Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Following the Wars

 Russia is at war with Ukraine and America is at war with itself. As a news junkie, trying to keep up is a major effort on a daily basis, though sometimes I just say to hell with it and delete all my news emails and skip all the news items on my Facebook page. But not often.

For news on Ukraine, my first choice is Kyiv Independent kyivindependent.com. They also have a daily newsletter which you can sign up to for free though I support them with $10 per month on Patreon. 

Euromaidan Press euromaidanpress.com/ is another excellent source of up to date news on the war. They also reprint the daily detailed updates from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). I find them on my FB feed.

Reuters www.reuters.com/ is another good source. They also have a daily newsletter at no charge.

See also Al Jazeera www.aljazeera.com, Ukrinform www.ukrinform.net and Atlantic Council www.atlanticcouncil.org/category/blogs/new-atlanticist

Twitter is another source of up to the minute news and commentary. There are a few lists of people who post on the war and once you are familiar with the names you can start following individuals.

Substack has several writers who comment on both wars. Timothy Snyder, writing on "Thinking About..." snyder.substack.com  is a well known historian of Eastern and Central Europe. All Substack writers whether you pay or not if you sign up, will be delivered to your inbox.

Other sources are the usual MSM: WaPo, NYT, The Economist but I put more faith in the above.

For the American war, seemingly of all against all as I believe Hobbes put it, the first person I follow is Heather Cox Richardson at Letters from an American at heathercoxrichardson.substack.com. HCR is an American historian with a following on Substack and on Facebook in the hundreds of thousands. She posts 6 days a week tying the days happenings to American history. I have a paid subscription.

Next on the list is TCfromLA (Thomas McKelvey Cleaver) who writes at "That's another Fine Mess"  tcinla757.substack.com. He is an other of several books on the wars in the air of WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam War of which I have three so far. He will comment on both American and Ukrainian wars. I am a paid subscriber.

Third would be Thom Hartmann who writes the Hartmann Report at hartmannreport.com Thom is a broadcaster and author. I subscribe for free but would take a paying subscription if I could afford it.

Fourth is Julian K Truscott IV who writes the Lucian Truscott Newsletter at luciantruscott.substack.com He is a fourth generation military man with an incredible pedigree. He writes knowledgeably about anything military including Ukraine. I have a free subscription.

Others that I have free subscriptions to include PREVAIL by Greg Olear gregolear.substack.com, Terri Kanefield, Author and Lawyer at terikanefield.com, John Ganz who writes Unpopular Front at johnganz.substack.com, Spencer Ackerman at Forever Wars foreverwars.substack.com, Ruth Ben-Ghiat at Lucid lucid.substack.com

There are several other news letters that are free if you subscribe to The Atlantic (I don't). You can find them here: ww.theatlantic.com/subscriber-newsletters 

Check all these references out and sign up for those you can afford or are interested in. No excuse for saying "I have no idea what is happening". Actually I sign up for all the ones listed and still have no idea what is happening. 

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Our (Not so) Incredible Journey

 Ten days after Russia declared "war" on Ukraine, we pulled the pin and headed for Poland. Our son and his friend were both on the Territorial Defense Force to protect Zhovti Vody and wanted their young families out of the way of danger so they did not have to worry about them . Our son wanted us to go with them for the same reason. We did not want to go but understood his reasoning.

We left at 5 am Sunday in two cars. Tanya rode with her son and his wife and youngest daughter. I rode with his friend and his wife and two young daughters. We were initially part of a longer convoy led through many check stops by a car with flashing lights. Then we are on our own. The drivers stuck to the back roads and kept well south of the main roads as we headed west and south. At one point we were 15 minutes from the Moldovan border befoire we headed north again

Tanya's oldest granddaughter was already in Poland, having gone to L'viv a couple days before the war to a birthday party. She ended up driving a woman and two young girls to the Polish border and shepherding the girls and herself across, while the woman went back. That took a couple days of living outside with many others waiting to cross and eating buckwheat boiled over and open fire. Once the girls were safe with relatives who had been waiting, our granddaughter went to friends of her father's. So our son was anxious to reunite the family.

