Hope and Remembrance

On Saturday my husband and I walked around Ypres, a town in West Flanders, which was the center for the intense battles during World War I. In Belgium, the memories of 14-18 are still vivid, and walking along the meadows that once were the war zone but are now pale green and ready to burst into spring blooms was a poignant experience. Later that day I heard the news that the Russian Parliament granted Vladimir Putin broad authority to use military force in Ukraine; it all seemed like a bad dream, or a scene from a film.

me and dedushka Serezha

Except that we have seen this film before and know that it doesn’t end well. The justification of invading Ukraine to protect its Russian population is absurd. The Ukrainian conflict that started in November 2013 is not between Russians and Ukrainians; it’s a struggle among Ukrainians for an accountable, responsible government.  Turning it into an ethnic conflict is dangerous, callous and irresponsible. Once such rifts are opened, they don’t mend easily. History gives us plenty of warnings from the 20th century, from the Partition of India in 1947 to the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s. For someone who’s half-Ukrainian and half-Russian with family still in Ukraine, the current events are a personal tragedy.

I don’t often write about politics on these pages, but not because I ignore them–hard to do for a Political Science graduate! Being aware of the world events and enjoying pretty things are not mutually exclusive. I hope that those who visit Bois de Jasmin come here to forget their worries, to discover simple pleasures that can lift our mood, to talk to other passionate people in a cozy, friendly environment. If a drop of perfume can brighten up our busy, stressful lives even slightly, then such small pleasures are necessary.

So, our jasmine forest will continue blooming, but today I want to hope for a peaceful resolution and remember my Ukrainian great-grandfather.  That’s the two of us in the photo above. He passed away in his 90s, when I was in my late teens, and I was lucky to grow up with him in my life.  He lost a limb fighting on Russian soil in WWII, and he always said that it was a small price to pay for peace. In later years when conflicts erupted in the Soviet block countries, my great-grandfather refused to ascribe labels. “Whatever language they speak or to whatever god they pray, they’re people, first and foremost,” he said. Now this belief is something worth protecting.

[There have been numerous publications on Ukraine lately, but here are a few thoughtful, balanced articles: today’s opinion from New York Times5 Things You Should Know About Putin’s Incursion Into Crimea (short but to the point piece), Decoding Ukraine (how to sort through the conflicting and confusing reports, a great article from Slate), How Europe Should Respond to Russian Intervention in Ukraine (an opinion piece by Yale Professor Timothy Snyder, a noted historian on the region).]

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185 Comments

  • Katy McReynolds: Victoria, I think of you and say a little prayer, every time I hear or read something about the Ukraine. I realize it must sadden you greatly. Ukraine, beautiful sapphire and emerald jewel perched so precariously between the East and the West, I count on the resilience, rich cultural heritage and great character of its people to survive the current troubles. March 2, 2014 at 4:25pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much, Katy! The positive thoughts and support count for so much. And on a very personal level, they make these days easier to bear for me. So, thank you and everyone else! March 3, 2014 at 8:04am Reply

  • Sharon C.: Thank you for sharing these thoughts. I’ve also visited Ypres–it is impossible to walk there and not feel the souls of those who fought there. I, too, am concerned about the people caught up in the events in the Ukraine, and pray that calmer heads prevent more tragedy. March 2, 2014 at 4:26pm Reply

    • Victoria: We visited a couple of times already, especially since one of the nicest perfume stores in Belgium, Place Vendome, and for my husband, the great Westvletren brewery, are not too far. In Belgium, the memories of WWI are so strong, and it was even more important to learn its history once we moved here. March 3, 2014 at 8:09am Reply

  • zari: Hi Victoria, believe it or not, you and your family whom I’ll never meet have been in my thoughts the past few weeks. Coming from a country that also has felt the yoke of Russia/USSR and has been affected by the politics of the region, I can empathize, and understand the fear that is running through your and others’ heads about the future. Politicians never think about real human lives, despite what they claim. I hope all ends well, and Ukraine and its people are in my thoughts. March 2, 2014 at 4:28pm Reply

    • Victoria: They certainly don’t. As a Ukrainian Russian speaker and half-Russian, I can only say, Lord save us against such protectors as V.P.

