Christmas Morning with grandchildren (Horsmonden, United Kingdom)

Patrice and I are spending Christmas with Michelle and Nigel in Horsmonden, UK. We had met them a week ago in Calais to drive to Bruges, Belgium, for the Christmas Market, then onto England to spend the holidays with the grandchildren. It was as good as it gets. 

Complaints? Well, Jake and Josh considered me dotty and played sheepdogs herding me through London. And Phillipa fears her words will go to waste if she doesn’t use them effusively. It is raining England-ish in Horsmonden, where we are now. 

We boys went to the Imperial War Museum, and the girls went to the Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe. The Imperial War Museum does not, I assure you, push war. Nigel and I went slowly through the WWI and Holocaust floors. We will go again some other day to the WWII exhibits. The boys spent most of their time in the ‘war games room. ( : – (

I follow the Ukraine-Russia war. I shan’t dwell upon it. We all, and you all––Russian and Ukrainian, European and American––have access to the same news; we make up our own minds. 

I follow the Ukraine-Russian war from the safety of Western Europe. Save for a 10-15% Cost of Living rise; the war is distant. The French nuclear industry—left to wither under Macron in service to Global Warming––is slowly coming back online. European energy storage is at or above 90%.

Putin’s conduct in the Ukraine War is familiar to me. The denouement of the novel I am working on now, Resurrection, takes place during the Yugoslavia civil war circa 1992. The Serbian Army, like the Russian Army, was artillery-heavy. It destroyed everything and everyone in its path. A rapacious Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic in league with the thug Croatian President Tudjman, fell upon Bosnia-Hersogovina to aggrandize their fiefdoms. 

In the current war, Vladimir Vladimirovich seeks (sought?) to aggrandize Russia like Peter 1, Catherine 1, and Stalin. Instead, like Milosevic, he may well preside over his country’s disintegration.


And, of course, the European collective memory casts furtive glances back to 1938-39––Hitler, Munich, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s “peace in our time!” and WWII. 

To the left is Neville Chamberlain’s agreement with Adolf Hitler, 1938, to not go to war; WWII began 11 months later. The ‘peace in our time’ agreement, or piece of paper, is held at the Imperial War Museum. Nigel and I had the energy to tour the WWI floor and the Holocaust floor. It was beyond powerful. If you have no other plans around middle June 2023, Patrice’s Uncle Kurt, a holocaust survivor, will have a hall in the German National Library in Frankfurt (German equivalent to the Library of Congress) dedicated in his name.

Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, like Stalin, rose to power through guile, murder, and terror. But Vladimir Vladimirovich suffers a disadvantage his predecessors hadn’t. The Soviet Union––Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev––controlled the news. The Soviet people read only Pravda and Izvestia; HF radio and Voice of America were jammed. 

Which, thanks to the internet, is different than before. The Russians can listen and communicate with complete security. 

I am reading bit-by-bit Vassily Grossman’s Life and Fateand then will read his Everything Flows. I’ve read Russian and Soviet literature throughout my adult life, know Solzhenitsyn, Pasternak, and Natalie Ginsberg well, and have followed the now-suppressed Russian movement Memorial. Still, none have articulated as Grossman the grinding inhumanity of Stalin’s Communist Soviet Union. 

Putin is a Stalin wannabe––’ less fat, less smoke’ as the Russian aphorism might say––give but little comfort to the Ukrainian soldier. Interestingly enough, Russian emigres, children, and grandchildren of the 1920-25 Great Russian Exodus (5 million plus or minus) live in Semur. Then as now, Russians fled Russia by the hundreds of thousands.