Thursday, May 5, 2022

The Geography of War

War is one way to learn geography. Think of Antietem, Sarajevo and Srebrenica. In Dante’s Divine Comedy, which has its share of battles, Hell, Purgatory and Paradise are places with correlates in the real world, at least with regard to sin and salvation. Mount Olympus was the home of the Greek Gods who often wreaked havoc on earth. Remember Helen, the daughter of Zeus and Leda? Troy is, of course, a city in upstate New York, along with Rome, Ithaca and Syracuse--all the legacy of antiquity. Before the current war, Ukraine was often regarded as a stepchild of the old U.S.S.R. If you read Chekhov’s Lady With a Dog, you were familiar with Yalta in the Crimea. Isaac Babel wrote Odessa Stories. Parts of Ukraine, along with Lithuania and Russia comprised The Pale of Settlement, where Jews were allowed to live in Czarist times. The embattled capital recently the site of an important victory for Ukraine was known primarily for a dish, Chicken Kiev, which was something that you ordered in "Russian" restaurants. Now the idea of a Russian restaurant serving Chicken Kiev would be sacrilege. Mariupol, where civilians and soldiers are now holding out in a steel factory, was unknown to most Americans, though Chernobyl, made famous for the fire in its number 4 reactor in l986, is a living jeremiad about the dangers of nuclear energy. Lviv, the largest city in Western Ukraine has become a destination point due to its proximity to the Polish border. Kharkiv, the country’s second largest city, in the Northeast, wasn’t known to average Americans until the recent bombings. Kherson, in the South is the first major city to have fallen to the Russians.

Read "A Taxonomy of The Goldfinch" by Francis Levy, HuffPost

and listen to "25 Miles From Home"by Edwin Starr

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