      And thank you for your thoughts, Zari! March 3, 2014 at 8:11am Reply

      • Ari: There is a line from Fiddler on the Roof: “God bless and keep the czar far away from us!” March 4, 2014 at 10:08pm Reply

        • Victoria: I saw the play some years ago, it was so good! March 5, 2014 at 11:10am Reply

  • Johanob: Dear Victoria,I send you a great big hug,and a blooming white Jasmine of peace from South Africa.Living in this great country of mine,thinking about our past history with apartheid-and the end of it,thank God!-I can understand you being emotional in such times.Stay strong.Stay fragrant.Enjoy those little perfumed pleasures.Because you never know when they might be forever gone…xo March 2, 2014 at 4:52pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much! The jasmine is much appreciated, especially since my little plant is struggling to produce blossoms. And what it produces smell like smoky ham. 🙂 March 3, 2014 at 8:16am Reply

      • Daisy: A jasmine plant that smells like ham?? Not the worst thing 😉 March 3, 2014 at 4:04pm Reply

        • Victoria: Hmmm, now that you mention it, maybe I shouldn’t be disappointed. It’s the start of the 40 Day Lent after all, and I intend to observe it this time (no meat). So, my jasmine is just giving me some moral support. 🙂 March 3, 2014 at 5:44pm Reply

          • Daisy: 40 Days of no ham or bacon????

            I think you need more of those plants! 😉 March 3, 2014 at 6:15pm Reply

            • Victoria: Yep, and no dairy either. It’s a true test of one’s will power. 🙂 But you know, these 40 days make me a very inventive cook, as I learn to prepare different vegetables and dip into my cookbooks for ideas. Asian and Indian cooking (minus recipes with dairy) are perfectly suited for Lent. The fish is ok, so it opens up some other possibilities. March 3, 2014 at 6:32pm Reply

  • The Perfumed Veil: Your article was touching and I especially enjoyed seeing your old family photo. I too am half Russian and half Ukrainian and my grandfather looked similar to yours, with his heavy medals. I miss him and think of my childhood and those of us like you, who are living in the U.S. now, having to feel pride and worry for our homeland and our new home. As you say, perfume can blur the lines of sadness a little bit and is something all people can share because it is an art that soothes the soul. Thank you for sharing. March 2, 2014 at 5:02pm Reply

    • Victoria: I hope that your family is safe! You put it so beautifully that perfume can blur the lines of sadness a little bit. Beauty in all forms can do that. March 3, 2014 at 8:25am Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: Victoria, I always think of you when I see the news (on TV) about Ukraïne. I don’t know much about politics, don’t know what to say, only that I hope that the future will bring peace and safety, and that I hope your family and friends are safe.
    Your grandfather was a most impressive character. He had the true spirit of ”Alle Menschen werden Brüder”. And what a moving picture, this strong man and that little child.
    You want us to forget our troubles reading your blog, and you are succesful. I can tell you.
    I wish you strength and courage.
    I March 3, 2014 at 7:14am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much!
      I love this photo too. He was such a unique person, and for all of his bravery in war, at home he was the gentlest soul. My great-grandmother was the one who ran the show, and the two of them were one of the most wonderful couples I’ve observed. Since in our culture people had children fairly young, we were lucky to grow up with 3 generations around us. March 3, 2014 at 8:30am Reply

  • Austenfan: I was hoping, in vain, that this post would not be necessary.
    I hope the west can and will do something to stem this tide, they ought to.

    How wonderful though to have had such a brave and wise great-grandfather! The photo is absolutely wonderful.
    I will read the links, thank you for providing them.
    Strength to you, your family and friends, living through such a tough time. March 3, 2014 at 7:25am Reply

    • Victoria: I also hoped so too, and I pulled through the earlier events over the past couple of months only to find myself this weekend unable to do so without some sort of regrouping. And thank you so much for your thoughts! March 3, 2014 at 9:15am Reply

  • Patricia: My thoughts and prayers go to you, your family, and all the people of Ukraine. Hopefully this can all be resolved without further bloodshed. xx March 3, 2014 at 7:47am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Pat! Hoping so too, without bloodshed and further conflicts. March 3, 2014 at 9:16am Reply

  • Karen: Thank you for writing and sharing your thoughts. And thank you for sharing your love of perfume and things which open a door to beauty and give us a respite from harshness. March 3, 2014 at 8:12am Reply

    • Victoria: I felt a bit ambivalent about writing, because I usually avoid political topics, but this touches me to the core and it’s hard to go on without acknowledging what I’m feeling. I will continue to write about sunnier topics, though. March 3, 2014 at 9:21am Reply

