Birkenau Death Camp Train


So, Putin invades Ukraine. The hotel I’m staying at is crowded with Polish guests. There are several high school classes and accompanying teachers from a city with far too many consonants in a row for me to try pronouncing. More importantly, however, is that the city they come from borders with Ukraine.

While the high school students are too young to remember what it was like to live under Brezhnev, Andropov, Cherneko, Gorbachev, and the boozer Yeltsin, I’m pretty sure the older teachers remember those grumpy old men far too well. Some of them may even consider that once Putin has annexed Ukraine, he might point his chubby index finger at Poland. And maybe then towards the Baltic countries. I get chills down my spine when I think about it.

A brief reminder: On September 29th, 1938, Hitler’s demand to annex Sudetenland, the German-speaking part of Czechoslovakia, was approved.

I feel a little nervous because Putin is so erratic. He has long had an unhealthy Stalin complex and the world’s history is filled with old men with various obsessions and hubris. It usually does not end well.

“Grumpy old men,” wrote a friend this morning after first sending the text “Damn fucking idiot!”, which I think is a fitting summary of Putin. As if it wasn’t enough with the pandemic, the climate crisis, and that Top Gun 2 won’t premier until May 27th…

The image above is from my visit last summer to Birkenau, the death camp near Krakow.