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Ukraine and Moldova - Story of my trip to Ukraine and Moldova

Ukraine and Moldova - Story of my trip to Ukraine and Moldova


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Ukraine and Moldova

Lviv - Chisinàu

Lviv (Lviv in Ukrainian, Lvov in Russian) is a beautiful museum city in western Ukraine of about 800,000 inhabitants, the capital of the province of the same name. Located near the Polish border, it is a very important agricultural and livestock market. Luckily Lviv emerged quite unscathed from the ravages of the Second World War and now we are faced with a real city museum with Western architecture from the Gothic period to the present day.

Unlike Russia, Kiev, Lviv is typically Ukraine, so much so that it was here the center of national irredentism. Located at the foot of the Carpathians, it is one of the oldest and most particular cities in the whole of Europe.

I inaugurate the first Wizzair flight from Treviso to Lviv (806 UAH), the airport is small and looks more like a museum than a terminal, luggage is delivered by hand.

I had booked an apartment with Private space (250 UAH per day) 10 minutes from the center.

The city has over 2000 historical, architectural and cultural monuments, that is 20% of all historical monuments in Ukraine and therefore is very important for tourism in Ukraine. The central area of ​​Lviv has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998.

East of the modern center is the Old Town, in the center of which is the large Ploshcha Rynok, which was once the center of Lviv and is currently the best-preserved square in all of Ukraine.

The civil buildings are a happy marriage of the Baroque and Renaissance styles; in fact, the wealthy local merchants did not hesitate to commission the best craftsmen and artists of the time to build their houses.

In the center of the square stands the town hall, which dates back to the 19th century, while all around you can admire magnificent buildings from the 16th and 18th centuries decorated with stone carvings.

Opposite, at the southwestern corner of the square is one of the best Gothic buildings in the city, the Roman Catholic Cathedral, which dates from the late 14th century. Inside, the Boyim Chapel contains some of Lviv's finest stone carvings.

At the northwestern corner is the oldest pharmacy in Lviv. Founded in 1879, the pharmacy shares the 16th-century building with the Apteka Museum which houses examples of ancient pharmaceutical equipment.

Along the avenue leading to the theater is the monument dedicated to the poet and painter Taras Hryhorovyč Ševčenko.

St. George's Cathedral in Lviv was built in 1744-1770, the architecture of the cathedral was a classic example of Baroque architecture.

There are many places outdoors or with special settings, shops and a market for souvenirs.

With Elena I continue the journey to Moldova, I had not found any air connections so the solution was a 27-hour train journey, the only one available in those days.

We leave around 17.00 from Lviv, there is only one wagon that will arrive in Chisinàu and there are three of us for most of the journey, the compartments are quite old and separated only by bulkheads but there is everything you need such as mattresses, blankets, sheets, pillows, food and drinks for a fee.

Around midnight our wagon is unhooked and parked in a station waiting for the connection from Moscow, this allows us to sleep until 6.00. In the more than 800 km of the journey we were almost always in the countryside, outside the inhabited centers life has remained as it was 50 years ago, everyone cultivates his or her vegetable garden and has a few cows or sheep and you can still see horse-drawn carts at the stops. of the stations, women get on the wagons to sell their products.

At the border with Moldova the customs officer asks me for a visa to be able to enter…. Boh ... maybe he was not aware that since 2007 European citizens do not require visas for Moldova, however, after checking in the office he puts the stamp on me and we go on.

Arrived at 14.00 in Balti we get off the train and take a minibus (7 euros for two) to save a couple of hours of travel, 120 km and we will be in Chisinàu, the roads are ruined by holes and the minibus goes everywhere to dodge them, even in the wrong direction ... I immediately notice that at the sight of the police everyone goes at 40 km / h and doesn't move an inch, I imagine that if you stop something you have to pay ...

Waiting for us Irina who gave us an apartment (40 euros) in Stefan cel Mare, the central street of the city, the building is Soviet style as there are many in the city, but the interior is renovated and new.

The next day, after changing the euro in Lei, we explore the center, climbing up Stefan cel Mare, the starting point is the majestic statue of Stefan cel Mare located at the entrance to the park. This place represents the city center and the main usual meeting point for the inhabitants of Chisinàu. Until 1991, the statue of Lenin occupied the base on which today stands the statue of the Prince and Saint Stefan cel Mare, also known as the hero of the liberation struggle from the Ottoman invader.

The park of the same name that extends behind the monument is undoubtedly the most beautiful and best preserved in the city, inside there is a beautiful fountain and several statues of Romanian and Russian writers and poets. Not far away there is also a large botanical garden.

Returning to the Bulevard Stefan cel Mare beyond the statue we look out onto the Square of the Great National Gatherings (Piata Marii Adunari Nationale) where military parades and speeches by the Communists of the U.S.S.R. were held until the early 1990s.

On this huge square stands the gigantic Palace of the Moldavian Government and on the opposite side the Arc de Triomphe built in 1840 by the architect I. Zauschevici in commemoration of the victory of the Tsarist troops against the Turkish invader.

Behind the Arch stands the classical Russian-style structure of the Orthodox Cathedral of the Birth of Our Lord, consisting of a central body and a tower with a separate bell tower; work, originally, of the architect Abraam Melnicov who designed and finished it in 1836.

Continuing we find the most beautiful art and craft market in the whole city where you can buy souvenirs and souvenirs of the city. On the other side of the "Vernisaj" rise the imposing columns of the "Mihai Eminescu National Theater".

Further on, we can turn left onto Strada Armeana or further down the Bulgarian Road and access the Central Peasant Market, the former Kolkosian market of the city, it is very large and you can find everything.

Leaving the Market and returning to the Bulevard after another 100 meters we reach the UNIC warehouses which were built in Soviet times and still represent the largest shopping center in all of Moldova, while on Pushkin there is the SUN CITY and Strada Viaduc the SHOPPING MOLDOVA, the latter of recent construction.

The country's specialties are wine and fruit-filled chocolates.

The National History Museum is located on Strada 31 August 1989.

The center is quite easy to get around because the streets are square and the writing is in Latin characters.


In these downtown streets, historic buildings mix with gray square buildings of the Stalinist era, abandoned houses, modern-style buildings, just turn a corner and the landscape is completely transformed ...

For transport there are buses and trolley buses and also many private minibuses.

It is a city that is expanding, with a little delay compared to the others in the east, but this cannot be said for the rest of the country where everything has not changed from the Soviet style.

June 2010
Paul

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Travel to Ukraine

Travel Diary in Ukraine, through Kiev, Odessa and Crimea, by Elisabetta de Carli - Posted on 09 January 2004 by Elisabetta de Carli .

Website or Web Source: www.ruska.it We decided to take this trip in May. It took us over two months to organize it. It cost us time, effort and money, but such a priceless trip: we met so many people, saw places that with "normal" trips we would not have been able to see and above all we lived more than a month in a different atmosphere. We left Turin on August 2nd.

With the three of us (Michal, Elisabetta and Alena, Michal's sister) there was Brave-heart, a professional from Turin, forty-two years old, sporty, up-to-date, elegant, demanding (perhaps more with himself than with the others) quite frightened by his company to look for a wife. He will deny his intention to the last:

"I'm just going to take pictures. This is a nice game. But what a wife. When I get back I buy the bike. But it's so good like that. I did very well to make this trip, I couldn't have done it alone."

With some baggage problems, (Brave-heart instead of the three bags provided had three big bags 2 meters by two for which I could write a whole chapter, but I refer) that for a hair put our luggage in jeopardy, we leave Milan and we reach Cesare's camper in Brescia who, with Giorgio, will then follow us throughout the journey. Cesare is a forty-year-old Piedmontese doctor, a handsome, serious, very sporty man who loves canoeing and campers.

Giorgio, on the other hand, is the only one who will never have anything to say to anyone. Let's go. The pace is slow but cheerful. Raimondo awaits us in Tarvisio, a philosophy student and university assistant whom everyone will call Trostki, both for his hair and for his impetuousness in speaking and the genuineness of his speeches, and Michele, a pharmacist from the south, who already knows Eastern Europe well. and he is very sure of himself. They travel in a Ford Fiesta, a little old. Austrian-Hungarian border.

"Duo car?" the policeman asks me. "No, not two cars, there are three of us," I reply, thinking he was referring to the group. "No. Duo, your car?"

He asked me if the car was mine, but he spoke like someone from Burundi! We arrived in Budapest at 7 am in front of the Ukrainian embassy. We had an appointment there with the third car arriving from Padua, with Francesco, Leopoldo and Giuseppe. Francesco is looking for the right girl at all costs. He wants her to be blonde, thin, beautiful, good. Leopoldo, Veronese and historian but denied for languages. Giuseppe, a journalist, will keep the travel diary, but in Doneck he will decide to return to Italy. Passports are ready at 4 pm. We leave. Among various problems we arrive at the border at three in the morning. We decide to sleep a bit between gypsies and homeless people. We are too tired. Two hours later we move towards the border. The series of madness began.

A young, blond, nice-looking military man approaches and, winking (it sounded like a tic), tells us in understandable Russian, as he helped himself with gestures, that he "didn't" let us unload the whole car. or yes. Initially I get angry, then he insists and shows us that he could also have started looking for "something" in the wheels (.). The traveling companions say to pay, I contract. Him: "50 dollars." Me: "No, 10." Him: "No. Thirty." Me: "Twenty, but for all four cars." Him: "Ok!" continue "Journey to Ukraine" (Published January 09, 2004) - Total readings 47 times - Go back


Ukrainian border Moldovia - Forum Tiraspol

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next summer we will take a tour with 2 campers in Ukraine and Moldova ..

Odessa will be the last Ukrainian city we will visit and from there we would like to enter Moldovia.

Where do you advise us to enter to avoid having problems at the border?

We thought of visiting Tighina but we do not understand if we have to cross Transnistria, if it is worth it, if there are problems at the border and if it is better to do it from Moldova.

Could the fact that we travel by campervan arouse curiosity and interest from the local police? In case how should we expect?

For overnight stops we will opt for campsites. Where can I find the directory on the net?

We have not been able to find tourist guides on Moldova and we are putting together an itinerary without being able to give priority or preference.

What are the places to visit absolutely? We will dedicate a week to Moldova.


EUROMAIDAN MEANING

Introduction. The investigation on the chosen topic had to be carried out mainly through the use of newspapers since, since the protest was still ongoing, it was very difficult to find information that was already ordered and reliable.
In the first phase of the work, the information was grouped in a chronology (see page) in such a way as to be able to have a general picture to refer to. The links with the subjects emerged during the investigation:
The connection with international law was born out of the need to explain some fundamental information for understanding the work, for this reason in the first pages (where there is a brief exposition of the first political dynamics that led to an increase in tension at the international level) , there will be in-depth studies regarding the Community of Independent States and the association agreement stipulated between the European Union and Ukraine.
Proceeding with the reading of the salient events, one will also find historical events considered important for understanding the birth of two opposing ideological alignments, the hostility of one and the feeling of belonging of the other towards Russia.


Q Code Magazine

Notes from an idler on the edge of Europe

I recognize that flicker, those eyes that squeeze under raised eyebrows like question marks, that look halfway between the curious and the perplexed that I will have seen dozens of times on the faces of my interlocutors when I declare my origins.
I know him well by now and I already know that it is the prelude to an interrogation, which is repeated every time, predictable as a form from the Registry Office.
"Are you Jewish?" I shake my head. "Is your father Jewish?" I shake it again. "Someone from the family ...". I shake my head for the third time. "Then maybe your ancestors come to these parts." I find myself again forced to contradict the customer, but the only exotic element in my family tree, firmly planted in the countryside around Caserta, is a great-grandfather from Lower Lazio.
At this point, therefore, excluding the trail of origins, the interlocutor focuses on other details in search of possible clues. For example, the ridiculous fluo diary on which I draw illegible flourishes in mixed alphabets: “You are a journalist, maybe…”. Or, inspired by my glasses and supported by popular iconography in which poor eyesight lovingly goes hand in hand with the aptitude for studying, someone speculates that I could be a teacher. Others, probably suffering from more serious vision problems than mine, even mistake me for a student. But no one is willing to accept the reality, that is, that no concrete reason has pushed me this far: not a journalistic investigation, not a pedagogical objective, not the search for roots. Not mine, at least.
I'm just a flâneur, a traveler, or, to be more brisk, a vacation idler.
"But how?" someone ventures "We all come from here to Italy and you from Italy come here?".
"You never know, times can change", I reply, "maybe, when we have to emigrate en masse from Italy, we will come to you. And I will already be prepared ”.
I make fun of it, but not too much. After all, it has already happened in the course of human history that a land of emigrants has over time become a landing place for immigrants. We Italians know this well or, at least, we should. They, the locals, however, in most cases laugh. They laugh at what sounds to their ears like a thunderous absurdity or like the facetious habit of a foreigner who has come this far to hypothesize a bizarre future on the scenario of a present that shows exactly the opposite: people are leaving here.
The airport where I arrive, in fact, seems to have been built on purpose to allow people to emigrate. A railway station surface and few departures, all westward and almost all low cost.
Getting here from Bergamo cost me 20 euros, for a sum less than what I would have spent to go to Venice I find myself on the eastern edge of Europe, to be precise in Iaşi, a Romanian university town a few kilometers from the border with Moldova. the starting point of the journey.