  • solanace: Dear Victoria,

    Not long ago I googled Crimea because of an article of yours, and was enchanted with the palaces by the sea. I showed the pictures to my son, who made me promise I’d take him to that fairy tale land someday. You make a beautiful work sharing your peaceful, cosmopolite, feminine in the best possible sense world view. I’m hoping and praying for Pachamama that things in Ukraine will go back to normal soon and that your family and friends stay safe. Thank you so much for the links too, I’ll read them eagerly, and hopefully understand the politics of this episode a little better.
    A big hug,
    A. March 3, 2014 at 8:16am Reply

    • Victoria: I hope that one day you will visit. It’s really a beautiful place and full of history. And the cuisine is impressive, because you can find many Ukrainian and Russian dishes, but also Tatar and even Greek. This weekend my husband and I made chebureki, which are Tatar deep-fried pies filled with meat. When I was little, I adored them, but I was never allowed to eat more than 1 at a time (they are rich!) The good thing about being an adult is that you can take your favorite food and make an entire meal out of it. This time I had 3 and a half. 🙂 March 3, 2014 at 9:24am Reply

      • Solanace: These chebureki sound delicious. Huuummm… March 3, 2014 at 12:04pm Reply

        • Victoria: It’s also transliterated as chiburekki and you can google them to see what they look like (golden and mouthwatering!) March 3, 2014 at 7:02pm Reply

          • Solanace: Yummy, and a bit like our ‘pastéis’. I’ll get some lamb to make chiburekki, and now I’m obsessed with the hearty recipes of the soviet kitchen blog! March 4, 2014 at 5:49am Reply

            • Victoria: I googled pastéis, and I realized way too late that I shouldn’t have done it. I’m craving them big time. 🙂 The thing is that, as I explained to Daisy, I’m following the 40 day Lent fast this year, and it includes no meat. But maybe there is a kind made with fish? March 4, 2014 at 5:57am Reply

              • Solanace: Pasteis, like everything here, can be stuffed with anything: cheese, hearts of palm, ‘pizza’, which is cheese+tomatoes+oregano, banana+sugar+cinnamon… March 4, 2014 at 7:44am Reply

                • Victoria: I might have to rule out cheese, as Lent doesn’t allow dairy, but banana+sugar+cinnamon sauteed in olive oil and then served on toast was my lunch today. So, thank you for this inspiration! 🙂 March 4, 2014 at 8:18am Reply

                  • Solanace: 🙂 March 4, 2014 at 12:29pm Reply

  • Anne of Green Gables: It’s rather ironic that these events followed right after the Olympics. I keep praying for peaceful outcome, wisdom to all the leaders involved and comfort to those who are distressed. I hope that Ukrainians will stand united to go through these times of trouble. There is no greater tragedy than a nation being divided and fighting against each other. If only more people could think like your great-grandfather… March 3, 2014 at 8:16am Reply

    • Victoria: I agree, nothing is worse than people divided, and when you see the ethnic tensions flamed out for political purposes and see them unfolding in real time, it’s devastating. March 3, 2014 at 9:28am Reply

      • Anne of Green Gables: In our case, it was the political conflict between superpowers that divided the nation in the aftermath of WWII and eventually led to a civil war. My paternal grandpa fought during the Korean war and was badly injured. My maternal grandparents had to flee from their hometown in the north, never to see their eldest son again. It’s hard to believe that all these events happened not too long ago. We try to live as if everything’s normal but we’re still practically at war. Being a small country located at a strategic position, surrounded by strong neighbouring countries is a constant struggle. It’s very sad and frustrating when the people don’t get to decide the future of their nation by themselves but have to rely on supports or decisions of other stronger nations. March 3, 2014 at 3:27pm Reply

        • Victoria: This is a sad story, and I’m so sorry to hear how much your family was affected. And as you say, it seems so far away ago (esp to people who were not touched directly), but it’s really not long ago at all.

          My mother was remembering tonight that my great-grandfather even in his dying hours kept talking about war and hallucinating about the battle. He was a young man when he was fighting, and yet the trauma remained for his entire life. War should never be the first tool of politics (or ever!), and this is what’s so devastating about the current situation. It all could have been solved by other means. March 3, 2014 at 5:43pm Reply

          • Alicia: The trauma of war lasts for a lifetime. I saw it in my own family. Victoria, this is indeed devastating, and the ghosts of wars past come mercilessly to mind: the Sudetenland… But it will not come to that. Patriotism is indeed the last refuge of scoundrels, so are these claims of “protection”. Your photo is not only a personal treasure, it is also an icon of true heroism truly protecting the future. Thank you for it. March 3, 2014 at 11:18pm Reply

