War has come to our little Spanish paradise.
I don’t mean that we are being bombed or shot at, or even that we are threatened in any physical way. To suggest that our situation is anywhere near that of the Ukrainians is ridiculous and, honestly, insulting to them (Boris Johnson!). But the terrible Russian invasion of Ukraine has affected our piece – and our peace – here, as it has all around the world.
I’ve actually been to Ukraine. In 1983, my big trip after the bar exam was to what was then the Soviet Union. It was a legal study tour, and it was fascinating. We visited Moscow, Kyiv, Baku (Azerbaijan), Yerevan (Armenia), and Tbilisi (Georgia). I remember liking Kyiv a lot. It had nice parks with lovely flowers blooming, and the food was quite good. The people were much friendlier than in Moscow. The dislike of Russia was no big secret. I remember one tour guide pointing out a large statue of a man seated on a horse; it was supposed to symbolize the bonds between Ukraine and Russia. The guide explained that the Ukrainians had carefully situated the statue so that the horse’s rear end pointed directly at Moscow. We all had a good laugh.
I bet there’s not a lot of laughing going on now in Kyiv.
Here in Spain, virtually every city has relief efforts for Ukraine and Ukrainians underway. Truck convoys carrying food and medical supplies leave almost daily. Fundraisers abound. And we have refugees – many, many refugees. Facebook is full of requests for shelter, clothing, and language assistance. There’s a story behind every request, and heartbreak in every story. It’s wrenching to read. Mark had occasion the other day to go to the Ukrainian Assistance Agency that has been set up here in Torrevieja. He said that a mass of people stood outside, waiting to get in and see if they could get help settling in here in our little coastal haven. It is impossible for me to imagine what these people must feel.
A change has come to our local spirit as well. Torrevieja typically has a lot of Russians in it, especially in the winter. In fact, many businesses around here fly the flags of various countries where their customers hail from. Just a few months ago, you would have seen the Russian flag – horizontal stripes of red, blue, and white, from bottom to top – at many establishments around town. But now the Russian flags are gone. Witness the car dealership pictured above. The Russian flag has been replaced by the multi-starred flag of the European Union. Our war, it seems, is about the flag that isn’t there.
Instead, we have the heartbreak.