Notebook

The Pity of War

Following news from Ukraine, one can feel overwhelmed. It matters to root the tragedy in human particulars, as the BBC’s Jeremy Bowen did this morning, reporting from a railway station in Kyiv (from 11:35). ‘Fathers stood on the platforms waiting to see their families off. […] A man called Alexander sobbed as he waited for the train to leave. He’d put his wife and two small children on board. Alexander wouldn’t let go of a small toy ambulance his eight year-old son had given him as he put them on the train. He kept playing its siren. All the heartbreak of the war was on one man’s face. […] Many of the volunteers are young men, boys barely old enough to shave. […] They were dressed for a camping weekend or a festival, except they were carrying newly issued Kalashnikov assault rifles. One had brand new white trainers. Another had a yoga mat to sleep on. If they were scared, they didn’t show it. Like the other young men with them, they had the courage, patriotism, and sense of invincibility of all the other generations who have signed on to fight for their countries in Europe’s war. Their families will pray they will not have to learn the same brutal lessons. The older men looked much more apprehensive.’