None of us knows where this will end. Or how. Or when. So we do what we can to make each moment matter, every day. That’s our job anyway, even without this illegal, immoral invasion of a sovereign nation.
There have been plenty of hints, and the build-up was no secret. Once Russia invaded, though, a remarkable thing happened: NATO countries quickly formed a unified block, with other nations joining in, to condemn Putin’s aggression and take non-military steps to try to counter it. This is the most unified that NATO has been since its beginnings in the aftermath of World War II. It’s a glimmer of hope that democracy might just pull itself together to fight off the authoritarian trend the world has been experiencing.
You’ve seen the news and the photographs, and I’m not here to write about the war. I’m here to share with you a couple of stories that touched my heart, and a sampling of photographs that show how the world feels about this act of Russian aggression. It’s interesting to see Putin being compared to both Hitler and Maduro.
Of all the photographs I’ve seen over the past 12 days, the photo above by Luis Cortes is my favorite. He captured the moment beautifully, a protest halfway around the globe from the conflict. Scroll down to see a few more photographs.
As of this writing, over two million people have fled Ukraine, a refugee crisis of catastrophic proportions. Poland was the first nation to step up; it has now set up a fund of about $1.75 billion to cope with the situation. By Tuesday, March 8, nearly 1.3 million Ukrainians had arrived in Poland.
Other nations near Ukraine are also taking in large numbers of refugees, including Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Moldova, a poor country that fears it will have its own Russian invasion, has received about 83,000 refugees. More European countries are welcoming Ukrainians as well, including Germany, France and Ireland. Russia has received 99,000 refugees. The U.K. has granted 300 visas to Ukrainians.
Driving around our region over the past week, I’ve seen a lot of signs posted by mayors’ offices and other organizations, asking people to contribute either goods or money to aid the refugees. Here in our village, it was an enormous effort; when I stopped by to drop off a couple of checks, the space was piled high with boxes containing winter clothing, medical supplies, and personal hygiene products.
Bize residents have opened their doors to refugees, too, with several households re-organizing quickly to accommodate the newcomers. This morning I had a conversation with my friend Maryse about how our village can help these people feel welcome: shared meals and activities, events that can include children, offering rides and help with navigating life in France. It occurred to both of us at the same time that I might be able to help with language, because we were guessing that our new arrivals might be more likely to speak English than French. We’ll soon find out.
Further afield, I’ve just read about something that took place a few days ago in my hometown of Reno, Nevada. The Reno Philmarmonic Orchestra had a performance this past Sunday, and they took a break in the program to perform the Ukrainian national anthem, with the stage curtain lit up to resemble the Ukrainian flag. My friend Karen Stout-Gardner and her cello were part of that performance. The audience stood for the entire anthem, and many cried. You can watch it here:
Ukrainian national anthem
A note about Vlad the Invader
In the English-speaking world, Putin’s name is pronounced POO-tin. Here in France, people say poo-TEEN. This is easy enough to get used to, but it’s rather unfortunate for the people of Québec, the French-speaking region of Canada. They have a beloved dish made of fries, cheese curds and brown gravy, which is called poutine, and pronounced poo-TEEN. You can see that there might be some confusion.
In both France and Canada, restaurants that serve poutine are at the receiving end of verbal abuse and threats by people who think the dish was named after the Russian president. In fact, poutine was invented in the 1950s, and the restaurant that claims to have been its inventor has now decided on a temporary re-naming in order to distance itself from the invasion of Ukraine. I have a vague recollection of Freedom Fries…
One person had this to say on Twitter: “People, please stop confusing Putin and poutine. One is a dangerous and unwholesome mix of greasy, lumpy and congealed ingredients, the other is a delicious food.”
Meanwhile, a note about Volodymyr Zelenskyy
On March 8, Zelenskyy became the first foreign leader to address the United Kingdom’s House of Commons. It was done via computer, transmitted from his desk somewhere in Kyiv to a packed house in the center of London. At the end of his speech, he raised his fist and walked away to the sound of a standing ovation.
Maybe some day, the name Zelenskyy will be enjoying a long life as a word meaning “more heroic than anyone thought possible.”