In the News: Ukraine and Sudan

In the News: Ukraine and Sudan

Jomtien Beach


May 1, 2023

In downtown Kiev, both sides of the main boulevard are lined with an assortment of busy restaurants and cafes. (I visited Ukraine in June 2018.)  

One outdoor restaurant is my favorite.  For lunch and dinner, I usually order a refreshing bowl of borscht, a salad overflowing with fresh vegetables, and a second plate with a generous portion of herring in cream sauce and onions.

For my entertainment, every afternoon, a stylishly dressed, posture perfect young couple proudly parades along the sidewalk as if they are auditioning for a fashion magazine and waiting to be discovered. Their smart outfits change every day.  Twice a day?

Kiev is blessed with marvelous residential architecture and splendid cathedrals.

At a sidewalk coffee shop in L'viv, I meet an elderly man who was a former star with the Ukrainian Opera Company.  During his career he toured most of Europe.  He teaches at the Music Academy. He speaks almost no English. I speak no Russian or Ukrainian. Somehow, we communicate.   

L'viv is an exquisite city.

In Uzhhorod I chat up a lovely woman at an outdoor restaurant. She informs me that in the evening the local orchestra is giving a concert that includes a young woman performing the Grieg Piano Concerto.  I buy a ticket.

To the east of Uzhhorod at the Palanok Castle, I meet an energetic group of young men and women from Zimbabwe. They are medical students at the local university.  I remember the name of their long-ensconced president, Robert Mugabe.  I joke that he is even older than I.   We have a good laugh together, these kids and I.

After the war started last year and foreigners began to leave Ukraine, I read that some border guards were separating folks by skin color.  I can only imagine the stress and frustration.  I wonder if the charming students ever got home.

I wonder about the opera singer.  Is he still alive?  And what about the pianist, the conductor, the orchestra members or that considerate young woman I met?  And what about the fashionable young couple in Kiev?  Did they leave? Could they leave? Was that handsome young man drafted?  Is he fighting still?

I observe no fighting among the massive herds of livestock at the Omdurman Camel Market.  (I visited Sudan in January 2020.) Aside from the occasional bellow, the camels are at peace.  To anthropomorphize a bit, they appear to be affectionate with each other.

Likewise, the herders.  They befriend me with warmth and curiosity.

Across the Nile, at the teeming Khartoum market, the cheerful shopkeepers and browsing customers welcome me into their midst.  With glistening smiles two young women strike an engaging pose just for me.

The roadside vegetable vendors invite me for tea.

A joyful group of female medical students are gathered at a riverside café celebrating the end of their exam period.  I ask questions about their curriculum.  Most are responsive and enthusiastic.  A few are shy.

Are their lectures and labs and classes, indeed all classes in town, now suspended indefinitely? The little kids have no school!

Have the generous vegetable guys abandoned their posts?

Is the enormous food, clothing and housewares market boarded up?   Are the charming girls I met now hiding at home, afraid of gunfire and bombs or are they running to the border with their parents and little sisters and brothers?

Which border? Egypt? Chad? Ethiopia?  Central African Republic? Eritrea? Libya? South Sudan? Will they be welcomed? Or will they encounter even more chaos?

What about the sweet camels? Wherever they are, I assume that at least the camels are still at peace.  Or are they?

I am fortunate to have visited Ukraine and Sudan. But the news is heartbreaking.  I can’t speak for other travelers, but I feel a special affection for the places and especially for the people I meet.  

Is there something I can do? Even something almost inconsequential? But something?

When the war started last year, I created a slide show and posted photographs from Ukraine on the home page of my website.

Each photo is connected to a letter and additional photo galleries.

I just can't get the kids out of my mind.



Video URL: 

Add new comment