The lead gray sky that is the background of golden domes announces that autumn has arrived tonight with me.The water that pours over the city without stopping and without any prospect of clearing has transformed the short transit in Iaşi into a humid marathon with bowed head, of which I mainly got to know the road surface. However, even from this observation point it is possible to guess the appearance of the city. While I skip along bumpy sidewalks that cross paved roads, which in turn cross dirt tracks crossed by rivulets of mud, in my head, under the helpless hood already soaked, Iaşi takes the disharmonious shape of the usual, incoherent building patchwork of post- socialist, creation of architects, today as yesterday, driven by evidently prosaic inspiration.

From the windows of a small bar in the center, the kind where salmon and avocado sandwiches are served on tables decorated with plants in tin pots, I finally manage to raise my head: I see modern buildings in glass and concrete, commercial galleries and not far away. ubiquitous bright red sign under which the famous fried chicken in cardboard buckets is sold.

I observe this glimpse of the urban landscape and I ask myself for the umpteenth time where the system error is hidden by which the presence of the West, magnanimous patron of arts and cultures, promoter of values ​​and respect for diversity, translates in practice in the reassuring, monotonous possibility of doing in any place in the world exactly what we would do in the street below the house: eat the same fried chicken, drink the same watered coffee, clean up with the same detox weeds. Indeed, buy the same underwear.

But now I don't have time for sociological questions, because a much more complicated operation brings me back down to earth. I have to pay the bill in a currency that I have not yet become familiar with.

I'm thirty-four, the woman at the cashier tells me.

Turning over the banknotes, scratching among the coins and meanwhile I count: 30 lei, 32 lei, 33 lei ... and I stop to look for the right piece. The woman at the cashier comes to help me: “That. That is fine. So we're fine ”, he tells me in Italian. I ask, pretending not to already know the answer: "Where did you learn Italian?". “I worked in Italy, in Genoa. Then ten years ago I decided to return to Romania ”. But he has not lost ties with Italy, he tells me, he is still in contact with friends who have remained. "But the situation has become bad, they tell me." They say well, I confirm.

I pay, thank you and venture back in the rain to the bus station and to Chisinau, the capital of Moldova.

Or at least these are the plans, but the hours to come will remind me that plans should never be taken too seriously, especially in some areas of the world, where time, under the surface of an apparently linear motion, breaks down into streams and currents that do not lend themselves to being scanned by a single instrument and a single unit of measurement.

Iasi, like many other places that I will cross on my path, seems to be one of them. If between the asphalted streets of the commercial districts, between the glass and concrete buildings, time passes punctually and quickly to the rhythm of fashionable digital clocks, elsewhere its run slows down, expands, goes back and lingers indolently like the beating of a old clock with the battery in trouble.

At times it stops. Just as my run stops at the point from which it should instead resume: the bus station.

Not that there is a lack of the right means and information. The rides to Chişinău are quite crowded and frequent, I learn with relief from the regular travelers who take the place of the board. But the vehicle that will take us to Moldova is a fourteen-seater minibus, I discover with dismay in the face of the crowd of waiting travelers, whose number is at least double the number of seats available.

No reservations or pre-sales: the only chance to conquer the seat is entrusted to the feline shot and the physical prowess of the traveler, exactly as in the days of my adolescence in the countryside, when he expected to be able to get on one of the three couriers in the morning line that would take us to school. Always under conditions of being able to make room in the passenger compartment of a half-full like a vacuum package.

I decide to honor the old customs: today, as then, I avoid the crowd, step aside and wait. With the benevolence of fate, my turn will come, in approximately three minibuses and several hours of uninterrupted rain over the city and over our heads.

Even my traveling companions take it with great philosophy. Someone eats, someone drinks, someone talks, someone, the three things together. It almost seems like happy hour.

I pass the time by exchanging opinions and fennel taralli with a student originally from Chişinău, but enrolled, like many young Moldovans, at the University of Iași: the shortcomings of Italian and Romanian public transport in a comparative perspective, the weather, always in a comparative perspective , his studies, his in progress, mine long overdue. In short, a dialogue that seems to come out of the conversation manual between strangers at the tram stop. Until my interlocutor asks me the question that in the last four years of wandering from the Baltic to the southernmost tip of the Caucasus, with varying tones ranging from worried to prosecuted, I was asked more often: "How are you going to Italy the migrant emergency? ".

In this case the tone was "only" worried. I reply, with the intention of cutting it short, that there is no emergency. But she doesn't give up. “In what sense?” He asks. I reply that the emergency is such only because we persist in treating it as an emergency, that the numbers do not justify the invasion anxieties at all, that it is ridiculous to call a situation born as a direct consequence of the closure of legal channels "crisis" or "emergency". entry and therefore perfectly predictable several years ago. I tell her that the real difficulty to be faced is to guarantee these people the possibility of a normal life, but this is a sore point that now affects everyone: Africans, Romanians, Italians.
He looks at me with wide eyes and says “The input channels. I had never thought about it". It seems unfair to rage: after all, even among my compatriots there are many who have never thought about it.
Finally, the minibus appears on the horizon. The crowd is thronging, but this is the right time for me. The driver notes my details from the passport and returns it to me: soon I'll have to show it at the border. Yeah, customs! Now that my head is finally covered, the thought of queuing in the rain doesn't smile at me at all. But my worries are superfluous. It is the driver himself who collects the passports and takes them to the border guards. Ten minutes of waiting in all, moreover comfortably seated, while the radio broadcasts "Love is in the air", and we are ready to cross the border line that today marks the edge of European Community and that once delimited the territory of 'USSR. And in fact the sound of Russian can already be heard here and there.
The path resumes beyond the border, but no fractures are seen: the same green, the same roads on which the speed limit oscillates between thirty and fifty kilometers per hour.
Time is running out of battery again, but in about two and a half hours I'll be in Chișinău. If the hands don't stop completely.

It may be the cold, the late hour, the out of phase metabolism of Monday, but Chișinău does not seem particularly lively, I tell myself looking around the main street of the city, dedicated to Prince Ștefan Cel Mare, who, after having rejected the Turks in 1475, in 1991 he even succeeded in ousting the old owner of the street, comrade Lenin, from the altars of popular glory and the town toponymy.

Lost like Tom Thumb in an unknown forest of concrete, crossed by wide furrows of poorly lit streets and all the same, I rely on the only signals that arrive strong and clear, those of smoke, or rather, of embers and grilled meats and I go to get me dinner. Along the road, a commemorative bust emerges from a corner house, leaning forward like a stuffed moose head in a hunter's house. It is Count Lev Nikolàevič Tolstoj, affixed to the walls that hosted him during his stay in Chișinău, the imperial Kišinëv, in 1854. A short distance away, a plaque indicates the building from which, at the beginning of the last century, the first prints of "Iskra", Lenin's illegal magazine. Yet, despite the traces that ennoble and cloak the streets of the city with literature and insurrectionist fury, for me Chișinău remains the receptacle of the anathemas of Aleksandr Sergeevič Pushkin, the great Russian poet, the genius, the frivolous, the mundane, the quick intellectual libertine from the Tsar to extinguish his revolutionary spirits and his lewd ardor in this remote periphery at the extreme western edge of the Empire. Despite being made of a completely different kind of pasta than the poet, I think I understand the reason for his state of mind.

The next day brings two pieces of news. As is often the case, a good one and a bad one. The good news is that it has stopped raining. The bad thing is that an already almost wintry wind is blowing, known with some suffering while, from my accommodation with rhinestone-studded mirrors and animalier upholstery, I leave the entrance which at night, upon my arrival, was illuminated by a rouge passion led.

As I walk towards what I suppose is the center, my first impressions take the form of the coils of smoke that the Caterpillar blows on the face of Alice lost in Wonderland, as she obsessively asks her the same question “What-be-you? ".

To this city I ask the same question.

Chișinău is the indefinable capital of Moldova, a state less than thirty years old, a nebula of stories and destinies created by the collapse of the red star of Moscow, as it exploded into myriads of pieces, and precipitated here, in this point of the Eastern Europe nestled between Romania and Ukraine that much of the outside world still struggles to identify, if not as the home of an even less identifiable people, too Slavic to be Romanian and too Latin to be Russian, too European to be Turkish, but too Asian to be European.

In short, what is this Moldova? What we know for sure about the present is that Moldova is the poorest and most corrupt country in Europe

As for the past, Moldova is what remains of a principality, whose banner has been placed in the cellar by foreign powers that, from the Middle Ages onwards, have alternated on this territory, merging from all the cardinal points: the Turks from the south, Tsarist Russia from the north-east, Romania from the west and then, again from the north east, the Soviets is the crossroads that have become home to different peoples, languages, religions and where there are still more than ten ethnic groups, some with evocative names that seem straight out of a Jonathan Swift novel. The Gagauzis, for example.

Today it is the terrain where two opposing poles of power apparently collide, as a well-known script, the pro-Russian and the pro-Western one, which, here, unlike what happens in neighboring Ukraine, work together in the shadows. to divide up the profits and isolate the opponents.

Moldova is a confused, heterogeneous, crowded entity, which presents itself at the Third Millennium happening dressed in a jacket and tie, with a lamb's headdress and the ancient banners on the chest, dusted off and brought back into vogue by the darkness of the old cellars . It is "a tangled conglomerate," said a famous scholar.
As I walk my first mile into the city, Chișinău seems to me the complete expression of that tangle.
This road is a tangle, which stretches between low houses, with pastel walls and disjointed and peeling wooden fences, then continues among the shadows of the huge skeletons of buildings under construction, to emerge in a large square between grape stalls and kiosks. of coffee to-go and finally crashing into a wall of off-white concrete parallelepipeds covered with advertising billboards.
The forest of hotels, residences, offices, shops that take the place of historic buildings and, from the altars of the capital and large retailers, look contemptuously at the teeming market, where you can indisputably breathe an air of Vicino is a tangle. East, not to mention Central Asia.
The intertwining of languages ​​that under the surface of neo-Latin officialdom jumps from Romanian to Russian is a tangle, without giving too much importance to the provisions from above.
But in this set of voices, the daily soundtrack, a presence is missing, that of those who have lived against this background for centuries as a protagonist, but never as a ruler and for this reason has been dramatically canceled from the landscape. Yiddish is lacking in the jumble of streets in Chișinău, Jews are lacking.
They are there, but they are not seen. There are few left here in the city and some today are locked up to celebrate the feast of Sukkot in the closed space of a synagogue that goes almost unnoticed from the street. The big gray door is closed, but just knock lightly and it opens in a matter of seconds.
"Forward! It's open!" From the gatehouse protrude the heads of a caretaker and an elderly bearded gentleman dressed in black, who seems to have stepped out of the pages of Joseph Roth's novels.
"Are you Jews?" I shake my head. "Where are you from?" "From Italy", I reply. "From Italy? And aren't you Jews? " "No" I repeat, "not that I know of at least". Then the bearded elderly man is seized by a surge of enthusiasm: "Italians love Jews, don't they? Mussolini did not kill Jews! ”. Of course, I say to myself, it is precisely to remember Mussolini's benevolence that in Italy, at the same moment in which this absurd question is asked, initiatives are being prepared everywhere in memory of the enactment of the racial laws that just eighty years ago deprived the Italian Jews of the most elementary rights. "Mussolini was an ally of Hitler and is responsible as much as he is", I cut short and walk away following the chorus of voices indicating the direction "Here! Over here! ”, Towards a covered corridor that opens into another courtyard, where a green awning is mounted which, until a few minutes ago, evidently housed the banquet for the Sukkot feast. The small crowd of guests, some in the dark clothes typical of Orthodox Jews, comes out of the tent and disperses, someone remains to make order. One of them, in a jacket, tie, kippah and beach espadrilles, follows me into the interior of the synagogue. He introduces himself: his name is Borja and he comes from Tel Aviv. “From Tel Aviv? And how did you end up in Chișinău? " I ask amazed by that counter-current migration with respect to the most traveled route from Moldova to Israel. He says he left Israel of his own free will, which, he says, "It is not a country for everyone." He jumped at the opportunity offered by the American multinational he works for and accepted a one-year post in Chișinău. But his contract is about to expire and he would like to go elsewhere in Europe. Specifically, he would like to make real estate investments in Italy and in this regard he asks me for advice. While I try to make him understand that real estate affairs are not exactly my forte, a voice rises from the back, where sits a small group of men who until a few seconds before were discussing animatedly in Yiddish. "Are you from Italy? Ester ”says one of them turning to a girl who has just entered“ tells of Calabria! ”. Ester, in a wig and long dress, explains to me that the Sukkot festival has the fruit of the cedar as a symbol. For the sacred scriptures to be respected, the fruits must not be chosen at random, but with very specific characteristics. For this reason, the Sukkot cedars are selected in a specific place, in the town of Santa Maria del Cedro, which is located right in Calabria, in the province of Cosenza. It is strange, but it is a pleasure, from time to time, to hear stories about Calabrian citrus fruits that do not evoke bad associations.
Meanwhile, Esther and Borja are joined by Mila, a woman in her sixties with a certain propensity for chatter. She must be very devout, I tell myself, judging by the frequency with which the words "divine will", "pray", "family" return in her speeches. Especially the latter. Mila would like to persuade me to start a family. I try to explain to her that I'm too irresponsible even to care for my four cacti, but she doesn't stop. The family is sacred, children are joy. Then he approaches, with a circumspect manner, badly chases Borja away saying: “Go away, these are women's things” and says: “To have children you don't necessarily need a husband. Indeed, it is not necessary. I've had four. But children are everything ”. And then he says that his children emigrated to Israel. One studies, the other works in a shoe shop, "but he is happy like this, says Mila - and then, even if my children are far away, I am happy too", he concludes, throwing the joyful atmosphere of the synagogue into the sad shadow of a centuries-old history of escapes and dispersions that began more than a century ago, when the fury that would change the Jewish world in Eastern Europe broke out right here in Chișinău.I will find that shadow in the streets of almost all the cities that I crossed on my way along the streets that Jews once called homeland.

