By CRISTINA GONZALEZ, ANDREW GRAY and PAUL DALLISON
Welcome to EU Confidential, bringing you the latest from our podcast and a satirical look at the week’s news.
Andriy Kurkov, Ukrainian author and thinker
Andriy Kurkov is a man of words — but even he admits it’s hard to find the right ones to describe the horrors of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.
Kurkov lives in Kyiv, although he spoke to POLITICO’s David Herszenhorn via Zoom from a safer place in the West, where he moved with some of his family after the war began.
For the most part, Kurkov described his days as routine: “I woke up at six o’clock and started writing.
But then reality hits, as he takes a break from his writing to drive his eldest son to the nearby Hungarian border to help Ukrainian refugees flee. Then it’s back to writing.
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As Ukrainian cities are besieged by bombs and the physical destruction of war becomes increasingly visible, Kurkov also believes that “culture is one of the targets of Russian bombers.”
The Ukrainian novelist was born in 1961 in Saint Petersburg (then Leningrad in the Soviet Union) and he writes his books in Russian. His work testifies to the long tradition of multilingualism in Ukrainian society.
His 19 books and countless screenplays and television and film documentaries have been translated into dozens of languages, including Ukrainian.
This also includes articles currently published internationally; Kurkov’s wife, Elizabeth, who is British, help to modify its English translations.
According to Kurkov, Putin was “encouraged” to become more violent toward Ukraine because the United States and Europe failed to respond adequately to other Russian provocations over the years. This includes the annexation of Crimea, the conflict in the Donbass region of Ukraine, and Russia’s war with Georgia in 2008.
But Kurkov, a keen observer of Ukrainian human character and society, is not surprised by the extent to which his compatriots are fighting against Russian forces and also against wider Russian influence.
“I am less surprised than anyone in Europe or America, because I know that for Ukrainians freedom is more important than stability and often more important than life,” Kurkov said.
But as the fighting continues, Kurkov takes a long view of what he believes will ultimately help Ukraine survive.
It encourages Western universities to introduce courses, books and lectures on Ukrainian history, literature and culture, which sets them apart from Russia.
“It would be a big help for the future,” he said. “Then Ukrainians will no longer be foreigners.”
WHAT WE ARE TALKING ABOUT THIS WEEK…
Summit Sequence: Brussels was lively this week as leaders of EU, G7 and NATO countries met to discuss the war in Ukraine. The podcast panel analyzes some of the big questions facing the leaders – including whether to strengthen sanctions against Moscow or keep some in reserve.
Autonomy analyzed: The war also revived debate within Europe about strategic autonomy — the idea that Europe should become less dependent on others in key areas ranging from trade to defence. But which side has the wind in its sails following Putin’s invasion of Ukraine?
Plan to take Putin down with poetry goes from bad to verse
Welcome to Declassified, a weekly column on the lighter side of politics.
WARNING: The following column contains poetry that some readers may find disturbing.
You get the war poetry you deserve.
In France, there are “Freedomby Paul Éluard, written during the German occupation of France in 1942: On my school notebooks / On my desk and the trees / On the sand on the snow / I write your name …
The British learn in school from First World War poets such as Wilfred Owen, whose play entitled “Futility” start: Take him to the sun / Gently his touch woke him once / Home whispers unsown fields…
Poor Ukrainians have Bono, or to give him his full name, Oh No Not Fucking Bono Again, who wrote a verse about the Russian invasion and St. Patrick’s Day that begins: O Saint Patrick he drove away the serpents / With his prayers but that’s not all it takes.
Surprisingly, it’s not the worst. It ends like this: Ireland’s sorrow and pain / This is Ukraine now / And Saint Patrick’s name is Zelenskyy.
Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, read Bono’s poem at the annual Friends of Ireland luncheon in Washington, DC, before performing a performance of Riverdance – because if there’s one thing Americans love more than pretending to be Irish, it’s cliches .
Bono’s poem came just weeks after American actor AnnaLynne McCord penned a weird — and very long — poem addressed to the Russian leader in which she said: Dear President Vladimir Putin: I am very sorry that I was not your mother / If I was your mother, you would have been so loved. It was so serious that it prompted a journalist to Tweeter“Forget Ukraine. Send ground troops to Hollywood.
This level of mindless celebrity involvement in politics, however, would have been nothing compared to what almost happened during Donald Trump’s presidency. There are only about six people on the planet less qualified than Trump to make big geopolitical decisions, and one of them is Kid Rock. And yet, the singer said Trump has asked him for advice on foreign policy, including fighting Islamic State and diplomacy with Kim Jong-un.
According to kidrockTrump asked her during a meeting in the Oval Office in 2017, “What do you think we should do about North Korea?”
“I’m like, ‘What?'” The musician said he replied. “I don’t think I’m qualified to answer that question.”
And when Kid Rock is the smartest man in the room, you’re in the wrong room.
“Is it first class?” Normally people don’t say that about me.
Last week, we gave you this picture:
Thanks for all the entries. Here’s the best of our mailbag – there’s no price other than the gift of laughter, which I think we can all agree is far more valuable than money or booze.
“If life gives you lemons, don’t drink the lemonade” by Frederic Myers.
Paul Dalison is POLITICS‘s Slot machine news editor.
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