questo l’ospedale Humanitas e i due medici che hanno dimesso mio figlio dovranno dare spiegazione alla magistratura. La crisi respiratoria interpretata come crisi di panico: mandato a casa con prescrizione di tranquillante!
Finisco con invito: non è un’influenza. La polmonite bilaterale interstiziale è terribile da sopportare, vuol dire non poter più respirare sentirsi sofficare e poi… Attenetevi scrupolosamente alle indicazioni del governo (queste sì) di comportamento precauzionale. Ma se. avete tosse e febbre MRNTITE SPUDORATAMENTE: DITE CHE DIETE STATI/E IN. CINA. E prr le/i torinesi: rifiutate di farvi portare all’Humanitas.


A warning from Italy:
I am writing to you from Bergamo, Italy, at the heart of the coronavirus crisis. The news media in the US has not captured the severity of what is happening here. I am writing this post because each of you, today, not the government, not the school district, not the mayor, each individual citizen has the chance, today to take actions that will deter the Italian situation from becoming your own country’s reality. The only way to stop this virus is to limit contagion. And the only way to limit contagion is for millions of people to change their behavior today.
If you are in Europe or the US you are weeks away from where we are today in Italy.
I can hear you now. “It’s just a flu. It only affects old people with preconditions”
There are 2 reasons why Coronavirus has brought Italy to it’s knees. First it is a flu is devastating when people get really sick they need weeks of ICU – and, second, because of how fast and effectively it spreads. There is 2 week incubation period and many who have it never show symptoms.
When Prime Minister Conte announced last night that the entire country, 60 million people, would go on lock down, the line that struck me most was “there is no more time.” Because to be clear, this national lock down, is a hail mary. What he means is that if the numbers of contagion do not start to go down, the system, Italy, will collapse.
Why? Today the ICUs in Lombardy are at capacity – more than capacity. They have begun to put ICU units in the hallways. If the numbers do not go down, the growth rate of contagion tells us that there will be thousands of people who in a matter of a week? two weeks? who will need care. What will happen when there are 100, or a 1000 people who need the hospital and only a few ICU places left?
On Monday a doctor wrote in the paper that they have begun to have to decide who lives and who dies when the patients show up in the emergency room, like what is done in war. This will only get worse.
There are a finite number of drs, nurses, medical staff and they are getting the virus. They have also been working non-stop, non-stop for days and days. What happens when the drs, nurses and medical staff are simply not able to care for the patients, when they are not there?
And finally for those who say that this is just something that happens to old people, starting yesterday the hospitals are reporting that younger and younger patients – 40, 45, 18, are coming in for treatment.
You have a chance to make a difference and stop the spread in your country. Push for the entire office to work at home today, cancel birthday parties, and other gatherings, stay home as much as you can. If you have a fever, any fever, stay home. Push for school closures, now. Anything you can do to stop the spread, because it is spreading in your communities – there is a two week incubation period – and if you do these things now you can buy your medical system time.
And for those who say it is not possible to close the schools, and do all these other things, locking down Italy was beyond anyone’s imagination a week ago.
Soon you will not have a choice, so do what you can now.

K. Torino
Ja na poslu, cekamo nove nardbe. Kolege, jedni u panici totalnoj, drugi solidarni. Carsija pusta, osjeti se strah u zraku na svakom koraku. Ne potezu za alkoholom kao sto bismo mi Balkanci ukljucili kao osnovnu multifunkcionalnu terapiju.