If we were perplexed by the discovery of Moldova, if a mocking laugh escaped us at the sound of that name, Gagauzia, which makes us think, more than an ethnic minority, of the Turkish-speaking relatives of the Lilliputians, if the amazement of those who caught the most times in front of these mysterious entities, well, it is fair to know, it is only because we have not yet arrived in Transnistria.

And it is equally right to start this journey through the deepest and most hidden nature of this land starting from the basics: Transnistria exists.

Even if we have never heard of it, even if that name makes us think of an equally exotic, romantic, adventurous Transylvania, but which ended up in the lot of the foolish and less fascinating brother of the well-known count, and for this deprived of literary glory.

To be fair, it must be said that someone tried to cloak Transnistria the immortal aura of art, recounting in a novel his childhood spent between the eighties and nineties of the last century, in Bender, a town in this obscure Far- Soviet West populated by ex-Siberian prisoners, the Urka, full of tattoos, grim-looking, ruthless with bankers and policemen, but all in all honest and respectful of the rules - their own, of course -, not like those swarms of "Seme black ”, the criminal organization that has now lost all restraint and moral scruple.

These sinister hues with which the author paints his homeland add shadows to the halo of uncertainty and mystery that surrounds Transnistria, a secessionist state not recognized by any other state, with the exception of Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno- Karabakh, in turn not recognized by international law and therefore probably in solidarity with Transnistria.

Transnistria today is only a de facto independent republic. This thin strip of land, home to just 500,000 inhabitants, mainly Russian-speaking, and, at least officially, pervaded by Russophile sentiments, in 1992, following a blitzkrieg, broke away from Moldova, of sympathies that looked in the opposite direction, that is to Romania. Since then the conflict has remained "frozen": Transnistria, or as it is officially defined locally, the Moldovan Republic of Trasnistria, still belongs de jure to Moldova, but the country is economically supported by Russia.

Practically a no-man's land, a den of criminals fighting with other criminals on which the shadow of one of the worst villains in world geopolitics stretches: Putin.

It is almost scary: who knows what terrifying facts take place beyond that fearful frontier, in this country suspended in space and time, where you can still breathe an air of the last century and of the Soviet Union.

To tell the truth, the atmosphere on the minibus leaving for Tiraspol, the Transnistrian capital, is not exactly that of a convoy headed for war. It looks more like a salon de coiffeure for ladies, of the neighborhood ones: as in the truest and saddest of clichés, we are all women and all in the mood to chat. Being a foreigner in these cases is an advantage, because it relieves me of the effort to socialize. It is the others who are usually intrigued to socialize with me. So, even before we leave, I find myself in a conversation between my neighbor. Where are you coming from? Where did you learn Russian? How come you're here? Then, after the traditional minute of silence of the perplexed interlocutor, he recovers amiably as if he had known each other for years. So amiably that another woman also intervenes. I discover that both of my traveling companions, two women in their sixties, are from Chișinău, but, this time it's my turn to be appalled, they communicate in Russian. One of the two has lived in Russia for twenty-six years and is no longer able to speak Moldovan, or Romanian. "But now I'm trying to catch up," he says, "the Russian got me bored." Not even time to leave and another passenger joins the trio. But after a few bars, he switches to Italian. She too is from Chișinău, she says, but lives in Verona, where she works as a caregiver. Now, however, he is on his way to Tiraspol where he will spend his vacation with his family. I ask her if she prefers Chișinău or Verona. She glosses over and that glossing over seems eloquent to me. But I'm certainly not offended. Besides, why should I. We take for granted, in host countries, that migration is necessarily a qualitative leap or in any case the opportunity to live in a better place, however, even if the idea seems absurd to us, many people would have preferred to stay at home. Even if "home" is in a place that does not even exist on the map.

In the meantime, they tell me that we are about to reach the border. Everyone tries to give information, everyone tries to explain how to do it: get off the bus, fill in the form, collect the receipt… in reality everything is very simple and fast. The border is a formality. A look at the passport and they give us the immigration card, which will then be collected at the exit.

At the moment, nothing suggests scenarios of a noir novel with a geopolitical background. But we are not yet in the capital.

Here, as I jump off the bus, undecided on which direction to follow, something hits me full in the face: the smell of brioche bread, of those soft, shiny, slightly sweet ones. With raisins.

Nothing else catches the eye on this placid, even too much, urban scenario.

The streets are quiet and tidy, the shops and bars open, the exchange offices active and quick to collect my Moldovan lei to replace them with transnister rubles and Ukrainian hryvne. The clerk doesn't even try to cheat on the exchange. For criminals they are really weird, these transnisters.

Like many cities in the Russian imperial and former Soviet area, Tiraspol is a fairly regular network of wide streets that wind from a main artery, the one that until the early 1990s was invariably named after Lenin. In Tiraspol it is still called so, via Lenin, and crosses via Karl Marx and via Rosa Luxemburg, which are located in two neighboring and parallel streets. A little further on Via Lenin meets Via 25 Ottobre, which celebrates the Revolution. There on the corner, in an imperial-style white and blue house, you will find my accommodation.

The hostess, Lyudmila, is seventy years old and has an energy that I never had even when I was six. He talks in bursts, gives information about the apartment, instructions on how to use the facilities, scoffs at his daughter's hipster streak, who exhibited a charcoal iron and an old sewing machine as knick-knacks: “I told her: what have you done? The history museum? ". She is originally from Lviv in Ukraine, which at that time was called Lvov and was Soviet. Then at the end of her studies she moved to Tiraspol for work, got married and stayed in Transnistria. That's all. But how is it possible, Ljudmila, tell me something more, tell me about the agony of living in a country that does not exist, about the arrogance of criminals, about the slow and mammoth bureaucratic machine, which has remained intact since the Soviet times! Don't tell me a trivial story, like the one that Mrs.Carmela di Castellammare would tell, who emigrated for work to Milan, where she met Salvatore di Giarre, got married, started a family and then spent her old age on the tram complaining about the mayor , whoever he is!

But yes, all that Ljudmila leaves behind is a story like many others, only to leave, sucked into her affairs: the shopping, the children and the granddaughter, Masha.

Outside, the flow of everyday life does not tell a very different story: people sit in bars, go to the market, or walk on the Dniester river, grandmothers stop with their grandchildren in the park, where the mellifluous and annoying refrain "Ai se eu te pego-Ai se eu te pego" that already tormented us a few summers ago. Other than Soviet wreck, other than socialism. The Third Millennium also makes itself felt here and with a full throat. Comrade Lenin also knows this, who, from the top of the monument dedicated to him, scans the city traffic with a frown like a traffic policeman, the city authorities also know, even if they undertake to keep traces of the past on the face of the city. Soviet. It is no coincidence that the Memorial of Glory, erected on the banks of the Dnestr River, is a shrine to the memory of the fallen of all the wars that last century involved this region, from the most recent 1992 war against Moldova to the Second World War, passing through Afghanistan, conflicts in which transnisters fought as Soviet citizens. All with a large display of red stars and hammer and sickle. Although, to tell the truth, the coat of arms of Transnistria, with that sickle and that hammer, nicely framed by ears of corn, cobs and an embroidery of vine branches, is more reminiscent of the brand of the fruit and vegetable market than the sign of a a tough republic faithful to the orthodoxy of the Party.

As the hours go by, we have to accept the reality: if it were not for a few details - the transnistrian ruble which cannot be exchanged for any currency outside this area, the businesses that only accept local credit cards - there would be no element. to remember the "particularity" of this area.

Not even the shadow of criminals. At most a few grim faces, like the university caretaker, angry at the thought that someone wanted to enter the garden just to take a look. Maybe he mistook me for one of those assault journalists or writers on the hunt for exotic adventures and easy scoops. And in fact he asks me "But why are you interested in university? Here it's not like in Italy, where everything works. "It's rude of me, I know, but I can't help laughing. If only you knew, dear sir, how many Transnistries there are in Italy. I could tell him, but I'm sure he wouldn't believe me.

Just as it would be hard to believe, without having seen it, that nothing strange happens in this city. Or maybe it would be appropriate to say nothing happens and I believe nothing will happen in the next few hours.

My time here can be said to be over and I head towards the Tiraspol station in the direction of Odessa.

The station is not very busy. I know for sure that international trains pass through, or at least should, from Chișinău to Odessa and to Moscow, but in the two hours of waiting I have not seen even a train, international or local, pass by.

The buses move in different directions from the square in front of the station.

I arrive at the border with Ukraine which is now dark. Upon exiting the transnistrian territory, the driver collects our passports and takes them to the guard for checks. Then he returns and invites one of the passengers to follow him. It seems that his stay has exceeded the twenty-four hours provided by the immigration card, which in reality does not specify anything about it. I observe the scene from inside the minibus with some interest: in fact, I know I am in the same, identical situation. But one of my traveling companions, a local boy who introduces himself as Stas, leaves for a second the companion he has been holding on to for the whole trip, the bowl of wine, to come and reassure me: "Don't worry, they so every time. They draw a passport at random and pretend there are problems. You'll see, we'll start again in a few minutes ”.

In vino veritas. The alarm has cleared. The unfortunate woman, on her return, speculates that the check was an excuse to extort the last bribe of the day. But evidently the guard must have changed his mind.

In short, once again we lost the opportunity to experience a bit of adventure.

The journey resumes. I approach Odessa and the following conclusion: Transnistria exists and is a terribly boring place.

There were a Neapolitan, a Russian and a Turk on the shores of the Black Sea, but this is not a joke. On the contrary, it is a very serious story.

The Russian, the Empire of Catherine II, and the Turkish, its rival, the Ottoman Empire, had fought for about a year amidst terrible carnage. Then the two contenders had signed the peace. Russia had prevailed, but the threat of new clashes had not yet completely disappeared. The Russian troops had spotted about forty Ottoman vessels and two warships off the northwest coast of Khadjibey village, and decided to get closer. In half an hour the capture was done: the small group of Ottoman soldiers surrendered immediately and Khadjibej was claimed in the name of Catherine by the Russian forces. Leading them was the Neapolitan José Pascual Domingo de Ribas y Boyons, known to the Russians as Osip Michajlovič Deribas.

It was 1789 and a few years later, on that village taken almost by chance as in the grand finale of a semi-serious epic, in 1794 the city of Odessa would be born.

