To leave or to stay?

Between the fear of infecting loved ones and the solitude of distance.

I was born and raised in Milan, but have always felt a deep connection to Israel. So when I finished high school, I decided to make Aliyah and move to Israel.

After finishing my bachelor’s degree in communication and sociology at Bar Ilan University, I moved to London to continue my studies doing an MA in Television.

At the moment, I am living in London. A city which I cannot and do not want to leave right now. Just as so many other fellow Italians.

Initially, no one truly understood how serious the situation was. This was mainly because of the overload of information which merely created confusion.

About a month ago, my parents were supposed to travel from Milan to London to visit me and my brother (who also lives in London) to celebrate Purim, which we usually celebrate together as a family.  It was supposed to be the first family reunion of the year. However, it ended up being a wake-up call.

With the situation worsening worldwide, I realised that this virus was not just a simple “fever and sore throat”.

Not being able to be close to your loved ones in times like this is not easy. The feeling I am experiencing range from fearing mine and my family’s life, to trying to stay positive and keep hope in such difficult times.

COVID-19 has made people appreciate and understand how valuable things are we get to do in our normal day-to-day life. Now we have to be so aware and careful about everything. Leaving the house, taking a train or the underground now means to constantly make sure to avoid physical contact, ensuring social distance and so much more.

As the situation worsened in Italy and everywhere else, London did not seem to consciously live with the drama of COVID-19. The tube was still filled with people and life was going on as usual for most Londoners. For Italians like me, this led to a behavioural and emotional estrangement.

On the one hand, we were aware of how serious the situation was becoming. I was spending hours on the phone with friends, family and close one back home trying to stay calm whilst feeling alone and struggling with negativity I received from some people around me simply because I am “Italian who might have the virus”. On the other hand, however, we were forced to continue our lives as if nothing was happening because life in the UK continued as normal.

I was not alone in this. Italian friends of mine in London faced the same difficulties as me. The big question was “should we stay or should we go back home?” In these times, every day was a wild card.

What was the right thing to do? Going back to Italy and quarantine in the same home as your parents, possibly getting infected or infecting a more vulnerable loved one, or staying in London away from parents and family?

Just a few weeks ago, I was supposed to travel to Tel Aviv where the whole extended family was supposed to come together and celebrate Pesach. Leaving Tel Aviv was hard for me, as it is really different from London. I was really looking forward to this event after having an intense semester in London and since I was missing Tel Aviv as a city itself.

Collective consciousness must always come before individual egoisms, and since travelling to Israel could have compromised the health of the people I love, I again had to face the hard decision to stay put in London.

As the university break came creeping around the corner, a lot of my friends who come from all over the world went back home. All of them scared to hug, touch or come close to their families and even more so, not knowing when they will be able to go back to normality.

All whilst London continued to be a bubble where life still continued almost at the same pace. Some people started to wear masks out, others started social distancing, but still no major changes were made.

And yet, I felt very misunderstood. Especially when Boris Johnson mentioned in his first speech against the pandemic a strategy of creating a “Herd Immunity” and to “be prepared to loose loved ones”.

A few days later his speech made an impact of great importance on all our lives and my last remaining Italian friends that live in London decided to leave and go home.

In these days of isolation, being far away from Tel Aviv and Milan, far from home, I cannot help but think about my community. Think of the people that did not make it. Think of the people who are still struggling and are between life and death. My thoughts are with my friends, my family and the people I love. But they also are with all the unknown faces, who are currently living a life of uncertainty and fear. My thoughts are also with the doctors, nurses, volunteers and all those who are risking their lives to save others and with the marginalised ones, who cannot stay at home because they do not have shelter.

In these days of isolation, I have rediscovered the importance of affection, of a missed caress, of a hug. My biggest pain comes from the one that my community is experiencing.  My most sincere affection goes to them.

And as all thoughts were going through my head, I packed a bag, left my flat and knocked on my brother’s and sister in law’s door. Together it is easier. We are all in this together.

About the Author
23 years old, I was born and raised in Milan, in the Jewish community. However, I have always felt a deep connection to Israel and, after high school, I have decided to move to Israel and make Alyia. Following my first degree in Communication and Sociology at Bar Ilan University, I moved to London to continue my studies doing a Master on Television.
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