In 2013 I’ve been sent by the company I worked for to Barcelona, to a DevOps conference. Joining me was a colleague from the Kyiv office. We enjoyed the conference, and he kept the creeps away, because there were only four women at that conference, and the other three had their boyfriends/husbands with them to do that. I did not, so he assumed that role. He was a kind and sweet man and I remember him fondly. In 2014, a plane was attacked over the Ukrainian air space, and the Russian army intervened, and the conflict was serios enough that our company decided to offer support for all employees in Kyiv that wanted to move to The Netherlands. So, he and his girlfriend moved to Amsterdam.
What I knew about Ukraine up to a few days ago, is that it was one of the neighbors that Romania did not get along with. The reason for that has been for a long time – the Bystroye canal. Ukraine and Romania share the Danube River for about 200 km before it spills into the Black Sea. On the Romanian side the river splits in three channels that are united by a marsh with a rich ecosystem called the Danube Delta. The middle canal in the only navigable one, and Ukraine must pay to use it. To avoid this, they’ve tried for years to enlarge the shared part of the river, even if this threatens the stability of the whole Danube Delta ecosystem. I hear stories from my friends in the army about how Romanian military ships have to patrol the river to keep the Ukrainians from working on enlarging the Bystroye canal.
Another reason why Romanians and Ukrainians give each other the cold shoulder, is the Romanian minority living in Ukraine, occupying territories previously belonging to Romania. The Romanian minority are the third biggest ethic community in Ukraine; however they are not recognized as such, being omitted by Volodimir Zelenski on Ukraine official unity day, Also, the Romanian minority is discouraged from speaking Romanian, they are not allowed to have schools in their own language and officially a process of assimilation is under way, which means their rights are somewhat restricted. And a quick search on the internet will let you know that those areas are rural and poor, and they are kept intentionally so.
And then, there is also Snake Island, taken away from Romania by Stalin and given to Ukraine. Of course, that island is just a small stony patch of land, but it could be used as a base for operations involving extracting oil and gas. Apparently, Russians considered it worthy because they bombed it yesterday.
Anyway… I told you all these things because Russia is currently in the process of invading Ukraine. According to the history I know, I should not care that much, but here’s the thing: “A country is not actually its people”, I know sounds stupid, but normal citizens of Ukraine, are not to blame for any of the above. Their politicians are and considering the talent people everywhere have for choosing politicians, if we would all hate each other for the ineptitude or our politicians, this world would be in constant war.
Ukraine has not been the best neighbor, but you know what is worse? Having Russia as a neighbor. The Ukrainians stopped working on the Bystroye canal when the Romanian military ships started patrolling. The Russians would probably end this conflict by taking the whole Danube Delta from Romania.
As for what is happening now, my friends and family are concentrated N-E part of Romania, close to Ukraine and Moldova border. I am worried for them and told them to get on the first plane and come as close to me as they can, and I will pick them up from anywhere once we are on the same island. Or if push comes to shove, just get in the car, and drive west until they reach water.
Here’s the thing, most Romanians and probably most of the civilized Europe, think that Putin will take over Ukraine and stop at that. But war is a terrible thing and in the face of terror and death people get desperate and desperate people do desperate things. The border between Romania and Ukraine is gonna be a feeble thing during the war, and all it takes is a desperate soldier to lead to a world war.
What is happening in Ukraine now, is just like a bully beating up a kid in the school yard, while the rest of his colleagues stand around telling him that they feel for him and they support him, but they cannot intervene because he is not part of their club. If Russia, Ukraine, and the NATO members were people, we would condemn the NATO people equally to the bully Russia, because witnessing abuse and doing nothing to stop it, makes you equally guilty.
I don’t know how you see it, but the multiple press declarations of support for the Ukrainian people and condemnation of Putin’s war mean nothing while people keep getting killed. The refusal of NATO members to cut ties with Russia and kicking them out of the SWIFT banking system, makes me think that behind some closed doors an agreement has been made. Putin has met with Trump, and I am pretty sure they’ve discussed this already, and probably Trump has told Putin that US will probably do fuck all.
And NATO… not sure how things are in other countries, but Romania has never had a proper military, and military service was made optional shortly after the 1989 revolution. The Western Europe is too civilized, too tame to deal with Russia and a bully like Putin.
One thing that my last sensei told me is that: It is better to be a warrior in a garden, than a gardener in a war. A few years ago, when I stopped a robbery in a supermarket in Frankfurt, I realized that to keep a society civilized, civilized people should be able to do uncivilized things. Grabbing that bag of soil and throwing it at the robber was uncivilized, violent even, although it barely did any damage. That doesn’t mean all of us have to be violent, but we just have to be capable of it when needed.
I grew up in a country where the thought of going 9 months away from home in a military camp to learn to fight in case of need was a nightmare, I am happy I was not obligated to go through. Me and other few other billions of people. But after the Smolensk crash in 2010, after the Crimea annexation in 2014, after the war in Ukraine starting in 2014, with that plane being taken down in Donbas I started thinking: what would happen if Russia invaded Romania? I’ve heard a lot of horror war stories from my grandmas and as a woman alone I knew my chances of getting out alive and un-raped were slim.
I also realized Romania will never be a democracy and will never be a stable economic and military power, because if by miracle we would elect the proper politicians to make it so, they would be suicided by jumping from their flats or their plane would randomly be hit by a bomb launched by some rebels, when flying over some troubled zone. Russia needs a small Swiss to grow at its borders as men need a testicle on their foot sole.
Ukraine with their pro-west orientation they were on their way to become stable economic and military power, as proven by their interest to ally themselves with the organization has kept Europe stable for years. Putin cannot have that.
War is a horrid thing; it should not happen in the 21st century when we have so much information about how the others went. But I guess history repeats itself and we never learn. And Putin wants to live forever in the history books. And he will, unfortunately. In about 40 years he will be mentioned in the history books in the section of the most terrifying country leaders: Hitler, Genghis Han, Stalin… etc. Let’s hope this time we learn.
Also, kudos to Boris Johnson. If he really blocked all Russian assets in the UK as he said he did… he is in possession of more balls than the other European leaders put together.
And Swiss just followed his example. Go go, Europe go! Now if you’d stop Putin before he levels all Ukraine that would be great.
Stay safe, stay happy!