A. Napoli

“Dragi ljudi,
podelicu sa vama svoje trenutno iskustvo, jer se nalazim u Italiji i mozda ce vam biti od pomoci. Vidim da se vodi sprdnja vezano za Korona virus koji je definitivno prisutan u celom svetu, posebno u Evropi. Svaka drzava deli informacije sa ostatkom sveta onoliko koliko oni sami zele. U ovom trenutku licno smatram najopasnije deljenje informacija od needukovanih ljudi putem socijalnih mreza. Dizanje nepotrebne panike i ismejavanje saveta za prevenciju sirenja virusa. Ono sto zelim da vam porucim je da, ako mozete, uzmete Italiju za primer kako se ne treba ponasati u ovom trenutku.
Ja sam sletela u Italiju 25. Februara u Bergamo, dva dana posto je izbila epidemija u severnom delu Italije, tacnije regiji Lombardija. U tom trenutku aerodromi nisu bili zatvoreni, avio saobracaj se odvijao normalno i crvena zona (gradovi u karantinu) je bila na snazi u samo 5 gradova severne Italije. Ja sam potom iz Bergama otisla za Napulj u kom u tom trenutku nije bilo zarazenih ni 1% stanovnistva regije. Igrala se fudbalska utakmica Barselona Napulj sto znaci da nije bilo potencijalnih rizika, jer bi u suprotnom utakmica bila bez publike. Dakle, jos uvek je na snazi karantin bio u tih 5 gradova severne Italije. Svakog dana su u medijima savetovali da se sto manje ljudi krecu po prometnim mestima, da se strogo vodi racuna o higijeni, da se ne okupljaju ljudi i da se kretanje svede na minimum, sto ljudi ovde i nisu shvatili tako ozbiljno, pa je doslo do sirenja virusa brzinom svetlosti, u svega nedelju dana. Kako? Tako sto je ljudima bilo jako bitno da idu u Veneciju na karneval, tako sto im je bilo jako bitno da izadju na pice u centar Milana i podsmevaju se protokolu koje su u tom trenutku Italijanske vlasti sprovodile kroz medije. Imate primer lidera opozicije Zingarettija koji je izasao na aperitivo u centar Milana i smejao se celoj prici oko sirenja virusa, koji je sada u karantinu jer je zarazen Korona virusom. Dakle, vlasti u Italiji su na fin, demokratski, civilizovan nacin pokusale da skrenu paznju na visok rizik od sirenja epidemije sto je narod olako shvatio. Onda su poceli da zatvaraju regije, da otkazuju vozove i autobuse, jer iako je savetovano da se ne izlazi iz regija pod karantinom narod je to svojevoljno radio i samim tim ugrozavao svoju sigurnost pa i tudju. Jer se ovaj virus lako prenosi. Videvsi da su ljudi neozbiljni po pitanju virusa, vlasti Italije su se odlucili na totalno sankcionisanje, potpuna blokada drzave, svi letovi van i unutar drzave su otkazani, jedina mogucnost da se izadje iz zemlje je drumskim putem, sa verovatnocom da ce vas testirati i ako je potrebno staviti u karantin kada udjete u svoju zemlju. Po meni je to najnormalnije, da ako dolazite iz zarazenog podrucja prodjete testiranje i karantine, ne vidim nista problematicno u tome, tako ne ugrozavate ni sebe ni svoje najblize.
Nije istina da je policija na ulicama u zastitnim maskama i bojevom municijom. Nije istina da su ljudi na ulicama i izazivaju nerede i verovatnocu nastanka gradjanskog rata. Nije istina da ne mozemo da izadjemo iz kuce. Mozemo, ali sa dobrim razlogom. Od pre dva dana su uveli nova pravila kojih racionalan covek, svestan situacije, rado ce se pridrzavati. Nista ne radi vikendom, restorani i barovi rade do 18h uz uslov da svaki drugi sto bude zauzet. U marketima ulaze po 5 coveka, dobijes broj kao u banci i cekas da te prozovu, ulazis bez drustva, jer jbg takva je situacija i sto manje ljudi u zatvorenom prostoru manja je verovatnoca od sirenja zaraze. U pekarama i manjim radnjama ulaze po dvoje, ostali koji ispred cekaju u redu sami prave razmak od metar sa onim ispred sebe, potpuno normalno i civilizovano ponasanje u jeku epidemije. Mozes da se slobodno kreces samo iz tri tazloga: da bi kupio hranu ili lekove, da bi otisao kod lekara i da bi otisao na posao, za sve ostalo kretanje dobijas kaznu, ne kapiram setanje po buticima u toku epidemije. Policije ima na ulicama ali samo u vidu redara koji proveravaju iz koje si opstine, tako da je danas na primer porodica iz Napulja bila kaznjena jer je dosla do Bacolija da proseta po plazi, dobili su novcanu kaznu i poslati nazad kuci, jer nije moranje da se seta po plazi u jeku epidemije. Kada te policija zaustavi daju ti papir koji popunis kako bi objasnio razlog izlaska iz kuce u vreme epidemije, vrsi se provera i ako si slagao razlog bivas kaznjen. Na svaka dva metra su zalepljeni posteri sa instrukcijama kako da se peru ruke i protokol koji treba da se prati.
Od pocetka do sada pratim razvoj situacije u Italiji. Sama sam pogodjena stavljanjem drzave u karantin, ali mislim da je tako najbolje za sve, kako bi se smanjila opasnost od sirenja.
ONO STO JE NAJOPASNIJE SADA je sirenje dezinformacija na drustvenim mrezama i medijima, iznosenje misljenja vezano za sam virus od strane ljudi koji nit su epidemiolozi, niti medicinski radnici, niti uceni i obrazovani kako bi stekli kredibilitet da javno kazu svoje misljenje koje ima neku validnost. Takodje, opasne su spinovanja i kreiranja teorija zavera, ekonomske krize ce biti svakako za par meseci jer je prvenstveno najveci usluzni proizvodjac u svetu bio u karantinu pa tek onda saradnici, apsolutno je normalno da se osete posledice posle zatvaranja trzista..
Brinite za sebe, brinite za svoje najblize, postujte protokol, ne ismejavajte savete drzave (iako jesu svi karikature), slusajte savete lekara i epidemiologe. Ako treba smanjite kretanje, ostanite kuci, ionako bindzujete i bez Korone na ulicama.

About jasminatesanovic

Jasmina Tešanović (Serbian: Јасмина Тешановић) (born March 7, 1954) is a feminist, political activist (Women in Black, Code Pink), translator, publisher and filmmaker. She was one of the organizers of the first Feminist conference in Eastern Europe "Drug-ca Zena" in 1978, in Belgrade. With Slavica Stojanovic, she ran the first feminist publishing house in the Balkans "Feminist 94" for 10 years. She is the author of Diary of a Political Idiot, a war diary written during the 1999 Kosovo War and widely distributed on the Internet. Ever since then she has been publishing all her work, diaries, stories and films on blogs and other Internet media.
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2 Responses to Corona Diaries

  1. Pingback: Corona Diaries | psikosomatica

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