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A family gathering near a cable barrier along the border between Canada and the United States
A family gathering near a cable barrier along the border between Canada and the United States

Viewed from the proverbial (and literal) 30,000 feet, the most stunning consequence of the coronavirus pandemic may have been the sudden closing of national borders. In an increasingly open world, the past six months of severe international travel restrictions continues to disrupt lives and hobble the global economy.

Last week, the six-months-long closure of the world's longest land border, between the United States and Canada, to "discretionary" travel was extended to at least until Oct. 21. Leaders of these two neighbors face the same impossible dilemma as other countries pondering the reopening of their borders, between saving lives and saving the economy.

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Russia

When Mom Believes Putin: A Russian Family Torn Apart Over Ukraine Invasion

Sisters Rante and Satu Vodich fled Russia because they could no longer bear to live under Putin — but their mother believes state propaganda about the war. Her daughters are building a new life for themselves in Georgia.

A mother and her daughter on a barricade in Kyiv

Steffi Unsleber

TBILISI — On a gloomy afternoon in May, Rante Vodich gets the keys to her new home. A week earlier, the 27-year-old found this wooden shed in Tbilisi, with a corrugated iron roof and ramshackle bathroom. The shed next door houses an old bed covered in dust. Vodich refers to the place as a “studio” and pays $300 per month in rent. She says finding the studio is the best thing that’s happened to her since she came to Georgia. It is her hope for the future.

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Her younger sister Satu Vodich is around 400 kilometers further west, in the city of Batumi on Georgia’s Black Sea coast, surrounded by Russian tourists, Ukrainian flags, skyscrapers with sea views and the run-down homes of local residents.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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