The intuition had been of Deribas himself: so close to the mouth of four navigable rivers, the Danube, the Dnepr, the Dnestr and the Bug, the site where Khadjibej stood could prove to be strategic for the Russian Empire and so he began in his imagination to imagine in the place of the village a port city, new, modern, enlightened, the southern pearl of the Empire. His visionary enthusiasm was so powerful that it even convinced the Empress Catherine, who looked with a certain appetite at the consolidation of her position in the south.

But already in its first decades of life the city, in spite of the dreams of order and rationality of its creator, showed those traits that would have marked its character for the centuries to come: the chaotic movement, the eternal oscillation between incurable extremes, the dramatic, profound contradictions.

A teeming port, a commercial hub for merchants of all languages ​​and religions, Odessa lived regardless of the many rules and bonds that stiffened Russian society and often divided it. Odessa was a moody creature: libertine and tolerant in times of prosperity, but violent and uncompromising in the darkest times, full of intellectual genius and, at the same time, of baseness and malfeasance, it was the thriving city that sent wheat to all of Europe, but at the time itself a fragile economy continually threatened by external factors, from famines, to grasshoppers, especially the plague, in all its manifestations, was extreme and radical.

Dominated by the pragmatic and unscrupulous business mentality, Odessa was imbued with a sense of freedom that was also reflected in other spheres of the life of its inhabitants.

Some trace of the spirit of the past can still be caught in the air, or perhaps, more likely, in the windows of the sex shops and strip clubs that wink cheekily from the ground floor of what were once noble palaces and which today give prestige to the streets in the center. It may be because of this scent of lack of rigor that hovers in the city, but suddenly my interest in palaces, monuments, churches, museums vanishes, overwhelmed by the invincible magnetism of the place where my weak and mean nature is always at its own ease: the table in a bar, in religious observation of human comedy.

So I start my journey on Ukrainian soil, in a city that does not even remotely resemble the nearby Chişinău and Tiraspol later on, I will discover that it does not even resemble Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, or any of the cities that I have crossed and will cross along the way. The more I look at it, the more Odessa takes me elsewhere. Looking at it from the center, among the neoclassical geometries of the buildings of the imperial era, it looks like a St. Petersburg stretched out over the sea, but in certain corners, the most faded and peeling ones, where you can still breathe the smell of fatigue and old misery, it remembers Naples or Marseille its typical cuisine, where sea and land meet happily, made me think of Trieste. Like many port cities, Odessa is a frontier place, a hybrid with a multiform and floating identity, a solemn ode to the emptiness of the border and flags. This despite the ubiquitous yellow and blue insignia, the Ukrainian national colors, which tell only part of the city's history.

"There is nothing national about Odessa": this, according to the historian Charles King, is what a visitor passing through the city at the end of the nineteenth century would have exclaimed with derogatory intent, who evidently did not appreciate the kaleidoscopic chaos of peoples who animated the streets: Italians, Greeks, Russians, Ukrainians, Armenians, Tatars and above all Jews, whose presence in this area predated the foundation of the city. In fact, it is said that six families of the Jewish religion already lived in Khadjibey before the arrival of the Russians.

In the first decades of the nineteenth century, they had already risen to four thousand by the end of the century

more than four times, all probably arrived with the same goal: “Lebn vi Got in Odes!”, as a Yiddish saying goes which translated sounds like “Living like a God in Odessa!”.

At the time the Jews of the Russian Empire were forced to live in the area of ​​residence, a strip of land located on the western border of the Russian territories, from Warsaw to Vilnius to western Ukraine, where they resided without the right to emigrate and was granted them to practice only a limited number of professions. Odessa was also part of the Residence Zone, but at the same time it was a free port where restrictions and controls were applied more loosely than elsewhere: for many Jews, therefore, it immediately appeared as an opportunity for a less miserable life. So it was: relying on the dense network of Jewish communities in the western part of the empire, the Jews of Odessa were able to exploit the position of intermediaries between goods arriving from the sea and the mainland, helping to transform the city into the great commercial hub that it would become.

In the economic activities allowed to them, they were very successful: some prospered, became owners of large companies, making their own fortune and even that of Odessa.

But above all, here in Odessa, the Jewish community succeeded in something that in those days was unthinkable elsewhere, in a society as rigidly divided into classes as the Russian one: to rise socially and get out of their status as excluded.

Away from the traditional centers of Judaism, free from the influence of the eminent scholars of Jewish law and the mystical preachers who concentrated north, towards the Lithuanian-Polish border, the Jews of Odesse became a vital, modern, progressive and well-integrated community. citizen.

Before the Second World War, Odessa had never known ghettos. A substantial part of the Jewish population was concentrated in Moldavanka, which, however, has never been characterized as a real Jewish quarter. Moldavanka was rather the home of the legendary figures of Odessite crime and, more prosaically, of the poorest and most destitute of the city: first the Moldovan workers and herdsmen, then Greek, Albanian, Bulgarian workers, refugees from the Balkan wars, the Jews.

The less unfortunate part of the Jewish community, on the other hand, lived side by side with the other Odessites, strolled along the same avenues, frequented the same theaters, sat in the same cafes. They actively lived the city and characterized it with their presence. In Odessa the Jews were at home. At home.

Yet in this lively, easy-going, unglued cauldron, where the word nation had no meaning, when the city's thriving economy fell from grace, nationalism began to creep, divide, until it became the measure of all things and stood up. like the idol in whose name to commit the bloodiest of sacrifices. Precisely the most open and colorful city of the Russian Empire was about to become the forge of the most intransigent identity drifts, the consequences of which would go much further in time and space, up to the present day.

In the dark days when the affairs of Odessa contracted dramatically, in contrast to the crowds of wretches that instead expanded, amid the mists of dense and oppressive pessimism, the only glitter that the less affluent Odessites could see were the riches of the moneyed Jewish entrepreneurs.

In those years of crisis, the malignant plant of anti-Semitism, already so widespread in the Russian Empire, sowed its seeds here too and, duly irrigated by the poison of the conspiracy and old anti-Jewish superstitions, proliferated very quickly. The most affected, of course, were not the wealthy and influential Jews, but the many small merchants of the city, whose shops were targeted and devastated.

The violence rose like an ever higher wave over the years, until it exploded in a terrible pogrom on Easter Sunday in 1871, when Greeks and Jews clashed, joined by Russian workers who began throwing stones at the windows of the synagogues. A crowd of people poured into the streets and launched an attack on Jewish-owned businesses, from taverns to places of worship. The fury lasted six days, which left a bloody trail behind it: six dead, twenty wounded and hundreds of shops and homes destroyed. Within ten years, the fury of the citizens was joined by that of the Empire, in those years committed to imposing order by force in a country that increasingly resembled a powder keg. For Odessa, the authorities had an eye on it, given its reputation as an undisciplined and subversive city. Regarding the anti-Jewish pogroms, however, the authorities limited themselves to intervening only in the event that it was not only Jews who ended up victims of the violence.

In 1881 the Laws of May were enacted, which imposed restrictions on trade, residence and participation in the political life of the Jewish population on the other side, Jews, those who did not emigrate, began to set up self-defense organizations, others instead joined revolutionary movements or liberation ideologies.

In this already darkened and shattered Odessa, many became convinced that national identity was the cornerstone to cling to.

Among these a young man of letters and journalist. His name was Vladimir Jabotinskij: his work and his thoughts were the chilling scream of a terrible era, whose echo still lasts and resounds in all the same horror.

Vladimir was the son of secular Jewish parents and had studied, as a high school student, in a class of eleven nationalities.

Vladimir's education took place far from the traditional practices and sacred texts of Judaism, in the years in which the polychrome flowering of Odessa was with swan song, but the end, even if near, was still only a subtle omen.

An early and multilingual translator, but an undisciplined student, Vladimir left high school in 1898 to try his luck in Europe, more precisely in Switzerland, where he was sent as a correspondent for "Odesskij listok" (the Odessite Sheet). During the journey, for the first time the young Vladimir approached a different Judaism than that known in Odessa: the traditional one, of black hats and long beards, of villages and, above all, of poverty.

In Bern he enrolled in the Faculty of Law, but even in this juncture the student Vladimir was able to prove himself diligent. Of his studies, Jabotinsky himself wrote, he mainly remembered the lectures of Professor Reichmann who would introduce him to the study of Marx. More decisive than his studies was his participation in a conference on Zionism held by the local Russian colony.

In the autumn he moved to Rome and it is here that he had a fatal encounter, the one with the Italian Risorgimento and with its idea of ​​a people rediscovering their unity and trying to regain their national identity.

In 1901 he returned to Odessa and, from the pages of a rather well-known Odessite newspaper, the liberal Odesskie Novosti (The News of Odessa) immediately showed himself as one of the leading exponents of the political and cultural life of the city and one of the most view of the literary salons, in which he expounded his theses on the condition of the Jewish people, which in his vision would put an end to his wanderings only when he had a land

In 1903, in one of these salons, Jabotinsky learned that a terrible attack had taken place in the north, in the city of Kišinëv. That event, which took place on Easter Sunday, would have been remembered for a long time, not only for the gruesome, gruesome cruelty of the violence, but also because the facts of Kišinëv brought a decisive turning point to the Zionist movement. In the bloody wake of the latest attack, Jabotinsky Jews became more and more convinced that no opposition to the Tsar, no revolution, no socialism would save the Jewish people: no survival would ever be possible outside of one's own homeland in Palestine.

At the outbreak of the First World War, Jabotinsky joined the British army against the Ottoman Empire, then fought as a volunteer in the Dardanelles and Palestine, where he remained during the British mandate and became an activist for an underground paramilitary organization, the Haganah. When the latter was accused of provoking an Arab attack on the Jewish headquarters, Jabotinsky was arrested. Meanwhile, he had changed his name, which was no longer the Russian Vladimir, but the Hebrew Ze'ev.

The imprisonment pushed him even further in his extremism: released from prison, Jabotinsky collided with the Zionist movement, from which he broke away, founding his own more rigid movement, attested to right-wing positions, militarist and intransigent, which professed the undisputed need for a homeland for the Jewish people and the incompatibility of the project with Arab aspirations. In this regard, he advocated the idea of ​​an iron curtain, an impassable and militarized wall.

Jabotinsky died suddenly in 1940 in the United States, leaving behind his ideas that would resonate as sinister prophecies in the years to come.

Soon the huge, abominable catastrophe of the Holocaust would befall the Jews with a blind fury that would have erased the traces of their centuries-old presence from Eastern Europe. Not even Odessa was saved: occupied by Romanian troops, allied with the Nazis, Odessa became the pit - literally - of tens of thousands of Jews. Of the approximately eighty thousand - some say even one hundred thousand - who lived in the city when it was besieged, only five thousand were still alive at the end of the war.

After the war and the tragedy of the Holocaust, another black page opened up for the Jewish community of Odessa, that of the anti-Semitism of the Soviet authorities, who carried out a vexatious campaign in Odessa as elsewhere on the territory of the USSR. and repressive against the Jews. Driven by hostility, many Jews from the 1970s onwards emigrated en masse to the United States and Israel.

Now that the worst in Odessa seems to be over, Judaism is experiencing a new flowering. The two synagogues are back in business, while the third is being restored. Although the events of the last century have definitively consigned the multi-ethnic city of the nineteenth century to the past, this is still the place where at the entrance of a bar one can be approached with the following question: "Do you speak Russian, Hebrew or English?" . And what seems like a singular question is immediately justified by the passage of small but numerous groups of Orthodox Jews with their cedars in hand. Who knows if they are also these Calabrians.

Away from Odessa, however, the nightmares of the darkest years still survive, albeit in other forms. Jabotinsky's more closed and uncompromising nationalism, born on the streets of Odessa, generated by the trauma of anti-Semitic violence and once infected with hatred, retaliation and other related ailments, has migrated elsewhere, two thousand kilometers further south, to Israel, where it has become a source of inspiration for equally extremist politicians. But this is another story. Or maybe not, because basically there is only one history.

Looking at it from here, from the streets of Odessa, the terrestrial globe looks less and less like a series of distant points divided by a more or less significant number of kilometers to look at it from here, it looks more like a solid and inextricable network of men, events and places, linked hand in glove through historical eras and geographies.

If someone still manages to sleep peacefully at night, feeling immune to the evils of others, segregated thousands of kilometers away or hidden by the inviolable shield of reassuring borders, well, that someone should take an act of courage and come to Odessa.