            • Victoria: Thank you for saying this, Alicia! There are so many people like great grandfather, in Ukraine, in Russia, in many parts of the world, and I hope that remembering them and their sacrifices does something to keep everything from falling apart. Sometimes I feel a bit idealistic and naive when I say this, especially when raw power decides so much, but if one loses hope, then one has nothing left. March 4, 2014 at 6:16am Reply

  • george: What has Russia has done is wrong but I feel quite hopeful for the long term outcome. I think Russia has an action that will end up extremely self-minorising, and will give further focus to the Ukraine for democratisation. I of course hope that that end can be achieved without conflict. The Crimea- of course- might end up subsumed into the Russian Federation. If it is, let’s hope it is because of that region’s populus’ decision, and not one made for them through military might. March 3, 2014 at 8:30am Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, let’s hope so too. If that’s the region’s populus’ decision, then we have to accept it.

      When it comes to Crimea, the group that I have a lot of empathy for is the Crimean Tatars. They were deported en masse out of Crimea by Stalin in the 40s and were only allowed to return and rebuild their lives once the USSR started collapsing. What their community is feeling now I can’t even comprehend. March 3, 2014 at 9:35am Reply

      • zari: Hi, in case any of your readers are interested:
        http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/3/2/crimean-tartars-feelhemmedinfromallsidesinukraine.html March 3, 2014 at 12:22pm Reply

        • Victoria: Thank you, Zari!

          In fact, some very distant Tatar links turned up when I tried to research our genealogy. I’ve been trying to learn more about the history, and as the article shows, it’s absolutely heartbreaking. March 3, 2014 at 12:31pm Reply

        • george: thanks for that Zari. March 3, 2014 at 12:53pm Reply

          • zari: You are both welcome! March 3, 2014 at 10:14pm Reply

      • Ann: Crimea also is particularly precious in the region because of the growing solidarity between its small Muslim and Jewish communities that have worked together to build greater understanding of their cultures and mutual respect. Ukrainians first, these ethnic groups have been the scapegoats of corruption and discontent for hundreds of years. The lash of Stalin had many tongues. I sound more pompous than I intend! Sorry!! I only mean to say that among the many frightened communities, there are several who fear that history could repeat itself. Putin knows it. Fortunately there are many thoughtful, brave, and forward-looking Russian Ukrainians who still may tip the scales to peace. For now, we just hold our breath, and hope that freedom and human rights prevail. Ukraine has signed and ratified the two main international human rights covenants, and even more striking it ratified CERD–The International Conventional on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination–in 1969 (albeit at a time when the US’s non-compliance with the same treaty was reaching a crescendo) . So, hope and remembrance! March 3, 2014 at 12:35pm Reply

        • Victoria: I didn’t know much about the relationship between the Muslim and Jewish communities, Ann. I can believe it, because as I mentioned earlier, my mom visits Crimea on regular basis, and she has so many interesting stories.

          Well, I can tell that as a Russian speaker I have never been discriminated against in Ukraine. I speak Ukrainian too, but Russian is my first language and what we speak at home. My Russian father spoke Ukrainian too. Ironically, my Ukrainian mom doesn’t speak it well, because a town where she grew up had no Ukrainian language as part of its curriculum. In short, I know firsthand that the accusations of discrimination against Russian speakers are entirely bogus. March 3, 2014 at 2:59pm Reply

          • Ann: I suspect that there are Russian speaking Russians in Putin’s inner circle who know that as well… and they may be the most persuasive in convincing Putin to pull-out–Showing muscle is one thing, infuriating the western world is another. In the mean time, we just need to hope that no more lives are lost.

            I love that notion of your mom coming home from Crimea full of stories… gosh we come from different places on the planet you and I… It is so great that we all (everyone) can meet here though! Some fragrance, a little tea, a little history… and a dollop of hope. March 3, 2014 at 7:25pm Reply

            • Victoria: Anyway, my resolution is as few news today as possible, but more of tea, perfume and cat photos. 🙂 March 4, 2014 at 4:25am Reply

