It’s hard to be hopeful after what has happened in the past couple of days at the front. Both because of the fear for the Azovstal defendants and how the war vector might change now.
And another thing I have been thinking about for the past several days. How so many Russian people still do not understand one simple thing: there is no “middle” in who started the war. There is no “middle” in who invaded another independent country.
All these people who dare to say that “the US started it,” “Ukraine provoked it,” and “otherwise, they would invade us”- all this is a classic victim-blaming! That’s the same as “she was raped because she wore a short skirt.” That’s if such accusations would be justified.
And the last stanza. All these people who say “we lived in peace before” and “nobody hated anybody” how they won’t understand that the conquered nations just had to tolerate the conquerers.
All this time, starting from February 24, I tried to talk to mom and explain to her what was going on. Sometimes I had the impression that she had started to understand. At least she looked at the alternative sources of information. Igor and Anna tried as well.
Yesterday, there Chicago Veterans Association had a gathering dedicated to the 30th anniversary of the organization. Igor and I worried about how it would go for mom because we knew that the veterans had a firm opinion of the war, and that opinion was not in favor of the Russian army.
According to Igor, everything went pretty civil there, but we were not sure whether mom was paying attention to what was going on. It turned out that she literally chose to ignore everything said there. I hoped yet another time that when she would see that everybody in the organization was against the war, that everybody would condemn Russia’s war crimes, she might realize that something was wrong with her reasoning. But unfortunately, she chose not to apply any logic.
I told Igor that I had given up.
It’s not that she does not have information or does not understand English; she has all the resources, and she chooses which ones to trust. And when I am trying to talk to her, ai receive plain propaganda in response.
Although due to the current situation, the whole world knows what May 9 means to Russians in most countries the calendar is marked with another holiday – Europe Day.
Europe Day held on 9 May every year celebrates peace and unity in Europe. The date marks the anniversary of the historic Schuman Declaration that set out his idea for a new form of political cooperation in Europe, which would make war between Europe’s nations unthinkable.
The Schuman Declaration or Schuman Plan was a proposal by the French foreign minister, Robert Schuman, made on 9 May 1950. It proposed placing French and West German production of coal and steel under a single authority that would later be opened to other European countries. The ultimate goal was to pacify relations, between France and West Germany in particular, through gradual political integration, which would be achieved by creating common interests. Schuman said that “the coming together of the countries of Europe requires the elimination of the age-old opposition of France and Germany…the solidarity in production thus established will make it plain that any war between France and Germany becomes not merely unthinkable, but materially impossible.”
It is so sad to see today, that his hopes didn’t materialize and that the opposite happen, in the most unthinkable way! I hold a strong hope, however, that this time, the European countries won’t stop in the middle of the way and will make sure that nothing like this will ever happen again.
Most of these photos were taken on our first day in Vilnius after we got down from the Gediminas Castle and walked around the city endlessly until we could not take in any more of its Medieval beauty.
There were signs of support for Ukrain everywhere, and there were refugees everywhere. The unmistakable families, mothers with children, older people, dressed a little bit too warm for the weather. We overheard the conversations, the Facetime calls with the loved ones, the talks about whether somebody should go to Germany. On Friday, our tour guide told us that there are about 50,000 official refugees in Lithuania, and with the family members joining those who worked in Lithuania before there could be twice more. It’s a lot for one-million Vilnius and for three-million Lithuania, but not even close to the load with Poland carries.
Still, the support expressed by everybody is enormous, and after learning more about the history of Lithuania we understand why!
On our first day in Vilnius, we visited the Gediminas Castle Tower. Gediminas was a Great Duke of Lithuania who founded this political entity and wastly expanded its territory, founded Vilnius, and established strong relationships with many European monarchs. The Gediminas Tower is probably the best city viewpoint and a part of the Vilnius National Museum.