After all, it would not be a great sacrifice: Odessa is a beautiful city on the sea, overflowing with coffee, life and open and lively people. It would almost be a vacation. As long as you carry a large amount of valerian with you.

The Odessa - Kharkiv night train travels for about seven hundred kilometers crossing Ukrainian territory from north to south and, at the same time, many different worlds.

Ukraine contains different regions, each with its own characteristics and history: the central area, which gravitates around Kiev, Volhynia and Polesia, belonged to Poland-Lithuania in the north-west until the end of the 18th century the Hetmanate of the Cossacks, an ancient military community who lived along the lower reaches of the Don and Dnieper in the eastern area, with Kharkiv as the main center the area of ​​the south-western steppe, along the coasts of the Black Sea, where the port cities, including Odessa the western region, culturally influenced by Poland and the Hapsburg Empire, the region close to the Carpathians, on the border with the Czech Republic and Hungary. Finally, two areas with an uncertain status, Crimea, and Donbass, where a conflict is still ongoing, the outcome of which is not foreseen.

This internal mosaic is mainly due to the conformation of the flat, open territory, devoid of natural barriers and, for this reason, exposed to continuous ebbs and flows of populations and to incursions of external elements, which hardly came in peace. The Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Ottoman Empire, the Polish-Lithuanian Confederation, the Tatar Khanate, Muscovy, then the Russian Empire and finally the Hapsburg Empire, all took turns on this land, often devastating, plundering, but, at the same time, each leaving something of himself and contributing to create a multi-ethnic, composite reality with a cultural identity that is difficult to define.

Nature, therefore, has made Ukraine fertile, has given it expanses of sunflowers, has made it a culturally rich and colorful land, but at the same time has mercilessly exposed it to the whim of history, which has shaken it with revolts , civil wars, persecutions, famines, and he wrote their destiny, weaving it like the plot of an epic novel.

Ukraine is, in fact, an epic novel.

The arrival in Kharkiv, the triumphal entry of the train into the monumental railway station, in the early hours of a frosty morning, but full of light, fits perfectly into the frame. The only disturbing element, which dirties this almost nineteenth-century painting with the trivial tones of comedy, is the truculent smell that comes from the toilet of the bunk and wakes me up without too many ceremonies from the mists of the night, recalling me to reality.

Looking at it from the top of Constitution Square, flooded by the sun, pervaded by the golden aura that is reflected on the golden domes of the cathedrals, Kharkiv is beautiful, tidy, incredibly quiet for being a large urban district and a university city in the moment where the week starts again. The first image of Kharkiv is a scenario of peace and harmony, which extends towards the plain through the greenery of a park up to the neo-Byzantine vaults of the Annunciation Cathedral, where I socialize and sympathize with the elderly woman who presides, with a certain zeal, in the toilets, which are polished. We are united by the difficulty in juggling with the hryvna, she, because after having spent a lifetime counting rubles, in almost thirty years she has not been able to learn to count the hryvne myself, because I cannot count, simply without other specializations.

Going up towards Piazza della Costituzione, through the park, I notice the first disturbing detail: the dark marble of the terrace of an Asian-fusion-minimalist style restaurant & lounge or something similar. In short, an unwanted glimpse of Milan that I don't like in the middle of a Ukrainian city. I pretend not to see it, but I will have to resign myself later and accept the fashion-pretentious ambitions of the city that make a great show of themselves on the main street of the city, the Sumska. While underground the subway stations are lined with advertisements inviting labor to Poland and the Czech Republic, but this is not seen from the Sumska.

Elegant, well-finished, colorful, this is the city's catwalk, where well-being, optimism and vitality rediscovered after decades of Soviet greyness parade. Perhaps, less exhibitionist, but more legitimate than all, the sacrosanct desire for normality, even frivolous, parades along this path after the catastrophes that devastated Ukraine and Kharkiv itself in the last century, where only eighty years ago, at the beginning of the 1930s, the atmosphere was certainly not the same as today. In those years from the Italian consulate in Kharkiv, which at the time was called Charkov with the Russian name, this report arrived:

“At the Bazaar on the 21st morning the dead were grouped like piles of rags, in the mud and human dung, along the fence that limits the square towards the river. There were about thirty of them. On the 23rd morning I counted 51. A baby sucked milk from the breast of the dead mother, with a gray face. People said: this is the buds of the socialist spring.

In Puškinskaja I went down one afternoon towards the center. It was raining. Three besprizornye (orphaned children and mostly vagabonds, ed) passed in front of me, pretending to scuffle.One got a shove and ran into a woman carrying a pot of borscht, collected in a handkerchief. The pot hit the ground and broke. The culprit fled and the other two picked up the soup with their hands from the mud and swallowed it. They put a little in a cap, for the third. "

So wrote in the spring of '33 in a diplomatic dispatch the Italian consul in Kharkov, at the time the capital of Soviet Ukraine, Sergio Gradenigo, who witnessed a horrible disaster that went down in history as Holodomor, a Ukrainian term which, translated in a rather coarse way , means "starvation", the famine that caused millions of deaths, of which the overwhelming majority, Ukrainians. Four Ukrainians. Even if the word "famine" can lead one to think of unpredictable natural adversities, the Holodomor was a catastrophe with a completely human mark, to the point that many scholars would like it to be recognized as a real genocide, started with the forced collectivization imposed by Stalin and then perpetrated systematically and intentionally with the aim of bending the peasants, rebellious and insensitive to the cause of socialism.

The same policy was implemented towards Siberia, the North Caucasus and the Volga area, also causing the annihilation of more than half of Kazakhstan's nomadic population.

The highest number of victims was recorded in Ukraine, where at the end of the 1920s the peasants opposed a particularly tenacious resistance to the order to set up collective farms. Much refused to give up the grain, intended for the livelihoods of the cities, and opposed the demands of the Soviet authorities, hiding food and killing livestock. The leaders of Moscow considered the attitude of the peasants an act of rebellion that could not go unpunished. Moreover, given the vital importance of Ukrainian natural resources, it was essential for the survival of the USSR to reduce the peasants to obedience. Agents were sent, who, aided by Ukrainian party officials and local collaborators, carried out large-scale requisitions and at the same time a cordon was tightened around Ukrainian territory to prevent escape.

Inside the cordon, as was to be expected, all hell broke loose. Enclosed like beasts, deprived of any means of sustenance, people began to fall like flies, buried alive in the land they had cultivated. A report by the Kyiv secret police also recorded cases of cannibalism among parents who came to eat their children.

From the Soviet point of view, the operation was a success: the population was annihilated without even the trouble of wasting artillery or setting up extermination camps. From the point of view of the victims it was an immense catastrophe, which has become, in the official narrative, the symbol of the redemption of the Ukrainian people and which still persists as an open and still bleeding wound between Russians and Ukrainians, already divided and exacerbated by the conflict in course in the eastern territories of Ukraine. 200 kilometers from here.

Speaking of conflict, as I continue on the Sumska, a tent surmounted by Ukrainian flags materializes on my left, surrounded by information panels and bags that reproduce a barricade. I approach to take a look and the first image that leaps to my eyes is Putin's face with a Hitler mustache. I have a sudden epiphany: I understand that I have stuck my nose in a garrison of activists. The movement to which they belong at the moment is unknown to me because the information material is all printed in Ukrainian, but the mustachioed Putin is quite eloquent. I would like to beat the retreat, but it is late: the elderly gentleman who guards the tent is already approaching. I apologize, in Russian, for the inconvenience. He replies, in Russian, “Look, we are in a democracy”. Then, noting my interest in Putin's image, he tells me: "Putin is worse than Hitler, because Hitler at least did not hide his interests". Then he goes on, irrepressible: “The Russians are savages”. At that point, my intention to passively wait for the end of the outburst vanishes. I ask him if he refers to the government or to the people. "To people, of course". "All? In mass? " "Yes all. Nobody is saved "" Are you trying to tell me that in your life you have never met a good Russian? " "No. Never. You cannot understand why you are not Ukrainian and therefore the Russians behave well with you. Do you know what the Russians did? You know? When the Soviet Union still existed, every time Dynamo Kiev won, they insulted us. They were envious ”. It seems to me a very serious fact, I think, especially if the insults fly in a social context well known for the composure and urbanity of the customs. I try to minimize: “Come on, these things happen everywhere. Here in Italy the fans not only insult each other, they beat themselves up and also savagely ”. I had never said that. "Are you Italian? You have put monsters in the government! You voted for a friend of Putin ”. You have. This plural hurts my ears like an otitis attack, but I don't even try to argue. Moreover, if Jura, this is his name, sees the Russians as a single and monolithic entity, which does not contemplate distinctions and single individualities, I don't see why it should be different for Italians. Finally a familiar voice comes to free me that sounds like that of providence: "Will you stop arguing with the elderly?". I stop it and also quickly. I take my leave and walk away thinking that it is a real shame that Jura does not like some of our politicians. I'm sure that, if they knew each other, they would love and agree.

Judging by Jura's words, therefore, the anti-Russian sentiment exists and is strong. However, the curious detail, as shrill as the noise of Sumska's high heels strolling over the job advertisements for the next migrants, is that Kharkiv, despite the atrocious memories of which it is the custodian, appears to be the Ukrainian city least hostile to Russia. . Perhaps in the years preceding the conflict, the proximity to Russia, which is only 40 kilometers from here, offered a good opportunity for trade and small border businesses. When, in 2014, the border between the two countries was armored for security reasons, the city economy experienced a decline that still persists and causes a certain discontent towards the government.

Driven by the pragmatism of everyday life and the need to make do in a country that is anything but easy, in the end, ordinary people seem much more conciliatory than politicians, activists and scholars in the face of the immense weight of tragedies such as the Holodomor.

A fact that would sound like good news, were it not for a small detail, namely the impression that, if politicians use them as a tool for their own ends and ordinary people forget them in the name of "having to live", to really take care of human tragedies always remain in a few.

It rains again and seriously. I am restless as a goose before the earthquake: I am in the capital, Kyiv, and I have a very long list of places to visit, but the weather conditions are adverse and therefore I have to spend part of the day in a museum, where to pass the time I sneak among the groups of tourists - Americans, Dutch, Russians, Chileans - to listen to the stories of the guides and verify that the versions are not different depending on the origin of the guests. Well no, they are not.

The operators are impeccable, rigorous, repetitive, to the point that I prefer the rain.

I leave my shelter and venture down the road. The route is simple and straight, I should be able to get there quickly. I should, but at some point, who knows where, I get lost. To find the road to the nose, or perhaps I should say at random, I take a narrow and uphill road. And while I trudge, the miracle takes place: it no longer rains. I finally raise my head and find myself in front of the second prodigy: while I was wandering distractedly and with my head down, someone painted a nineteenth-century pink sunset on the roofs of Kyiv that makes its way between heavy drapes of purple clouds, radiating the millennial peaks of gold of the Cathedral of Saint Sophia.

I find myself in front of one of the most ancient, well-known and representative places of this city, which is the mother and symbol of the Slavic Orthodox tradition. It is here, in fact, that in 988, when Moscow was not yet there and St. Petersburg was only a frozen swamp, Prince Vladimir, then head of Kievan Rus', converted to Christianity.

It is rumored that Prince Vladimir embraced Christianity not because of some mystical inspiration, but because of its rather loose rules regarding the consumption of alcohol. But these are just gossip. The fact is that Kyiv became the point of irradiation of East Slavic Christianity and has preserved its aura of religiosity even through the countless disasters that have threatened it, from the Mongol invasion that destroyed it in the Middle Ages, to the Bolshevik bulldozers that wreaked havoc on land hundreds of buildings, religious and not only, to reshape the city in its own image and likeness.

Fortunately they weren't able to complete the work, I tell myself looking around. Kyiv seems beautiful to me: elegant, intellectual, princely, it is a Paris with a splash of the Orient. On the contrary, I correct myself: Paris is Kyiv without the East.

The streets run lively but tidy, among the tall buildings that alternate different colors and styles: from baroque, to neoclassical, to liberty, to the inevitable Soviet style. Then, suddenly, contemporaneity makes room among the traces of the past. A few steps from Independence Square, the main square of Kiev, turning towards Hrusevski Street, you will find three murals representing three faces: they are Taras Shevchenko, Lesja Ukrainka and Ivan Franko, or three of the most important figures in Ukrainian literature. They are depicted in black and white in guerrilla dress, with their faces covered with a red handkerchief, a gas mask and an orange safety helmet. On the sides of the faces, two pairs of Molotov cocktails that form two diagonal crosses. The addition of the word "Fake", left by an unknown with a can of red spray paint, must be recent, but the murals date back to 2014, to the days when Independence Square was besieged by anti-government protests, here known as the Revolution of Dignity.