      • george: Despite being so far away and so relatively small, the Crimea is well known in Britain because of The Charge of the Light Brigade and the Tennyson poem of that name, and accordingly much associated with military action. It also appears to be one of those territories that is geographically distinct enough, strategically important enough, at the crossroads of empires, and not large enough to withstand attack from its larger neighbours, that it has often been at the centre of wars. I feel sorry too for the Crimean Tartars who seem to have been on the worst repercussions of that in the last hundred years. I am reminded of the strangeness of reading Dostoevsky whereby a man with such a modern sensibility was writing over two hundred years ago of a social state of absolute monarchy and serfdom, the latter of which was abolished approximately five hundred years ago in Britain: it’s very hard for a British reader to as such get his historical bearings when reading the aforementioned: as you have said, when talking about the current actions of Russia, the recent history of the Crimean tartars, and the other atrocities associated with the Soviet union, it’s very hard to reconcile that with the present: it seems more like something we would associate with a past age. March 3, 2014 at 1:06pm Reply

        • Victoria: George, as you often do, you’ve put it perfectly and succinctly: “it’s very hard to reconcile that with the present: it seems more like something we would associate with a past age.” Which is why it feels totally surreal. March 3, 2014 at 3:07pm Reply

          • Lindsay: After reading your post I found the RT channel on our South African TV. Even the level of the one-sided propaganda on it seems too blatant for an audience of today. I’m very sorry, I hope the messages do a little to comfort your spirit. Your posts open up a world that brings so much joy to so many, so it would be nice for some of that warmth to be reflected back at you tonight. March 3, 2014 at 4:06pm Reply

            • Victoria: There was one instance of propaganda that made me laugh. The story went that Ukrainians are fleeing in large numbers to Russia not only from the south and east of the region, but also from the western part. Ok, let’s suspend our belief that anyone from the western Ukraine wants to flee to Russia. But the film showed an undated footage of the Ukrainian cars on the Polish border!

              And thank you, Lindsay! All of these thoughts are so tremendously comforting. March 3, 2014 at 5:47pm Reply

  • Zazie: Dear Victoria, you brought tears into my eyes, and am glad you did.
    I cannot find my words right now, but my thoughts go to you, your family, and those who are suffering… I join Anne above in her prayer for a peaceful outcome… March 3, 2014 at 8:30am Reply

    • Victoria: All positive thoughts count, so thank you!

      By the way, may I please email you in regards to a couple of questions about Milan? March 3, 2014 at 9:36am Reply

      • Zazie: Of course!
        I’d love to!
        I just sent you my email through your contact form – but just in case:
        [removed] March 3, 2014 at 9:48am Reply

        • Victoria: About to reply in a little bit. I’ve copied your email address in my address book, so now I can just remove it from the comment (for privacy concerns). March 3, 2014 at 9:51am Reply

  • Sandra: Dear Victoria-
    You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers. The picture of you and your great-grandfather is tear jerking.
    Whenever I get overwhelmed by all the violence in the world on the news I read this quote by HHDL : “All beings want to live undisturbed in peace and happiness. Therefore, the concept of human rights is universal. It should apply to everyone who experiences pain or pleasure. This is why developing sincere concern for others gives us peace of mind; it brings with it trust and a sense of peace. Cultivating warm-heartedness contributes to our own well-being.”
    Sending you all the warmth my little heart can hold. Sandra March 3, 2014 at 8:58am Reply

    • Victoria: What a beautiful quote, Sandra! Thank you for sharing it. March 3, 2014 at 9:38am Reply

  • Leah: How is it that for all of our advances we never seem to learn? My mother and aunt had to flee Cuba alone as very young girls (9 and 7 years old) and were not reunited with their families until years later. The damage of these politics on a human level is immense – i know that in my family and community the impact is still felt very strongly today even after so many years. My heart goes out to you Victoria and to all of the many families touched by this. And for you who bring such inspiration into our days – we are happy to give it back to you. Hugs March 3, 2014 at 9:22am Reply

    • Victoria: That’s a heartbreaking story, Leah, but thank heavens, your mother and your aunt reunited with their families in the end. And yes, you’re right, the scars families bear after all such events don’t vanish quickly.

      All of you give back a lot already, every day! Thank you. 🙂 March 3, 2014 at 9:41am Reply

  • Holly: Thank-you so much for sharing this, Victoria. Your sentiments and the photograph have touched my heart. I pray that the conflict will be resolved without causing any more hardship for those in Ukraine and those who are called to arms.