We drove 30 hours. One tire on the car I was in kept losing air and needing to be pumped up with a portable pump. It was 6 am on the following day before we found a tire repair shop. By 10 am, my driver was totally exhausted and our son was running a 40C fever. We found a hostel in Kam'yanets-Pod'yls'ki and crashed. Next morning the men were in no shape to continue and needed a few more days rest. Tanya and I took the bus to Khmelnytskyi and from there a train to L'viv where we found another hostel. 

By this time Tanya was sick with a bad cold. So we stayed in L'viv for four more days. Got a visit with a friend who had moved her family from Kyiv for the duration and was working on line. Tanya felt better finally and we went to the train station to go to Poland. The place was packed. Mostly women, children and old people.  It took from 10:30 in the morning until noon before we got on a train. We were sent to the last car, reserved for International passports. Black, brown, and Chinese, mostly students, a few Eastern Europeans. It was another two hours before we left and we stopped for an hour or two at a couple places to let trains ahead of us clear.

We got to Przemysl where we were to clear immigration into Poland and sat. And sat. And sat. Close to midnight they let us off at the very last. Took a few minutes to get our passports stamped and we grabbed a bus to Warsaw. The driver was in no hurry and we stopped at a "market" about half way. Everything was free. Clothes, especially for kids, toys, baby carriages and strollers, and food no end. If you are looking to donate to a good cause, the  World Central Kitchen is always in need of money and volunteers. They have fed 25 million meals to Ukrainians fleeing the war. Including to us.

Everyone on our bus except Tanya and I and another woman got off at the hostel in Warsaw. The hostel was a converted exhibition centre. Imagine several buildings the size of hockey arenas. The woman who was headed to her "dacha" in Egypt told us of a good hotel in the middle of the city so we took a taxi with her to the Hotel Metropol and registered. It was noon Saturday. By this time I was sick with Tanya's cold.

Tried to book KLM Warsaw to Calgary for Wednesday. Credit card was rejected so I got my daughter in Regina to book the tickets using my credit card. That worked. Since we needed a negative  Covid test to get into Canada we walked to the nearest official testing office a few blocks away and both tested positive. So that's what our colds were! We were triple vaxxed so symptoms were mild compared to what they might have been. I got my daughter to move the flight dates 7 days.

Our hotel was on the corner of two main drags in central Warsaw. The day Biden was in town the convoys and sirens went all day and all night passed our hotel.

We sat in our hotel room for a week. Didn't explain why, but we wore our masks to breakfast and shopping for food. Free Wi-Fi was a God-send. Sunday we did the quick at home test. Tanya was negative. Not holding much hope, I went for my test and was still positive. Postponed the flights another week. Got to hate that hotel room. This time I tested negative and we were off for home. Stop over in Amsterdam. Huge airport where a bottle of water and one of juice cost 20 Euros. 

Arrived Calgary in mid afternoon. Tanya was immediately given a three year temporary residency and a three year work permit along with a list of other stuff she heeded to get done and organizations to help. That took a couple hours. My sister and her husband picked us up and we stayed at their place for three days. One of the nice things about recovering from Covid is that you can't catch it nor infect anyone for a few weeks. Everyone is safe from us.

From my sister's we went to my niece's place. She and her two girls and her boyfriend and his three kids were all recovering from Covid. Great visit. My son came in on the weekend to pick us up and take us to Edmonton. He and his partner and her two kids were also recovering from Covid. Great visit. Took a bus from Edmonton to Saskatoon and stayed at my daughter's for two days until my Regina daughter could drive us to Regina. It is hard to persuade people we are not on vacation but are wanting to get settled and sort out our lives. 