It was November 2013 and President Janukovyč had announced his intention to suspend the preparation process for the signing of a free trade agreement with the countries of the European Union, leaving us to imagine a rapprochement with Moscow, easily predictable given the good relations that linked the Ukrainian president to Putin. For many Ukrainians those events meant the repetition of a story that they had hoped to close forever in the books, namely that of the Russian longa manus that stretches over Ukraine, as already happened during the centuries-old relationship, complex and conflictual, between the two neighbors.

More than 100,000 people poured into the street, occupying the central square of the city with tents and banners, while police in riot gear responded with batons and tear gas to disperse the crowd. The protests were very violent and only ended with Janukovyčh's escape, leaving a sinister report: more than a hundred deaths among the demonstrators and over ten among the police. Here, at the beginning of this street, where the graffiti is now, there was a barricade. A few steps away, an information panel at the entrance to the National Art Museum explains that the graffiti, the work of an artist known as Sociopath, is considered "part of a historic monument at the site of military operations and mass deaths of citizens" .

The traces of the months of protest are very visible in the city. A private pedestal of his statue can be seen in front of the Bessarabia market. It was a monument to Lenin, demolished in December 2013 and thus remained in memory of the facts. Now, in place of the dethroned comrade, a metal icon has been installed that reproduces the symbol of the UPA, the Ukrainian Insurrectionary Army which fought with inhuman means to say the least for Ukrainian national integrity.

In several points of the city there are tombstones or inscriptions that commemorate the fallen of those violent days. And it could not be otherwise given that the consequences of those events echo, or rather resound, even today in the din of the fire that crosses the territories to the east, in the Donbass, where the anti-government protests, after the flight of President Janukovič, have degenerated into an ethnic-based clash that still pits the Ukrainian army against the militiamen of the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, close to Russia and hostile to the government installed in the aftermath of the crisis. It is a conflict far from the media hype, but it is no less dramatic for this. On the contrary, it is profoundly dramatic because ten thousand people have fallen in silence in these four years, including many civilians, it is dramatic because the Donbass has become the symbol of an alleged, incurable rivalry between Russians and Ukrainians, the proven proof of an impossible coexistence, the oppositional scheme that engulfed the entire debate, overshadowing a rather important fact: many of the people who took to the streets in 2014 were protesting not against a "nation", but against a corrupt government and clamoring for Europe as space of legality, transparency, rights, guarantees that Putin's Russia, in their opinion - and how to contradict them - would not have been able to offer.

But as usual it is simpler and more comfortable to resort to flags, patriotic fury and insults like at the stadium, so that they cover, as often happens, a political problem, boasting an ethnic-cultural controversy between two peoples, two cultures, two traditions that they clashed several times, but more frequently they crossed, overlapped, mixed.

Can't the Russians and Ukrainians be together? We should ask Nikolai Vasil'evič Gogol ’, author of works read all over the world, such as" Dead Souls "and" The Coat ", Ukrainian and father of Russian literature.

Or, in search of an answer, you can try knocking here, at number 13 of Andriivs’kyi Uzviv, an uphill street that seems out of time, suspended in an atmosphere of about a century ago. Here lived Michajl Bulgakov, author of the famous novel "the Master and Margarita".

It is easy, walking among these rooms, to imagine the writer who observes his city from these windows with light curtains and a view of the park that runs along the Dnieper, follows its vicissitudes, makes her the protagonist of a novel, "The white guard ”, in which, through the events of the Turbin family, he faithfully reconstructs the air of apocalypse that hangs over Kyiv and its small, intimate family universe in the early decades of the twentieth century.

"Great was the year, and terrible, 1918 from the birth of Christ, the second, from the beginning of the revolution. It was abundant with sun in summer and snow in winter, and two stars shone particularly high in the sky: the shepherds' star, Venus serotina, and Mars, red, tremulous "thus opens the novel, which unfolds along an arc of three months, between December 1918 and February 1919. In those months Kyiv was taken, in order, by the Bolsheviks, by the Germans, by the nationalists led by Petlyura, then again by the Bolsheviks, by the white army, to finally yield to the advance of the Red Army. The pages of the novel are pervaded by the chaos and sense of precariousness of that historical moment, the turmoil, the constant upheavals of fate and, above all, the shadow of imminent disaster.

The first pages symbolically describe the funeral of the mother of the protagonists, the young Turbins: it is in fact an atmosphere of inescapable end that one breathes between the pages of the novel and in the life of its author, who still writes: "For some time now the wind of storms from the north, and it hit, it hit, and it didn't stop, and the further it went, the worse it was. [...] Well, you think, now it will stop, that life that is written about in books that smell of chocolate will begin, but that life not only does not begin, but everything around it becomes more and more terrible. To the north the storm howls and howls, and below the deaf feet resounds, the restless belly of the earth growls. The year 18 flies towards the end and day by day it looks more and more threatening and bristling with thorns.

The walls will fall, the white-gloved hawk will fly away, the fire in the bronze lamp will go out, and "The Captain's Daughter" will be burned in the stove. The mother said to the children: "Live". And they will have to torment themselves and die ”. While a symbolic storm rages outside, Bulgakov writes a farewell letter to his world, to his home, to the sound of the guitar, to his reassuring bourgeois universe that is about to collapse, to his city, "the most beautiful city in Russia, the richer in greenery and gardens ”, which is about to be scarred.The writer, on the other hand, is about to be uprooted from his world: he will leave Kyiv in 1919, but even if he had looked back, giving up on leaving, he would never have found his city again.

Bulgakov looked with hostility to the revolution and the Bolsheviks and in this he was close to the Ukrainian nationalists. But Bulgakov was a Russian who did not like the Ukrainian language, he was a monarchist and, as a monarchist, he aspired to the restoration of Tsarist authority, not to a new course for independent Ukraine. And despite this, his life and works are closely linked to the city of Kyiv.

The writer is an example of how borderlands become places of intertwining, of identities with undefined contours, of much more complex existences than a national label.

What place would Bulgakov have today in a Ukraine dominated by nationalist and anti-Russian rhetoric? A dissident? He, who had the soul of the most convinced of conservatives?

If he returned today, would he recognize his Kyiv, imbued with nationalist fervor and security rhetoric? I do not think so. If he returned today, he would be a foreigner in his own home.

At 2 pm on 6 October, the fourteenth day of my trip, the ninth in Ukrainian territory, I suddenly remember being a foreigner.

On the train that will take me from Kiev to Lviv, in the western part of Ukraine, the nebula of indistinct sounds of which I hear only a few scattered words reminds me that the language, the only official language of this country, is a language that I do not know, or Ukrainian.

From this moment on, to solve the small daily inconveniences that arise on the way of a traveler or to remedy my clumsy actions, I will have to rely on gestures and drawings, because speaking in Russian to people in certain areas of Ukraine can turn out to be risky.

Counting on the similarity between the two languages, I prick up my ears hoping that the nebula will gradually dissolve. The conductor passing in the corridor yelling "Gentlemen, don't throw toilet paper in the toilet!" reassures me: the order, peremptory and imperative, was pronounced strictly in Ukrainian, but I grabbed it on the fly.

Meanwhile, my neighbor, a big man with a completely shaved head who looks like another famous bald man born in Predappio, has decided to test my language skills by starting an attempt at conversation: "Are you coming from Europe?" he asks, as if Ukraine were in Antarctica instead. I would like to ask you to elaborate your concept of Europe better and to explain to me where Ukraine is located compared to the latter, but fortunately my knowledge of Ukrainian does not allow me to launch into complex speeches. I answer "Yes, Europe, Italy, I don't understand Ukrainian". Sometimes the lack of communication can turn into a great advantage

Little by little it emerges that the Russian-speaking component is the majority in our compartment, in which travel, in addition to the double of Mussolini, a painter from Kiyv, perfectly bilingual, and a boy from Mariupil, a student of the University of Lviv.

The painter seems worried about my fate. He suggests that I use Russian in moderation to avoid episodes of russophobia, which would be quite common in Lviv. The student, who comes from a Russian-speaking area of ​​southern Ukraine, intervenes by reducing fears: he says that, despite having lived in Lviv for two years, he has never felt the need to learn Ukrainian.

Then the painter isolates herself, absorbed in writing. When he emerges from his silence, he hands me the sheet on which he was writing by hand with so much effort: it is a Russian / Ukrainian phrasebook that collects the most common expressions in everyday communication. I take a quick look, and ask my traveling companions to test my accent: "Ja ne rozmovljau ukranskoju", I don't speak Ukrainian, I try to read Evgenija's notes, the painter. She laughs and replies: “Nobody will believe you”. Then she turns serious and says, “Don't worry about the nationalists. You're a foreigner, they won't be angry with you if you speak Russian ”. I would like to explain to Evgenija that I am not really worried at all. It will be because I feel protected from the possibility of masquerading as an unwitting and unaware foreigner, or maybe it will be just unconsciousness, but I tend to minimize the danger of the new patriots of which the third millennium swarms simply because I cannot take them seriously. Those of Lviv, the city where the roots of Ukrainian nationalism sink and proliferate, are no exception.

After all, how to take them seriously, when it is enough to count the names that the city has had over the centuries to understand that the model "one land, one blood, one language", on a territory like this is an artifice or at least a simplification .

In Ukrainian, L'viv, in Polish Lwów, in Russian, L'vov in German, Lemberg in Yiddish, Lemberg in Latin Leopolis, "the city of the lion": this is not an internationalist habit, but a proper reference to history of the city and the region in which it is located, historic Galicia, a territory that in about a millennium has been crossed, inhabited, ruled by a multitude of peoples: Ukrainians, Poles, Jews, Armenians, Germans, Russians, to name a few.

Born in the Middle Ages as a principality of Kiyv Rus', the same Christian and Slavic-speaking state entity that would give rise to the Grand Duchy of Moscow and Russia, Galicia was invaded in the 13th century by Poland, Hungary, from Lithuania and then again from Poland, which would have reigned over this territory for about four hundred years and spread the use of the Polish language and the Roman-Catholic faith, which remained a legacy even when Poland withdrew to give way to the Habsburg in 1772 then came the First World War, which wiped out the Empires and Galicia returned to Poland. In 1939 a new earthquake came to change the structure of the territory: during the Second World War, Galicia became Soviet and was annexed to the Soviet Socialist Republic of Ukraine was invaded, once again, by the Nazis in 1944, only to be reconquered by the USSR , which remained on these lands until the collapse in 1991, when Galicia became part of independent Ukraine.

In this turbulent and incessant succession of events, rulers, languages, confessions, one trait had always distinguished Galicia since the Middle Ages: its multicultural character. In the Habsburg period, Galicia was sung in the literatures of four different languages, Ukrainian, German, Polish, Yiddish, by poets and writers who would become cornerstones of the literary traditions to which they belonged. These include Joseph Roth, cantor of the Galician Jewish world, or Ivan Franko, an icon painted on the walls of Kiyv with the orange safety helmet in the days of the 2013-14 uprising.

In the Hapsburg period in this finis terrae there was, alongside the largest groups of Ruthenians - as the Ukrainians were called until the nineteenth century, Poles and Jews, a multitude of minorities. But in those years the national sentiment took shape and spread.

The Ukrainian case was rather singular: the Ukrainian population living in Galicia, in fact, was a minority group compared to those living in the territory of the Russian Empire, but, if the tsar's subjects were frustrated in the iron-fisted national claims of the autocracy and a very severe repression, the Galician Ukrainians could count on a greater political organization and on a network of academic institutions that allowed them to cultivate historical and philological studies on the Ukrainian national tradition. Thus the national claims, Ukrainian and beyond, managed to find fertile ground, gradually coming to imprint a fatal imprint on the destiny of this land which over the following decades would have been repeatedly torn to pieces and stitched up as best as possible.

With the fall of the Habsburg Empire, at the end of the First World War, the clashes between Poles and Ukrainians began, which ended with the Polish victory and the migration of about 150,000 Ukrainians, who were replaced by Poles who arrived from the westernmost area. The Second World War, on the other hand, provided the Ukrainians with an opportunity for revenge. While the Nazi army and the Red Army fought, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, an extremist fringe born among Ukrainian exiles, led by Stepan Bandera, founded the Ukrainian insurgent army, known as the UPA, which first fought against the Poles. , then against the Red Army alongside the Nazis, and then, when it became clear that the Germans would not have indulged the OUN's aspirations for independence, against the Germans themselves. Bandera was arrested and locked up by the Germans, only to be freed when the Red Army began to regain ground in Ukraine, to revive the anti-Soviet resistance. Bandera's men committed a ruthless ethnic cleansing of Galicia and Volhynia, killing, according to some estimates, sixty thousand Poles. At the same time, the Soviets also busied themselves clearing Eastern Galicia of Poles, while the Nazis massacred Jews.