    I will continue to try to express peace in my own life as I deal with trivial concerns. I appreciate the joy you bring to us in your community, and I also appreciate your heartfelt expression of the sorrow you feel. Sending you a big hug from Washington, DC. March 3, 2014 at 9:49am Reply

    • Victoria: I very much hope so too! My great-grandfather fought throughout WWII, and he volunteered for the Army, even though as a school director he could avoid conscription. All his life I’ve known him he said that war was the greatest tragedy and that one must do anything to avoid it. He is on my mind so much these days. March 3, 2014 at 10:34am Reply

  • Heather H: My son’s preschool teacher is from Croatia. She has been through war. She has more heart than anyone I know! She used to teach elementary school, and remembers being so touched by the children she taught. Despite bombs going off outside her classroom, the children would come to school everyday to learn. Many of her students lost their parents.My thoughts and prayers go out to you Victoria, but especially the children:( March 3, 2014 at 10:00am Reply

    • Victoria: One has to admire people like that! This story is so touching, especially since my great-grandmother was a teacher during WWII. I have a stack of correspondence that she kept with some of her students throughout her life. March 3, 2014 at 10:27am Reply

    • Victoria: Here, I found a picture of my great-grandmother with her students:
      March 3, 2014 at 11:11am Reply

  • nikki: Victoria, I didn’t want to bring it up before, but yes, I feel your suffering.

    There is nothing one can really say about this, other than that you are not alone. Every person who has memories of war, be it through generational memory or first hand, feels with Ukraine.

    Some time ago, I read that the ravens at London Tower were almost extinct in WW2 because of the bombs. They were not hit by the bombs, but the animals preferred to die. I never read anything more sad than that. Everything and every living being is touched and destroyed by war. There is nothing more sad than that. March 3, 2014 at 10:13am Reply

    • Victoria: I also didn’t want to bring it up, but I’m feeling so utterly devastated. And yes, in the end, there are no words, just sorrow and pain. March 3, 2014 at 10:22am Reply

      • nikki: You have to try to transcend the pain by doing something altruistic….Red Cross, Red Crescent, Doctors without borders, adopting an animal from Ukraine, doing a fundraiser, joining an ex-pat group….as long as you are part of the solution, you can keep the despair at bay for a while…
        By writing about it, you have already done something positive… March 3, 2014 at 10:47am Reply

        • Victoria: Thank you very much, Nikki! March 3, 2014 at 11:42am Reply

  • Michaela: Thank you for sharing your sorrow. I’ve thought so much of you lately. The picture is so touching, speaking as a whole book! I do hope your family and friends in Ukraine are all right, and everything will be solved for your people with no more tragedies. After all, they ask nothing more than democracy and a decent life. I’m so sorry for you, I know you can never forget memories like these. March 3, 2014 at 10:28am Reply

    • Victoria: We have a large archive of photos, on both sides of my family, since everyone seems to be such a keen photographer, and to occupy myself, I’ve taken to reorganizing them. It’s so nice to find some of these images. They’re precious. March 3, 2014 at 11:15am Reply

  • Kandice: Victoria, my heart goes out to you and your family connections in this conflict. It is so sad when someone like Putin sees an internal conflict as a way to grasp more power for himself. Here’s hoping saner minds prevail, and the conflict can be resolved soon. March 3, 2014 at 10:30am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Kandice! We very much hope that whatever resolution, it will be achieved by peaceful means and dialogue. March 3, 2014 at 11:15am Reply

  • Julie: If it’s one thing the internet has accomplished its making us feel a part of the same “whole”. I sit here curled up with my hot coffee reading my favorite blog (it’s a snow day here, no work) and suddenly I’m in tears. All these wonderful people sharing thoughts from across the globe; united and unified in our hope for happiness and peace.
    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family Victoria, and also all the rest of us that need peace in our hearts. March 3, 2014 at 10:36am Reply

    • nikki: That is a nice sentiment, Julie! March 3, 2014 at 10:50am Reply

    • Victoria: What a beautiful way to put it, and while I’m so sorry that I made you cry, I thank you for these touching words. It’s what makes the community so special to me and why writing here never feels like a chores. Meeting so many interesting people whom I might have never met otherwise is such a gift. March 3, 2014 at 11:44am Reply

    • solanace: I love the way you put it, Julie. You perfectly expressed my feelings. In the wise words of Ivo Andric (butchered by my own translation):
      “Of everything that men, moved by their vital instinct, build and erect, nothing is more beautiful or more precious to me than bridges. Bridges are more important than houses and more sacred than temples, because they are more useful. They belong to everyone and are the same to everyone, always sensibly built in that very point where most human necessities meet; they are more lasting than any other constructions, and never serve secrecy or evil.”

