As Russia begins its invasion of Ukraine, here are some memories of my time there and a simple plea for peace and collective effort to end the crisis.
I’m thinking a lot about the people of Ukraine today. Genie and I spent a month travelling there in 2018, and although it was a difficult trip in many ways, we had some wonderful experiences there and met some amazing people. To think of them now facing bombs and tanks is deeply distressing.
I don’t have a whole lot to say about what’s happening, other than to express my solidarity with the Ukrainian people and to ask a question:
“Isn’t this the precise situation that the United Nations was created to deal with?”
After the barbarity of World War 2, didn’t people come to understand that unilateral force was no way to solve the world’s problems? Didn’t they set up the UN to uphold world peace and to be the arbiter and peacekeeper when one state invaded another? I know the UN has been horribly undermined since then, often deliberately by the US and others, but shouldn’t we at least be trying to solve problems through collective rather than individual action? Why is all the analysis talking about what Biden will do or what the UK or Europe will do? Isn’t this the time for collective action? Who knows, the experience may even come in useful in dealing with the even bigger problem of climate change.
I’m not saying the UN could magically solve the crisis, but I’m sad that it seems so marginalised, that all the talk is about Russia’s military action and NATO’s military response.
The way things are going, it looks as if we’re heading for a quick Russian military conquest of Ukraine followed by a long and bloody guerilla war fought by the remaining Ukrainian forces who will not accept Russian occupation and who will be lavishly funded and armed by the West in yet another proxy war. I really hope that doesn’t happen because it would not be good for anyone except the “defence” industry (there’s an Orwellian name if ever you saw one).
Anyway, posting holiday snaps is about as inadequate a response as I can think of, but it’s what I feel like doing right now. I want to remember my time there and to celebrate the country that is now under attack.
So here are my memories of Ukraine as it was in 2018. We drove in from Belarus in the north, spent some time in Kyiv and the centre of the country (including Chernobyl, which I wrote about in this post on Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich’s Chernobyl Prayer), headed west to Lviv, south to the fascinating Hutsul region, then travelled east along the south of the country, stopping before we got too close to the Russian separatist territory and turning down to visit Odessa on the Black Sea coast before driving on into Moldova.
I very much hope that the scenes shown here don’t end up changing too much in whatever happens next. As individuals scattered around the world, let’s support Ukraine in whatever way we can: calling for peace, joining protests, making donations, etc. There are lots of organisations working for a peaceful resolution and to give practical assistance to the victims of this attack. The International Red Cross got my donation, but I’m sure you can find other options too.