From 1945 onwards Galicia as a cultural entity ceased to exist: a part of the westernmost territories returned to Poland, while the largest part ended up in the hands of the Soviets, who reorganized it into four provinces and dressed in the uniform of the Soviet republic. socialist, atheist, Russian-speaking in fact. Uniform to which this area has never quite adapted and which was shaken off in no time at all when Ukraine gained independence from the Moscow guardian.

The events of Galicia were faithfully reflected in the city of Lviv, marked, from the Middle Ages onwards, by as many phases, dominations, traumas and scars, which have marked its spirit and face.

My first glimpse of the city is a sudden jump on the set of "Schindler's list".

The view of the courtyard, overlooked by the apartment that hosts me, bathed in the uncertain light of an autumn morning in black and white, immediately brings to mind the scenes of the sweeping up of the Krakow ghetto told in the film. Somewhere, say the tourist guides, a lively, vibrant, cosmopolitan city is hiding, but here you can still breathe the air of Poland from the worst days.

Before 1939, 33 percent of the population of Lviv, at the time Lwów, was made up of Jews. In the city there were many synagogues, several schools of various religious orientations, houses of prayer, two newspapers, one in Yiddish, one in Polish, and other initiatives that made Lwow a very lively center of Jewish culture. The subsequent events are well-known history and, to remember it, in the northwestern outskirts of the city still rises the gloomy profile of the Yanivski concentration camp, a chilling monument to emptiness and absence.

To remember what was the "presence" of the Jews in Lviv, however, very little remains: some writing in Yiddish, now faded, on the walls of what were once commercial activities, the ruins of the synagogue of the Golden Rose, scattered among the low grass of a park, at the end of Staroyevreiska street, which means, precisely, "old Jewish street".

The Jews who have not emigrated are a few thousand, but they go unnoticed. And not just me: I look for the Hesed-Arieh Center for Jewish Culture, which also contains a small museum, but I walk the street several times in vain: no indication indicates it from the outside. I try to ask a couple of passersby, but they shrug with a bewildered expression, as if I had asked the way to the kingdom of Mordor.

In the center, the air you breathe is completely different. The narrow and regular streets that crowd around the Market Square evoke atmospheres of over a century ago. The retro shop windows of the pastry shops, the dark and aged wood of the cafes, the smell of chocolate bring us directly to Vienna in the late nineteenth century. We are definitely very far from Moscow, but also from Kharkiv or Kiyv.

The fin-de-siècle suggestion, however, quickly vanishes. The shutters of the souvenir shops, arranged in a dense sequence, open, one at a time, and when the sun is already high on the horizon the center is now an anthill clogged with tourists, especially Poles in groups of twenty or thirty people, and of people hurrying to Catholic churches to form lines that stretch out on the sidewalks. You also see Russians wandering around, but they are tourists. Of the few Russian inhabitants left in the city I have not found any traces.

I struggle out of the infernal gut, greet the present in its Sunday euphoria and go to take refuge in the mists of the past.

I head to the National Museum - Memorial to the Victims of the Occupation, which is located in a historic building used as a prison by the Poles, the Soviets, the Germans and then again by the Soviets. The location of the building is already interesting in itself: the address of the museum is Via Karl Brjullov, at the corner of Via Stepan Bandera. "That" Bandera. The first instinct is to go back to the center, mingle with the tourists, do frivolous things, such as buying lard-shaped magnets, a national glory to which Lviv has even dedicated a museum, and forget ever having been in Via Bandera, but curiosity is stronger.

The two guards at the entrance greet me with an air of celebration: "Please! Please! Museum free! " they tell me in english. The museum's panels, however, are almost all in Ukrainian. The linguistic obstacle, fortunately, is not so insurmountable. With a little commitment, the key issues can be grasped more or less clearly. In all their drama.

The exhibition traces the history of the building and the succession of external powers, from the Austro-Hungarians to the Soviets, all equally defined as "occupiers", who over the decades have used the prison for the confinement of political prisoners. Then follows the description of the conditions of life in the prison, harsh and inhuman especially in the Soviet and Nazi periods.

The narration of the events admits only two types of actors: the victims and the executioners. The last category includes Poles, Soviets, Germans, while the victims are, of course, the Ukrainians and in particular those who had "actively participated in actions against representatives of the occupying authorities". The story focuses above all on the members of the OUN, among which the best known is certainly Bandera, highlighting the miserable condition of political prisoners in the terrible prison, but completely silent the link of collaboration between the members of the OUN and the Nazis and the crimes committed by mutual agreement. On the contrary, as proof of the inexistence of that link, the museum remembers punctually the penalties inflicted by the Germans after the OUN and in particular the treatment reserved for Bandera, sent to the Sachsenhausen camp, where high-ranking political prisoners were held. profile. Small forgetfulness of the editor of the texts: the reprisals of the Germans took place only after the OUN had turned its back on them. Before that, the Nazis took full advantage of the services of the OUN for the so-called Schmutzarbeit, dirty work, in the work of eliminating the unwanted, from the Communists, to the Soviet partisans, to the Jews.

I get to the end with difficulty. I greet the two guards, happy for who knows what, and I stride towards the lard museum.

The loudspeaker of the Lviv railway station announces that the second-class train to Černivci will leave about 15 minutes late. The news generates a wave of agitation in the people around me, who still swarm in search of their places. They complain about the service, delays, uncomfortable seats, poor cleanliness.

I look around and do not understand why so much indignation, but perhaps my standards of comparison are too low.

Finally we leave, the hum of complaints dies down and I sink into my book.

When I look up I realize that the elderly woman sitting in front of me is staring intently at the cover of my book. He says smiling: "I don't understand". I answer her in improvised Ukrainian: “Italiiskyi”. "Are you Italian?" I nod, while another passenger joins the conversation: "But you understand Ukrainian!" At that point I confess the trick: I only understand Ukrainian that resembles Russian.

The ice is broken, I have two new friends: Lyubov, about seventy, originally from Černivci and Tamara, about sixty, originally from Kolomiya, in the southwestern part of Ukraine, but living with her family in Moscow. The conversation with Tamara is immediately facilitated by the discovery of a common passion: Armenia. “Think how lucky - she tells me sarcastically - I was born in Ukraine, I did an internship in the Caucasus and then I ended up working in Moscow”. "Don't you like Moscow?" I ask her and she replies: “No, too chaotic, people are crazy. And then nowhere is it as good as at home ". “But people leave home - Ljubov intervenes -“ There is no one left here. Old people like me. The youngest students study, graduate and go abroad to become slaves ". Lyubov alludes to the continuous flow of Ukrainians leaving their country where the future is very uncertain.There are more than four million, or 25 percent of the working population. Most of the Ukrainians who migrate depart from here, from the western part, mainly agricultural and poorer than the eastern one, with lacerating consequences on the social fabric. Tamara tells of many of her acquaintances who left to work and never came back, breaking all ties with families. Then she tells about hers, which luckily she managed to have next to her, in Moscow, but something else disturbs the harmony: “My children often come to Ukraine, they are always happy to return. But my grandchildren never came. They won't let them come ”. I'm afraid I don't understand: who won't let them come? He explains to me that his daughter has married a Muscovite and that, according to her relatives, she does not want her children to come to Ukraine. I still do not understand. Tamara senses it from my expression and answers me, anticipating the question: "Propaganda". Then she says that to get to Lviv from Moscow she was forced to fly to Minsk, Belarus, to then resume her journey to Ukraine from there, because direct air connections between the two states were interrupted, creating quite a few problems for the many Russians and Ukrainians who divide their lives between the two countries.

"All the fault of this stupid war and politics," snapped Lyubov. “I have been teaching Russian literature for a whole life. I am Ukrainian, but I love Russian literature. Gorky. I like Gorky most of all. ”Then he continues, angrily:“ Many Russian schools have been closed and I was sent to retirement with a ridiculous pension. Now Russian literature is being studied together with all the others as foreign literature. They are crazy! What harm can learning a language do? What harm can literature do? " "Nobody" - Tamara replies - "Do I care whether a person is good or bad, what about the language they speak?" Clear, concise, impeccable, Tamara leaves us like this, while the train enters the Kolomyia station. Ljubov will follow her shortly after, twenty minutes before the train ends its journey in the city of Černivci, on the slopes of the Carpathians, 40 kilometers from Romania.

I cannot get an idea of ​​the appearance of the city, due to the darkness, the too weak lighting and also the overcrowding of the collective taxi, but from the inside I imagine a city with a pavement of small stone blocks and steep climbs. The light of day will reveal that my intuitions were right: the historic center is a succession of undulating streets, cobbled here and there, which climb between late nineteenth-century buildings with an eclectic style.

Chernivtsi has more names than Lviv: in Ukrainian Černivci, in Russian Černovcy, in Yiddish Tshernovits, in Polish Czerniowce, in Romanian Cernăuți, in German Czernowitz or Tschernowitz. Also in this case, the multiplicity of toponyms is symptomatic of an equally multiplicity of upheavals in the past of the city and its inhabitants.

The region that includes Černivci, Bucovina in the Middle Ages, then became part of the principality of Galicia-Volhynia, until, in the modern era, the Ottoman Empire came to separate them. At the end of the eighteenth century, Bucovina became the territory of the Habsburgs, who promoted the migration of different nationalities to this territory, inhabited mainly by Ruthenians, or Ukrainians. In this period Černivci, which at the time was called Czernowitz, became the capital of the province of Bucovina. With the collapse of the Habsburg Empire, it was the turn of Romanian domination: there was a new name change, from Czernowitz to Cernauţi, and a crackdown on the Ukrainian population. In 1930 Cernauţi was a mosaic of nationalities: 38 percent of the population was Jewish, 27 percent Romanian, 14 percent German. The Ruthenians were about 10 percent.

A few years later the First World War arrived to completely overturn this structure. In 1940 the city was occupied by the Soviets and reintegrated, as in the days of the kingdom of Galicia, in the Ukrainian territory, then it was the turn of the Romanians, allies of the Germans, who uprooted the Jewish presence from the city and the province. In 1944 the Soviets returned, and in 1945 the pre-war Cernauti finally re-emerged from the conflict with the Russian name of Chernovtsy, Soviet and, from a demographic point of view, almost completely Ukrainian. At that moment Ukraine achieved - ironically at the hands of the reviled Soviet Union - the territorial order on which independent Ukraine was founded in 1991.

The version of the story that the urban space of Černivci tells is the same that can be read elsewhere, in Ukraine, that of a country perched on the rigid nationalistic scheme, but under the proclamations of officialdom a different narrative can be heard in the streets, which it brings together the voices of a multitude of nationalities and bilingual or even trilingual citizens. Ukrainians, Romanians, Jews, Poles, Russians live in Kernivci today, joined by a crowd of newcomers: Moldovans, Azerbaijanis, Armenians, Indians.

Černivci, like all frontier places, is a fluid universe, in motion.

In fact, despite the darkness, the fog and the cold, at seven in the morning the bus station is already swarming with people waiting at the platforms or in line at the bar, which already smells of sausages and stewed cabbage.

Travelers take their seats on the buses, carrying large, tightly closed packages. Maybe they are cigarettes, to be sold across the border. Others have bags full of loaves in their hands, which they will resell in Romania for a higher price.

I wander around in search of my bus, which leaves at 7.10. The previous race started at 5.10 and this is the last of the day. I scroll through all the destinations: Chişinău, Odessa, Kiyv, Bucharest. Then an elderly gentleman calls me: "Suceava?". When I say yes, he shows me platform number 9, where a burgundy red car is parked, a peeling bus that would find a more suitable location in a museum than on the street. That is the bus on which I will cross the border with Romania until I get to Suceava, the last leg of this tour from Romania to Romania in an anti-clockwise direction.

My travel company is Tetjana, a woman of about sixty, originally from Černivci. He speaks Italian, because he works in Bologna as a caregiver. She is happy, she says, she has always had to deal with decent people, but she too is convinced that the best place to stay is her own home. Unless leaving is a choice. In his case, and in the case of many of his compatriots, it is not. "Ukraine is a beautiful land. Here we have everything, but we are forced to leave ”he tells me, showing me the plain beyond the fogged window, as we cross the border.