      Victoria is such a bridge builder! March 3, 2014 at 6:54pm Reply

      • Victoria: How beautiful! Thank you for sharing. I’ll go to bed thinking about bridges. 🙂 March 3, 2014 at 7:03pm Reply

  • Hannah: Thank you for this post. One of my twitter friends is Eastern European (not Ukrainian; she’s actually from Moldova) and she’s been tweeting about the protests in Ukraine for a while but I wasn’t sure how Russia was fitting in. March 3, 2014 at 10:44am Reply

    • Victoria: Gosh, the situation is really so complex! I hope that the links above are helpful. March 3, 2014 at 11:45am Reply

  • Adriana Galani: My first remark talking to my husband yesterday about this was “that is going to get ugly”. And how I hope it will not come true.
    My heart with You Victoria and with Your dear ones. March 3, 2014 at 10:52am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Adriana! My grandmother is baking a pie. In her wonderful, sensible way, she said, “whatever happens, a pie will do all of us some good.” March 3, 2014 at 11:48am Reply

  • Allison: Thank you for the links, and your own persective especially. This is a sobering moment for all, and I hope with all my heart that a peaceful resolution is quickly achieved. March 3, 2014 at 11:05am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m joining you in that hope, Allison! March 3, 2014 at 11:57am Reply

  • Jillie: I can’t add anything to what has already been said, except that you and all the people are in my prayers. March 3, 2014 at 11:13am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Jillie, both for your thoughts and for sharing them. I have to say that it’s so comforting. March 3, 2014 at 11:58am Reply

  • Heidi: Dear Victoria,

    my thoughts are with you in this awful situation.

    Heidi March 3, 2014 at 11:14am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much, Heidi! March 3, 2014 at 11:59am Reply

  • Aisha: I’m glad you wrote this. It reminds us that what is going on in the Ukraine involves real living, breathing human beings. Although many of us come here to forget the stresses in our lives, we also come here for the friendship. And part of being friends (albeit, virtual friends) is sharing in each other’s sufferings.

    Keeping you, your family and the entire population of Ukraine in my thoughts and prayers. March 3, 2014 at 11:16am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Aisha! This means a lot to me. I’m sorry to be so melancholy today, and I promise to return to sunnier topics and to the main premise of BdJ soon. March 3, 2014 at 12:19pm Reply

      • Aisha: There is absolutely no need to apologize. Like I said, it makes the situation — and YOU — more human. You are more than just a bottle of Chanel. We all are. 🙂 March 3, 2014 at 7:09pm Reply

        • Victoria: Thank you so much, Aisha! It’s Big Politics, it seems far away, but when it touches the lives of those near and dear, it’s hard to express how much anguish one feels. I wake up in the middle of the night to check the news, I worry constantly. Which is why just having someone say something comforting means so much right now. March 4, 2014 at 5:08am Reply

  • maja: Dearest Victoria, coming from ex-Yugoslavia and its most tormented city, I know exactly how you must feel at the moment. I used to wake up for years hoping everything was a bad dream. Unfortunately it wasn’t. I just hope Ukrainians and Russians will be wiser and avoid a tragedy like ours.
    I’ll be keeping my jasmine in bloom just for you. March 3, 2014 at 11:24am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much, Maja! I have many friends from ex-Yugoslavia, so through them I’ve witnessed some of the effects of that conflict on people.

      Jasmine blossoms are much appreciated. Maybe they will inspire my little plant to produce flowers that smell of jasmine, not of ham (as I mentioned earlier to Johanob.) March 3, 2014 at 12:22pm Reply

  • Nicola Stephens: I can think of nothing good to say about VP and unfortunately he is not the only current leader whose actions appear to betray malign intentions. They are dealing with people’s lives for heavens sake! I will read the links you provide with great interest as I do not pretend to have a good understanding of the politics in the region. Along with others who have commented I offer my prayers to you and yours Victoria and hopes for a peaceful and satisfactory outcome generally. Nicola March 3, 2014 at 11:24am Reply

    • Victoria: Reading the news lately is the most depressing thing one can do, Nicola. I’m trying to wrench myself from the grips of a very bad habit–starting the day by reading the newspaper in bed. My compromise is to start the day with a cup of tea and something I enjoy (music, perfume, book) and only then open the newspaper.