From the moment we landed at vilnius Airport, we realized who personally Lithuania takes the war in Ukraine. We hardly saw a Lithuanina flag without Ukrainian flag by it’s side, and lots of Ukrainian flags solo. There are lots of Ukrainian refugees in the city, I mention it know because there was a large group in the Gediminas Tower when we visited. As everywhere, they are mostly women with children. When we bought the tickets to the museum, we could choose a visitor sticker either of Lithuania red color, or yellow and blue.
Interestingly, the current exhibit in the Gediminas Toweris very timely – it is dedicated to the Baltic Way – see the photos below.
Our local Greenview Art Gallery opened a benefit exhibit featuring the works of Ukrainian artist Anatoliy Khmara with all proceeds going to support Ukraine. Khmara came to the US on a special visa for persons with Exceptional Abilities over 20 years ago. Many of his relatives are still in Ukraine, and the exhibit opens with their portraits.
He paints magical landscapes and blooming flowers, but I was immediately drawn to his Chicago pictures. The picture of Montrose Harbor made in the most unusual colors caught my attention.
It did not fit either in my budget, or on my wall, but I could not take my eyes off it. When Khmara asked me which picture I liked, I pointed to this picture but added that I can’t afford it either way. He said that he should have smaller prints of it, but Igor and I told him we had already gone through the bin and didn’t find any. Then he asked one of the staff to check in the back because he remembered he had a smaller print. She fetched one but said it was marked as sold. But, she added, we can other another one. Khmara said – why, we can give her that one, and order an additional print for that other customer :). I could not say “no.”
My “war budget” for April was long gone, but the staff offered to pay in installments, which I gladly accepted.
Yesterday, I dropped off one of my bikes for a tune-up. I was looking for a bike repair shop fin Rogers Park for a while, but since I had two neighbors who knew how to repair bikes, they never let me get to the shop :). Now, both of them had moved, which gave me a push to finally find a new to-go place.
I chatted with the owner about the time when I would pick up the bike, and I mentioned going to Europe next week. He asked where in Europe, and when I replied, he asked whether I was not afraid of crazy Russians being too close there.
I made full disclosure, and we talked a little bit about the war and how it feels in Europe, and that yep, Finland is a little bit too close to the crazy neighbor.
Everybody is asking me about Finland joining NATO as if I know more than the general public.
One thing that Boris nor I realized until today was that Russia closed its borders from the inside. He only found it out when he was boarding the bus – the bus driver checked the passport and the vise and “a reason” that would allow a person to travel. Visa is not enough anymore. It has to be either a working visa, a resident card, or a passport from another country. I was shocked that nobody mentioned it earlier, and I have no idea when it happened because there was nothing like that at the beginning of March. And that’s precisely what I am afraid of – that he won’t be able to get back to Finland one time.
I don’t understand why people say that “the whole world turned away from Russians,” while in reality, the Russian government does worse to their citizens than any other country.
Another thing which we wonder about is the large number of Ukrainians traveling from Russia to Finland. If you are in Russia, it is understandable that Finland is the only way out. But I wonder why so many people with Ukrainian passports are in Russia at the moment. Boris says it was half of the bus, plus two more people boarded at the checkpoint. He says they were asked to go to the border control before everybody else and that everybody was exceptionally respectful toward them. Could they be the people who were “liberated’ by Russians? But then, why and how are they allowed to leave the country?
And once again, about “Moskva.” I heard two interviews, one of the retired US admiral and one of some British expert, and they both second what Boris “decoded” from the official statements. Boris still says that it should have sunk within minutes, and that’s what Ukraine states. I am a little bit afraid to be happy, but I am.
I heard a news story on BBC today about Russians who fled to Georgia and how many Georgians are unhappy with that. I heard a Georgian official explaining that they require any Russian who wants to open a bank account in Georgia to make a written statement that they are against the war with Ukraine, and they understand that Russia occupies parts of both Ukrainian and Georgian territories.
I was shocked to hear some Russian businessmen saying in the interview that this requirement is unfair because “they may be prosecuted for that when they will return to Russia.” I don’t understand how somebody can say things like that. Do they really plan to go back to Russia? To Russia, where would standing against the war and aggression still be a crime? They think about returning, and they can’t do as little as to be grateful to the country that sheltered them?