The customs guards check the passports: they just give a distracted glance at mine, while they focus more attention on the other foreigner on the bus, a Turkish boy who is hitchhiking around Europe. For some reason the guard finds him suspicious or maybe he's just jealous.

The time and attention devoted to Ukrainian travelers' bags are much greater, but no one is stopped. We can all leave, including cigarettes and loaves of bread. In Suceava, I greet Tetjana, convince the driver to take my hryvne in exchange for her Romanian and head by bus to the airport, which is 13 kilometers from the city center.

I am a little early: when at 10.40 the bus drops me off at the airport entrance, I know I have 9 hours of waiting before my flight leaves. I spend a few minutes with the baker who worked in Rome and speaks Italian, then I stop at the bar and from the windows I see a small crowd of people who stand still to look towards the runway at the plane taking off towards London. Then the girl at the counter warns me that the bar is closing. When I cross the threshold of the airport, I realize that there is no one left. The baker is gone too. There are two of us left: me and the cleaner, who polishes the floors.

From time to time I see employees passing by coming out of the offices, but apart from these rapid transits, the check-in area remains silent and in dim light until three in the afternoon, when the traffic gradually resumes.

In the intense golden air of a day that seems to be summer, flaming white minibuses whiz past and stop in front of a small sign: "Bus from Černivci". So I discover that the broken-down bus in the morning is not the only travel alternative, it is only the only one available online, but in the offline world people have organized themselves well with private initiatives to manage a hustle and bustle between the city and the airport that now it has become constant.

Meanwhile, the airport apron slowly becomes crowded, especially with small groups of women returning to Bologna, the destination of the second flight of the day.

The chatter and the topics of conversation are typical of those who return from their holidays in the maternal home: “As soon as I arrive in Bologna I start again with salads. In ten days in Ukraine I gained three kilos. ”I must have heard this sentence somewhere before.

After Bologna it is the turn of Bergamo: once again the check-in area is crowded mostly with women, of all ages, some alone, some with small children, a couple of mixed families.

While I observe the whirlwind of people who migrate with the habitual, sedimented and usual gestures of those who take the tram in the morning to go to work, it does not seem to me to see here or along the path traveled that with the mind I cross backwards, countries or people divided by the gap that separates those who look to Europe and those who want Russia.

I have not seen two souls, two faces, two stories, but a thousand souls, a thousand faces, a thousand stories, or, to use an expression that Carlo Levi used for Italy, a thousand homelands, all united through the centuries, parallels and meridians with the common destiny of living with their roots torn in mid-air, even in their own land. Uprooted were the Jews, victims of violence even before the war and the Nazi occupation, in a territory that was basically their home uprooted were those who, like Bulgakov, lost their world without moving uprooted were the peasants, victims of the forced collectivization which was denied the link with their land and with the fruits it produced. Uprooted are the migrants of today, even before migrating, because the country in which they were born has somehow turned its back on them.

The real fracture, or at least the one that I seem to grasp, here, in this airport, is the one that splits society into two parts, on the one hand the few who seem to move in broad strides towards the future and on the other the many who the future they look for elsewhere.


Car license plate change from Italian to Ukrainian

of enrico.cozzi on Tuesday 26 February 2019, 14:53

Goodmorning everyone.
Since last August I have been in Ukraine (Uzghorod).
First of all, thanks to your advice, I bought a house.

I'll spare you the adventures, which you know well, to get married, have a residence permit, move, find people who work but I did it.

Today I went to the appropriate office to change the license plate of my car from Italian to Ukrainian.
The "very nice" employee tells me that to do this I must be in possession of the definitive PDS and not the temporary one.

I wanted to ask if you find it or if it just rebuffed me.

Re: Car license plate change from Italian to Ukrainian

of let's get together50 on Tuesday 26 February 2019, 15:27

Re: Car license plate change from Italian to Ukrainian

of enrico.cozzi on Tuesday 26 February 2019, 15:42

Re: Car license plate change from Italian to Ukrainian

of jcaloe on Wednesday 27 February 2019, 4:30 pm

Enrico Cozzi, forget it, you would embark on a dead end, and I'll explain why:
It's true, Ukrainian law provides that after obtaining the definitive PDS you have 6 months to be able to register your car with an Italian license plate in Ukraine, without paying any customs duty, but to go from theory to practice you have to climb mountains.

First of all your car must be at least Euro 5, otherwise it complies with the newly registered environmental standard in Ukraine. Then, in order to submit the request for new registration, you must first cancel the Italian plates at the Italian PRA. an operation that can also be carried out at the consular chancellery of the Italian Embassy in Kiev, again in theory.

Following an MIT directive of July 2014, the Italian PRA cancels Italian number plates (Radiation for export), either after registration in a foreign country or after export for sale to a foreign citizen, with the certification of the customs bill at the border. The first procedure is easily feasible within the EU, but when it comes to a non-EU country, as in the case of Ukraine, it becomes extremely complicated.

At the consular chancellery at the Kyiv Embassy, ​​they told me three years ago that when they send a request for radiation for export to an Italian PRA they insert a note in the margin, in which they highlight the impossibility of prior registration, given Ukrainian law. The result? in 95% of cases the radiation was refused.

If you go by car to Ukraine, at the border customs they only register the entry of the car, but absolutely do not issue any documents or customs bills.

A car with a foreign license plate is allowed to stay in Ukraine for one year, provided that the holder of the car is not a resident of Ukraine. If, on the other hand, the car owner is a Ukrainian resident, he or she can stay in Ukraine for a maximum of ten days, which is reduced to 5 if the same border crossing is used at entry and exit, under penalty of high fines in case of overrun.

Living in Uzhgorod you could, once you have obtained the PDS, go out and enter every 10 days from two different borders, which are quite close, but, especially in winter, in the long run it becomes tiring.

Moral of the story: After six months of various attempts, I gave the car to my son in Italy and I bought a new one in Ukraine.


jcaloe MASTER
Messages: 1135 Registered on: Tuesday 22 June 2010, 14:10 Residence: Kiev Anti-spam: 42

Re: Car license plate change from Italian to Ukrainian

of bepizen on Wednesday 27 February 2019, 19:34

Re: Car license plate change from Italian to Ukrainian

of vittorio_guido on Wednesday 27 February 2019, 20:17

Re: Car license plate change from Italian to Ukrainian

of let's get together50 on Wednesday 27 February 2019, 23:04

Re: Car license plate change from Italian to Ukrainian

of markus on Wednesday 27 February 2019, 23:54

I agree with what you wrote, as well as with what jcaloe wrote. At a certain point I too gave my car to my son and bought a new one in Moldova (very high second-hand prices, on the new one definitely lower prices than in the EU).

A curiosity, is there a free loan in Ukraine? That is, I bought a new vehicle in Moldova, registered in the name of my partner, a Moldovan citizen residing in Moldova. Then we went to a notary, my partner gave me the vehicle on loan for use (notary contract with apostillation) then no problem crossing borders.

This almost 4 years ago, since last November I have permanent Moldovan PDS, first provisional. Since I allowed permanent Moldovan no problem to register me vehicle with Moldovan license plate. This is normal.


markus EXPERT
Messages: 2604 Registered on: Thursday 13 March 2014, 13:18 Residence: Basarabia Anti-spam: 42

Re: Car license plate change from Italian to Ukrainian

of enrico.cozzi on Thursday 28 February 2019, 11:08

Re: Car license plate change from Italian to Ukrainian

of jcaloe on Thursday 28 February 2019, 22:42

Markus, in Ukraine the loan agreement has existed for a long time. Driving a car by a person other than the owner of the vehicle is allowed in two cases: either the owner travels in the vehicle, even if he is not the driver, or if the owner has an authorization from the owner in the car, made before a notary public, to drive the vehicle.

Clearly this is valid in Ukraine, being written in the Ukrainian language: to use it abroad it must be translated and apostilled in the language of the country in which you are traveling. In practice, the police officers who check the documents must be able to understand them. I don't know if, by translating into English only, it can apply everywhere, since English is the most widespread language.


jcaloe MASTER
Messages: 1135 Registered on: Tuesday 22 June 2010, 14:10 Residence: Kiev Anti-spam: 42

Re: Car license plate change from Italian to Ukrainian

of dreamcatcher on Friday 1 March 2019, 11:42

Instead, I knew that for some time it has been possible to drive a car in the name of others even without the presence of the owner and without the need for a proxy to drive.

I am referring to use on Ukrainian territory of course, not to the possibility of crossing customs.


dreamcatcher Admin
Messages: 8621 Registered on: Thursday 1 July 2010, 11:38 Residence: Como Anti-spam: 56

Re: Car license plate change from Italian to Ukrainian

of jcaloe on Friday 1 March 2019, 12:07

The strict obligation of the power of attorney to drive a non-owned vehicle has been canceled a few years ago, but the police authorities, although unable to issue a report of infringement or activate a detention order of the same, have the right to investigate the matter and sometimes, we are in Ukraine, they abuse this faculty for their own personal gain. For example, they could tell you that they have to check if the car is not stolen and that it is used with the knowledge and authorization of the owner, so they keep you blocked for hours and hours, hoping that you, in order to avoid this, do not propose them to give him some money to get out of the enpasse.

Clearly, if the car is used occasionally, it could also be done without, but if the use is continuous, perhaps it is registered in the name of a family member, the same police bodies strongly recommend having the power of attorney in the car. , which, however, is cheap, can be done in the blink of an eye and avoids possible unpleasant setbacks.

Obviously, to leave Ukraine from a border crossing point, the power of attorney is mandatory, as both customs, in exit and entry, require it strictly.


jcaloe MASTER
Messages: 1135 Registered on: Tuesday 22 June 2010, 14:10 Residence: Kiev Anti-spam: 42

Re: Car license plate change from Italian to Ukrainian

of markus on Friday 1 March 2019, 13:56

Even here in Moldova they have lifted the obligation of proxy but it is better to do it. To be precise, the power of attorney could not and cannot be done at present. If you do not have a Moldovan PDS, notary contract for loan for use.

If they have a Moldovan PDS loan for use contract (it is cheap) or (I find it convenient) the motorization will issue a copy of the vehicle registration document in credit card format in the name of the person authorized (by the owner) to drive the vehicle.

If the person has a provisional Moldovan PDS, the duplicate registration certificate expires when the provisional PDS expires.

Small peculiarity, question of insurance coverage. If I grant the use of my vehicle with Moldovan license plates to third parties, I must notify the insurance company. Otherwise, the insurance is not liable. I don't know if this is also true in Ukraine


markus EXPERT
Messages: 2604 Registered on: Thursday 13 March 2014, 13:18 Residence: Basarabia Anti-spam: 42

Re: Car license plate change from Italian to Ukrainian

of markus on Friday 1 March 2019, 3:05 pm

P.S. for greater accuracy, if I am driving a vehicle with Moldovan license plates, the owner is present in the vehicle, the insurance company is liable in the event of an accident.

If, on the other hand, the owner of the vehicle is not present (in the vehicle) and has not notified the Insurance Company that I am authorized to use the vehicle, the Insurance Company will not respond in the event of an accident.


markus EXPERT
Messages: 2604 Registered on: Thursday 13 March 2014, 13:18 Residence: Basarabia Anti-spam: 42

Re: Car license plate change from Italian to Ukrainian

of let's get together50 on Saturday 19 October 2019, 20:21


Travel to Ukraine. Travel Diary in Ukraine, through Kiev, Odessa and Crimea, by Elisabetta de Carli.

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Related pages.

Travel to Ukraine. Travel Diary in Ukraine, through Kiev, Odessa and Crimea, by Elisabetta de Carli.

This contribution is the result of an external submission to Viaggiatorionline.com. If you are certain that it violates the rules of Copyright or Intellectual Property please notify us immediately using the Comments, then adding Abuse and motivation. Thank you

This information, often synthetic, is collected with method and amateur spirit is Viaggiatorionline assumes no responsibility for any problem, damage or inconvenience that may possibly arise from the use of the same. We advise you to deepen any information by purchasing one online now complete and detailed Lonely Planet guide. You will receive it comfortably at your home.

In any case, before booking / purchasing flights, accommodation, packages or other tourist products, we ALWAYS recommend checking information such as passport, visa, advice, transportation, vaccinations and breaking news with relevant authorities or vendors.

In any case, before booking / purchasing flights, accommodation, packages or other tourist products, we ALWAYS recommend checking information such as passport, visa, advice, transportation, vaccinations and breaking news with relevant authorities or vendors.


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