My friend I—— was feeling rather down and depressed today. She is “looking for new projects”, which is a Ukrainian way of saying that she is looking for a paying job. Unfortunately Ukraine is at war and there are very few paying jobs. We’re all scraping together such funds as we can to fight this war, whether Ukrainian or foreigners, because it’s World War III and war destroys economies and it destroys working life and nevertheless we’ve got to win. I have a sense I’m going to be here for the long haul but I really haven’t decided yet and everything depends on money, love, job satisfaction and joy - much the same things as motivate all people everywhere. Obviously I can’t just keep going here forever without working, but for now I can. And it’s the best of all causes. My new friend D—— told me yesterday that just as you can exchange your time for money, so you can exchange your money for time - and he was right about that. What he meant was that can you can spend the money you have, rather than just accumulating mindless wealth in a consumer society, doing things with your time that are really valuable to you and that make you feel good about yourself. And he’s right, because now every day I feel really good about everything I am doing for Ukraine and therefore I feel good about myself. I have an energy and bounce in getting out of bed each morning and that’s a pretty rare experience for anyone, particularly in their middle age. That’s why I say to you that you ought to come here and work for heroic Ukraine and help in the fight against World War III. You’ll feel great about yourself and it’s worth the money you’re spending.
My date-cum-friend P——- last night asked me (when I was threatening interposing men with one-way train tickets to Kherson) whether I felt I could really do anything to help the war in Ukraine. Well, I suppose I am in a particular position as there are some people that listen to me and maybe some of my observations make it into some government memos somewhere or maybe they don’t. You never know with that sort of thing, but I hope they do because a lot of the information I acquire here “on the ground” is the sort of thing you can never pick up through reading the newspapers or using conventional channels of intelligence-gathering. You just go round talking to people each day and listening to them and asking them what’s going on, and diplomats and other official government representatives can’t do that sort of thing because they’re either prohibited altogether from entering a war zone on most western countries’ “danger - do not travel list” or they are locked up in Embassy compounds subject to the most horrendous security protocols. Whereas I can go anywhere I like and talk to anyone I please. If I want to, I can go to Kherson tomorrow on that third class train and talk to people and check it all about for myself. I have that liberty and the Ukrainians won’t stop me and I can learn things that nobody else can learn. Even sitting here in comparatively comfy and safe Lviv, I hear masses of information that flow past me and while I am discerning in that I give credence to and that which I don’t, I realise I am a fount of insider knowledge just by virtue of sitting here.
Moreover my real answer to P———, and I hope she shows up to Lviv Opera House in an hour or so but you never can tell with crazy things in Ukraine, is that this is a war of attrition and I am now spending several hours a day making meals for soldiers and this translates into fewer soldiers dying. While the conditions in the front line trenches are shockingly bad for the Ukrainians, they are far worse for the Russians just a few hundred metres away and that’s because the Russian soldiers are neither as well paid nor as well motivated as the Ukrainian ones; nor do they have this massive support network that the Ukrainian Armed Forces benefit from. I received an official Ukrainian “volunteer” flag patch for my jacket today, and I will wear it with pride as I head outside to the Opera House tonight because I am part of this magical group of people who are keeping people alive during a war of attrition that will just grind on until NATO steps into Ukraine, spearheaded by America - as they surely will; it’s just a question of time - and then the whole thing will stop. In the meantime the goal is to keep as many Ukrainian soldiers alive as possible until the slow grinding mechanics of international politics finally turn their cogs to mobilise NATO troops to enter Ukraine and stop the war in its tracks.
What do I have to say people like my friend I—— in the meantime in amidst this crazy maelstrom of war? Find a schedule. Write articles for free for the Lviv Herald, my plucky start-up newspaper with independent views about life in wartime Ukraine written in English, keep your mind busy, keep making those meals for people who otherwise will starve to death, because it’s the most heroic and valuable thing you’ve ever done in your life, and stay close with friends and treat them well because we all keep each other going in these times of uncertainty. I—— tells me she gets depressed when she drinks alcohol. I always say the same thing in reply: so drink alcohol in moderation. As though I stick to this adage myself. Nevertheless she is always welcome in Mano’s Bar, a/k/a Moss Eisley Space Port, with its increasingly whacky and outrageous cast of crazy characters; and I will always be there to keep her and my other friends company, even if they’re drinking lemonade. Now if you will excuse me, I think the Church has just been calling me, and I don’t know what to do about that; and then I must go and enjoy the Lviv Opera House, P——- or no P——-, because that’s part of my bliss and routine that keeps me sane and serene.