In Regina we stayed at a friends place until we could move into an apartment on Tuesday 11th. Finally we could sleep in our own bed and unpack our two suitcases and two backpacks. Tanya was so tired of living out of a suitcase. People have been very generous in donating furniture and other home supplies. Value Village, Regina Buy Sell and, Wal-Mart and Dollarama slowly complete our home. We are more settled and have a routine of sorts, which helps with the stress of missing all we left behind.

Tanya is struggling with her English class. She complained to her instructor who said, You want to learn everything in four days?" She obviously doesn't know Tanya. The only reason Rome wasn't built in a day is because my wife was not in charge.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Life has been a bit chaotic lately

 Tanya and I left Zhovti Vody at 5 am March 6th and arrived in Canada March 29th. We moved into our apartment in Regina April 11th and after 6 weeks of living out of a suitcase, it felt wonderful. Since then, we have been busy getting Tanya's documents in order. Today is the first day we can relax. 

Everything is quiet at home. Too unimportant to bomb, there will only be danger if the ground war comes that far which does not appear very likely. The Russians are getting their asses kicked militarily thanks to veterans of 8 years of war on the Donbas, training by the best Special Ops troops in the world, American, British, and Canadian and arms supplied by those same countries and many others. They are still bombing civilian and military targets around the country but are being slowly driven back in the ground war. 

Someone compared Zelensky to Churchill which is true. No one could have led Britain through the dark days of the war but Churchill, though he was a more or less failure in most everything else. Zelensky was not a good president, though he did try, but when the war came, his training as an actor and comedian made him perfect for leading the fight. "I need ammunition, not a ride".

We are in contact with friends and family every day. Our taxi driver friend and his wife are looking after our house, yard, and pets. His taxi business is dead as there is a shortage of gasoline so we pay him. He sends pictures every once in a while. Lucky loves him and the cats sleep with him though we still miss them and worry about them. Our next door neighbours also help watch the place. Tanya misses her flowers needless to say.

Over 4500 people have moved to Zhovti Vody from the war zones. If we had known then what we know now we would not have left. But since we are here we are staying until we can go home safely. When is the question. "Next year in Jerusalem". Now that Ukraine has gone on the offensive and Russia is starting to run out of battalions, it may be over soon. 

Or not. Putin is quietly preparing to conscript large numbers of soldiers, though I am curious how they will be armed. Corruption in the Russian military has been a great help to Ukraine. Shoigu and Gerasimov should be awarded medals by Zelensky.

Tanya had two years left on a 10 year multi-entry visa so coming to Canada was simple. Once we landed in Calgary, she then qualified under Canada-Ukraine authorization for emergency travel (visitor visa and work permit). She has a three year temporary residency and a three year work permit good for any job anywhere in Canada. Once we got to Regina she had to apply for a bank account, a Saskatchewan Health card, a Social Insurance Number, and a picture ID card in lieu of a driver's licence. She also had to take a medical exam required by Immigration. She does not have Foot and Mouth Disease, African Swine Fever, or what ever they tested for. We won't get any feedback.

She started English class last Monday and by end June will complete Beginner Level 3 and 4. Three hours classes and 4 hours homework and study four days per week. Her class has about 20 students from all over the world. I help her with her homework as needed, mostly checking. She is doing quite well.

Our apartment is furnished in Early Canadian Attic. People have been vary kind in donating furniture and kitchen appliances etc. Regina Buy-Sell, Value Village, and Dollarama filled in many gaps for not much money too. Coincidentally, we are back in exactly the same flat we were in when I was here for surgery four years ago. The owner is Ukrainian and the building manager is the only person left who was here last time. We are two blocks from a grocery and pharmacy and half a block from a bus stop.

Our trip from home to Calgary needs a blog post of its own so will save the gory details for another time. If you want to follow the war closely, sign up for the daily newsletter from The Kyiv Independent or follow them on line. They have great independent journalists and set their own editorial policy.