It’s been an emotional last few weeks. We were in Barcelona, the last stop on a month-long trip through Spain, when Russian invaded Ukraine.
We’ve been twice to Ukraine. In 2018 we spent a month in Kyiv and a month in Lviv. We were impressed by Kyiv but it was Lviv that we fell in love with. We loved the vibe and the town but we especially loved the people. So much so that we came back the following year (2019) and spent 3 months (July, August and September) in Lviv.
At one point Lissette and I even talked about potentially getting a place in Lviv. That’s how much we loved it. It is like a mini-Prague at mini-Prague prices and was theoretically a good investment and potential long term base. But we wondered about political stability.
The day of the invasion (February 24th) we came across a protest in Barcelona. It was a small gathering, maybe 50 people, all waving Ukrainian flags. They shouted slogans like “Today Ukraine, tomorrow Europe”. There were at times long gaps between the slogans which only added more weight to the moment. The mood was of sadness and shock and there were many tears in the crowd (including ours).
The next day the protest was there again. The crowd had quadrupled. There were groups of policemen keeping an eye on things. There was still sadness but the shock had turned to anger and Ukrainians had been joined in protest by many non-Ukrainians.
This is a senseless war brought about by one man. In the last 2 ½ weeks Putin has destroyed 2 countries: Ukraine may well be a pile of rubble when this war is over but in the long-term Russia may end up being the biggest loser from this war. Like young Ukrainians, most young Russians have looked West to Europe and America. We’ve met many people during our travels: Ukrainians, Russians, Georgians, Serbians, Croatians. There aren’t too many differences among the young people in all these countries. They want freedom and they want opportunities to better their lives. And anyone who’s educated and motivated is not looking east for freedom and opportunity, they’re looking towards the west. Putin by himself has ruined the dreams of the next generation of Russians, ensuring not only that the Russian economy will be in shambles* but that Russians are pariahs around the world. Russians with the means are getting out, the brain drain has already started.
*They might get short-term “help” from China but they’ll soon realize that the Chinese are only interested in plundering their resources.
In the meantime every day brings new atrocities that we never thought we would ever see in Europe in our lifetimes. The intentional bombing and shooting of civilians, the cutting off of humanitarian corridors and aid, the use of bombs deemed illegal by the Geneva convention. They are all war crimes and crimes against humanity. Add to that the bad-faith negotiations, blatant lies, and dangling the threat of nuclear weapons over the West. It all feels like we’re re-watching history.
A week ago we delivered some essential groceries, medical supplies and pharmaceutical products to a Ukrainian drop off center here in Nerja. We don’t know if it’ll ever get there in time or make a difference but we felt that we had to do something, however insignificant it is. We feel powerless watching the news.
Lissette has written her Ukrainian friends in Lviv. Most seem to still be there, maybe they’re hoping against hope that something will change. Instead the war seems to be inching closer every day. All are posting about friends and family around Ukraine who’ve gone missing.
When you read history books it always strikes you how singular events change the world. The killing of Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914 that led to World War 1, the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 which led to the Americans joining World War 2 the next day. I don’t know where the Ukrainian war will lead but you know the world won’t ever be the same. The relationship between Russia and the West will never be the same again, both politically and militarily. I mentioned at the beginning of Covid that many countries would realize how overly-dependent they were on global economics. That’s nothing compared to what the world is realizing now and it’ll be interesting to see the shift away from Russian resources (I’ve been thinking of Canada and how much it’ll benefit from the shift away from Russian oil and wheat…).
Years from now we’ll be looking back at February 24, 2022 and how it changed the world.
A few closing thoughts
- Isn’t it time these old men who run the world to just die? Time to move on from the Putins, Xis, Lukashenkos, Trumps and yes, even Bidens of the world (Note: I like Biden as a person and don’t really wish him harm. But it’s time for new blood). They’re stuck in another age.
- China is the one country who has leverage over Russia. Wouldn’t it be great if they could broker a peace deal? They could be Superman coming in to save the day. But of course we said the same thing about their leverage over North Korea and they’ve done sweet F*ck All. Shame on them.
- So Putin is dangling the threat of nuclear weapons over the West. How will that change when Ukraine is burnt to the ground? He’ll be right at Nato’s doorstep and only be more emboldened…
- Almost forgot – Watch “Winter on Fire, Ukraine’s fight for Freedom“. I’ve included this Youtube link, it’s also on Netflix. It details the uprising in Ukraine that led to an independent Ukraine in 2014… which led to the invasion of Crimea by Putin and to the current invasion. You’ll see why Ukrainians will never surrender to Russia.
Related: Lviv in Photos
Related: Impressions of Kyiv