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Lining Up To Fight, Lining Up To Flee: Ukraine, A Nation United In War

It is not heroism that is creating the long lines to enlist in the country’s fight against Russia, nor is it the opposite that explains the refugees trying to get out alive. There is a single objective for both.

a soldier carrying a military backpack with the Ukrainian flag sewn to it watches a train arrive in Lviv station

Ukrainian soldiers catching a train in Lviv station


They joke in Ukraine now — and our sense of humor is more tenacious than ever — that when you’re required to enlist in the army in peacetime, everyone is sick; but when there’s a war, everyone is healthy.

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Yes, there are literally lines — sometimes six to eight hours long — to join the fight against the invading Russian forces. The “lucky” ones get to be trained in combat, while the rest of the “territorial defense” units are engaged in all manners of logistics, baking bread, delivering food. Though far safer, they are the unlucky recruits.

There are even reports of would-be combatants offering bribes to get a ticket to the frontline. More dark humor or a revealing truth about the state of mind in Ukraine right now.

Everyone believes in victory

A line of Ukrainian fleeing the country through Irpin checkpoint

Thousands of civilians desperately flee bombings in Kyiv via strategic checkpoint of Irpin, west of Kyiv.

Goktay Koraltan/Depo Photos via ZUMA Press Wire

One of the members of Kyiv's territorial defense, a journalist for the Ukrainian newspaper Pravda, Vadim Petrasyuk, keeps a blog about his service. "On the first day of the war, they took everyone who came in. On the second day, there was already a line, as there used to be at the Lenin Mausoleum," he writes. “To go to war through connections — such is now a sign of the times. Such is corruption, such is cronyism.”

I was able to speak by telephone with another journalist from the Ukrainian newspaper Novoe Vremya, Yuriy Matsarskiy, who is currently on patrol in the Kyiv military.

"Everyone who knows how to handle weapons is involved in the capital's military defense, and there are long lines of those who want to join, but the first ones we take are those who have experience," Matsarskiy says. “Our youngest fighter is 18 years old and the oldest is 65. There are many girls and women of older age, but mostly men. Both Kievers and people from other regions, everyone understands the strategic importance of Kyiv.”

You feed the murderers.

He speaks positively about the armament of the territorial defense forces but says that more NLAW and Javelin missiles wouldn't hurt. "The most important thing is that there is not a hint of weakness or sadness in the ranks of our fighters,” Matsarskiy adds. “It is true: Everyone is unanimous in the belief in victory and therefore moving only forward.”

He saves his final words for anyone in Europe who is still doing business in Russia: “I would like to say: You feed the murderers, get out of there, trade with normal countries, do not finance their war…"

Never more united

a man in a military jacket cries during a prayer at Church of the Most Holy Apostles Peter and Paul in Lviv, Ukraine

Soldiers and civilians pray together at Church of the Most Holy Apostles Peter and Paul in Lviv

Carol Guzy/ZUMA Press Wire

The territorial defense performs secondary military tasks to help the Ukrainian army: guarding checkpoints, catching saboteurs, blocking roads. Even if I understand why the rest of the world is calling them heroes, as a Ukrainian, I see all of the new recruits as perfectly natural. They really could not have acted otherwise.

In the decades since the end of World War II, we in Europe have somehow forgotten what it means to lose everything overnight: A shell hits your home and there is nothing left. A plane bombs your city and destroys your street, the school where your children study, the restaurant where you meet your friends, the park where you walk your dog. This bomb, that missile, fired by the hand of an enemy who hates you, wants to take your life, the lives of your loved ones, to destroy everything that is dear to you and that you call home.

Ukraine right now is a nation of a million separated families.

What would the people of Warsaw, Berlin, Paris, New York do in such a situation? Exactly the same. They would pile up tires at crossroads, sandbags at checkpoints, feed each other, grab weapons without a backward glance. Because it is their home: there is no second Kyiv, as there is no second Paris.

Some wonder, at the same time, about all the refugees leaving Ukraine. My daughter Sofiia, her nine-year-old brother and my mother made the journey from Kyiv to Paris. They are among the women, old men, and children who cannot fight, who must save their lives to rebuild the country after the war. They will return, they all wait every day for the war to end so they can go home. To the home that those heroes are now defending.

Ukraine right now is a nation of a million separated families, entire cities and populations torn apart — and we have never been more united.

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Shame On The García Márquez Heirs — Cashing In On The "Scraps" Of A Legend

A decision to publish a sketchy manuscript as a posthumous novel by the late Gabriel García Márquez would have horrified Colombia's Nobel laureate, given his painstaking devotion to the precision of the written word.

Photo of a window with a sticker of the face of Gabriel Garcia Marquez with butterfly notes at Guadalajara's International Book Fair.

Poster of Gabriel Garcia Marquez at Guadalajara's International Book Fair.

Juan David Torres Duarte


BOGOTÁ — When a writer dies, there are several ways of administering the literary estate, depending on the ambitions of the heirs. One is to exercise a millimetric check on any use or edition of the author's works, in the manner of James Joyce's nephew, Stephen, who inherited his literary rights. He refused to let even academic papers quote from Joyce's landmark novel, Ulysses.

Or, you continue to publish the works, making small additions to their corpus, as with Italo Calvino, Samuel Beckett and Clarice Lispector, or none at all, which will probably happen with Milan Kundera and Cormac McCarthy.

Another way is to seek out every scrap of paper the author left and every little word that was jotted down — on a piece of cloth, say — and drip-feed them to publishers every two to three years with great pomp and publicity, to revive the writer's renown.

This has happened with the Argentine Julio Cortázar (who seems to have sold more books dead than alive), the French author Albert Camus (now with 200 volumes of personal and unfinished works) and with the Chilean author Roberto Bolaño. The latter's posthumous oeuvre is so abundant I am starting to wonder if his heirs haven't hired a ghost writer — typing and smoking away in some bedsit in Barcelona — to churn out "newly discovered" works.

Which group, I wonder, will our late, great novelist Gabriel García Márquez fit into?

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