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A Mother's Choice — And Molotov Cocktails That Need Mixing

A reporter arrived from elsewhere in Europe, posing the questions so many others have begun to ask themselves since all-out war began last week.

A Mother's Choice — And Molotov Cocktails That Need Mixing

Residents prepare Molotov cocktails to be sent to the frontline in western Ukraine

Serhii Hudak/Ukrinform/ZUMA
Francesca Mannocchi

DNIPRO — One of the most memorable books by Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich, first published in 1984, is called War Does Not Have a Woman's Face.

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Born in Belarus after World War II, Alexievich had collected hundreds of testimonies from Soviet women who had enlisted in the 1940s in the fight against Hitler, working as nurses and telegraph operators, but also serving as aviators and in tank battalions. These female veterans told her about the sacrifices and the fear, but also that at the war’s end, no one had remembered them or their service.

Who knows what they’ll remember about Irina, who was busy Sunday arranging bottles in boxes, while her 7-year-old son Yaroslav circled around her playing with a ball. Irina is a teacher here in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro, and four days ago like everyone else she was awakened by the sound of bombs.

Bottles and Polystyrene 

Irina and the mothers here, unlike those elsewhere in Europe, do not need to explain to their children what war is, because it has been present in Ukraine for years.

Still, Irina understood that this was different, even if choosing whether to stay or go was never a question. It was natural not to flee, just as it is natural for her to be here leading local volunteers in Dnipro to help prepare to fight the enemy.

Polystyrene sticks better to the targets.

Together with little Yaroslav, she had filled the car with bottles recovered from supermarkets, bought polystyrene plastic — because the polystyrene sticks better to the targets — and they started filling the bottles. With gasoline. Yes, mother and son were together preparing Molotov cocktails.

Face of war

But if Irina’s is the face of this war, she also has a face that resembles us. It can only prompt the question: What would we do if war came to our home?

If they were our children that we had to dress to sleep and carry wrapped in blankets into the air-raid shelters, running, for fear of bombs? What would we do, with an army invading our cities, and the streets where we walked the day before to pay the bills, buy a sticker book for our children, choose what to eat for dinner? Would we pack our bags and race toward the borders, or would we remain to fight? Like this friendly teacher, Irina, would we be preparing these bottles to be used to blow up enemy vehicles?

We don't know what we would do. Indeed, we know that we didn’t even have to ask ourselves until a few days ago, when the word war still seemed distant to us and the word refugee was fading in repetition. Today the war is no longer far away for any of us; and in a woman's voice, it asks the question: What would you do?

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

Why The U.S. Lost Its Leverage In The Middle East — And May Never Get It Back

In the Israel-Hamas war, Qatar now plays the key role in negotiations, while the United States appears increasingly disengaged. Shifts in the region and beyond require that Washington move quickly or risk ceding influence to China and others for the long term.

Photograph of U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken  shaking hands with sraeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

November 30, 2023, Tel Aviv, Israel: U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken shakes hands with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

Chuck Kennedy/U.S State/ZUMA
Sébastien Boussois


PARIS — Upon assuming office in 2008, then-President Barack Obama declared that United States would gradually begin withdrawing from various conflict zones across the globe, initiating a complex process that has had a major impact on the international landscape ever since.

This started with the American departure from Iraq in 2010, and was followed by Donald Trump's presidency, during which the "Make America Great Again" policy redirected attention to America's domestic interests.

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The withdrawal trend resumed under Joe Biden, who ordered the exit of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in 2021. To maintain a foothold in all intricate regions to the east, America requires secure and stable partnerships. The recent struggle in addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict demonstrates that Washington increasingly relies on the allied Gulf states for any enduring influence.

Since the collapse of the Camp David Accords in 1999 during Bill Clinton's tenure, Washington has consistently supported Israel without pursuing renewed peace talks that could have led to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

While President Joe Biden's recent challenges in pushing for a Gaza ceasefire met with resistance from an unyielding Benjamin Netanyahu, they also stem from the United States' overall disengagement from the issue over the past two decades. Biden now is seeking to re-engage in the Israel-Palestine matter, yet it is Qatar that is the primary broker for significant negotiations such as the release of hostages in exchange for a ceasefire —a situation the United States lacks the leverage to enforce.

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