“Thank goodness you’re back safe!” Bibi said as she jumped up to hug me. “I was so worried about you.” Bibi’s the administrator of the Political Science Department at my university. She’d been posting my reports from Ukraine on the departmental website throughout the summer. “Tell me what it was like, what’s going on now?” she wanted to know. I told her that I had not been in danger, that Kyiv is far from the war zone.
Teresa, the Graduate Secretary, came over. “What’s Putin doing?” she asked. I tried to explain and passed around some chocolates I’d brought for them. “They’re made by Ukraine’s President,” I said smiling. Teresa looked puzzled, but Bibi said, “Yes, I remember, you wrote about that in the Toronto Star when Poroshenko was elected president, that he made his fortune in chocolate.” They asked about the images on the chocolates. Bibi chose one that had a photo from Crimea. Teresa picked one with storks, and said it would be OK if I submitted marks for student essays that had come in while I was away a bit late.
Life at Western University continues much as before. I sat through a Workload Committee meeting. We discussed how much each professor should be teaching. While trying to focus on preparing a document that would be fair to everyone, part of my mind was on the 280 trucks headed from Russia to Ukraine. I was asked to speak about that on CTV, and apologized that I had to leave the meeting early. Rob walked out with me and wanted to hear all about Ukraine.
Dusan, the CTV technician, met me at the entrance. He rushed me into the studio and began wiring me up for sound. I was a bit late because traffic was terrible. A glass of water was waiting for me. He’d remembered that I get thirsty in air conditioned spaces. Afterwards, as he escorted me out, he said, “It’s terrible. What’s going to happen?” Last time I was there he’d told me he’s originally from the former Yugoslavia. He understands war.
Not everybody here is interested in what’s going on in Ukraine. Some colleagues I see in the hall say, “Hi, how are things?” and walk by not waiting to hear the answer. Friends I met up with one evening wanted to tell me about their vacations, rather than hear about people being killed in some far away country.
I remember the day when I’d watched volunteers take a military oath to defend Ukraine in Nova Petrivka, and then others near the Bohdan Khmel’nyts’kyi statue in central Kyiv. Afterwards I walked down the hill towards the Maidan, and popped into the underground shopping mall Globus, to escape the heat. There, other young men were casually sipping lattes and checking their mobile devices.
But I also remember the what journalist I’d been with at the oath taking ceremony said, “We’re going to win this war, because those guys you just saw have spirit.”
Hoping that each of them comes back to a welcome like the one I got from Bibi.
For Public Radio Ukraine, Hromadske Radio, MD, London, Ontario, Canada