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There's a war on our continent
A new experience for us
Right now, if we lived in the United States, we would be feeling a bit sad for the people of Ukraine. We would be saying, “Oh, those poor people. How awful.” But really, it wouldn’t be like it’s something that we would worry about too much, apart from it possibly affecting our 401K’s or other investments, or maybe the price we pay for gas. We’d still be driving to the grocery store, planning a summer trip, or be hanging out with friends. But the humanity of this atrocity? Well, of course, we would pray for those unfortunate souls. Or send money. Or post something on Facebook showing our solidarity. Or say the right things to our friends. After all, it’s not like it’s happening on U.S. soil.
It’s a continent away.
In Portugal, Paul and I don’t live close to the borders of Ukraine, but we do live on the same continent. If we wanted to fly to Ukraine from Lisbon, it would be about a 4 ½ hour flight. That’s much less time than when we would fly from Phoenix, AZ to Boston, MA. This is a new experience for us. We’ve never lived anywhere near a war. And while there have been acts of terror in the United States, there hasn’t been an all-out war in the country since the late 1800’s. So, we have nothing to compare this experience to.
Paul and I are not political people. We discuss politics privately. We don’t like talking publicly about hot button topics or anything that gets people worked up. In our own family and circle of friends, we have such a variety of opinions in politics that it’s frankly not worth it to voice our views. We value relationships and love over anything political.
I don’t often write posts like this one. I usually write about our experiences and challenges moving to and living in Portugal, or about some of the beautiful places we visit. But right now, I feel the need to condemn by written word, the insane audacity of a dictator who believes he has some unique power to yield by using brute force to reduce people into submission. Probably because this is happening on the continent that Paul and I currently live in, it’s a different feeling for us. Because right now, people are being murdered or threatened for wanting nothing else but the basic right to be free. We’re just a short plane ride away from this insanity. And it’s close enough for us to pay attention. We all should.
A few days ago, as we were watching the news in the comfort of our condo here in Portugal, a reporter in Ukraine asked an American if he was planning to leave Ukraine in advance of the expected Russian invasion. He calmly replied saying no. He had lived in Ukraine for over 20 years, he had friends there. Ukraine was his home. I wondered what Paul and I would do if presented with the same set of circumstances. I’m still not sure.
I don’t know what the next few days, weeks or longer will bring. I don’t know how far Putin will get. I don’t know how far-reaching this war will be. I don’t think sanctions will stop him. I worry about worldwide nuclear attacks. I’m sad for the little innocent babies I see on the news with their terrified parents trying to escape the madness. I worry about the pets and wildlife caught in the crosshairs of bombs and gunfire. I’m sad for the elderly people left behind because they’re too old to flee. I’m sad for the Ukrainian men aged 18 to 60 who are staying behind to fight even if they’ve never held a weapon. I don’t know how many governments will collapse.
One thing I do know: this can happen anywhere. We forget that sometimes. It’s easy to take for granted the freedom and safety of where we live – be it the U.S. or Portugal, or any number of other countries. We convince ourselves that nothing can happen to us. We’ll all be simply fine because we don’t live near a combat zone.
But we shouldn’t get too comfortable. Believing that we’re immune to things happening around us is a false sense of security none of us can afford to succumb to.
On any continent.