      Thank you for your thoughts and prayers! March 3, 2014 at 12:33pm Reply

      • solanace: My life got much better when I dumped the news and started reading Bois de Jasmin every morning. 🙂 March 3, 2014 at 7:00pm Reply

        • Victoria: And here I go today… But this week there will also be roses and more jasmine. 🙂 March 3, 2014 at 7:04pm Reply

          • Solanace: Victoria, I really enjoyed having this opportunity of telling you how much you do the exact oppposite as the wall builders, not to mention of understanding the Ukranian crisis a little better. What I can’t stand in Brazilian newspapers is that they are: a) dishonest and serving oligarchies; b) full of crimes and personal disgraces with no critical analysis, which only instigates paranoia; c) poorly written. But I read the news everyday, only not with my first coffee! 🙂 March 4, 2014 at 4:13am Reply

            • Nicola Stephens: I agree – the news is not for the start or the end of the day. I am weaning myself off the BBC 10 o’clock news. If I watch it I risk a troubled night’s sleep (which is already disturbed by an elderly poorly cat, but that is a different matter). I think we have a responsibility to be discerning about how we gain information – about anything! A good day to all. March 4, 2014 at 5:26am Reply

              • Solanace: A good day to you too, Nicola. March 4, 2014 at 5:50am Reply

            • Victoria: Let’s all build bridges, then. 🙂

              I now read more of the international press, and I like the coverage. You get more different perspectives, and it’s also a good way to practice French. Le Monde is very interesting. One difference from the US publications is that the European editions cover more of the international events and come them in depth. March 4, 2014 at 6:30am Reply

              • Solanace: I read Le Monde and The Guardian every day. 🙂 However, I also have to be aware of local news, even if our newspapers are often disheartening. March 4, 2014 at 7:47am Reply

                • Victoria: The Guardian is my other new favorite. I read it in the US time to time, but today I tune in there first. We follow the local Belgian news on the radio or TV. They’re pretty good too. March 4, 2014 at 8:27am Reply

              • Austenfan: Frankfurter Allgemeine is also a good source. I think you read German, if not I believe their site is bilingual.
                I’m checking on the Le Monde site as well. March 4, 2014 at 7:55am Reply

                • Victoria: I’ll check it out. I had to use German to read some primary materials during my graduate work. Without practice, it’s getting rusty, so Frankfurter Allgemeine might be a good way to shore it up and get informed on events in the world. Thank you. March 4, 2014 at 8:29am Reply

                • Solanace: I’ll check the bilingual version, thank’s! March 4, 2014 at 12:27pm Reply

  • rainboweyes: Being born and raised in communist Poland (and actually having a Ukrainian mother – she only told me about it when I was seventeen, though!) I remember very well what it is like to be “protected and supported” by the big neigbour. It not only sounds like a bad film, to me it’s a nightmare… I keep the people of Ukraine in my thoughts. March 3, 2014 at 11:25am Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, you’re right, a bad dream is an understatement! Thank you for your thoughts.

      On a sweeter note, I worked in Poland as a grad student, and I enjoyed Warsaw and Krakow. The visit made me a huge fan of Polish pastries, and I came back with a big collection of Polish baking books. The combination of different flavors and textures in pastries is so unique. March 3, 2014 at 12:40pm Reply

      • behemot: We know you Victoria, and we are here totally aware of your interest of Polish pastries 🙂

        Well, let’s come back to the reality. Thank you so much for your article. I have been waiting for this topic here for some time. It seems just right to talk about political situation here, considering your nationality.
        During the last few days I have read almost everything on the Ukraine. I check the news every hour. I am scared.
        Victoria, you know where I am from, so you know I understand the situation quite well. I have a lot of Ukrainian and Russian friends, and, like rainboweyes, I am Polish and have some Ukrainian ancestors.
        I hope for the best for all of us, because what is going on is not limited only to Ukraine and Russia. March 3, 2014 at 5:39pm Reply

        • Victoria: I also keep reading the news and checking everything at once. It’s hard to focus on anything else, but I also know that I must find some balance.

          You’re absolutely right, it’s not just about Ukraine and Russia. Ukraine, after all, is not a small country, and it’s right in the middle of Europe. March 3, 2014 at 6:49pm Reply

  • Annunziata: You are one of the loveliest people I’ve [never actually] met, and I’ve been thinking of you and your family so much over the past couple of days. The picture of you with your great-grandfather is tremendously moving, as are your gentle but powerful words. You are in my thoughts and prayers. — Amy March 3, 2014 at 11:28am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much for your sweet words! As I mentioned to Michaela, I channeled my energy into reorganizing our family photos and scanning them. Otherwise, it’s hard to share with other family who are scattered all over the world. I also love this photo, which was taken by my aunt. March 3, 2014 at 1:07pm Reply

  • Andy: I’m so saddened by this news in Ukraine, but so glad that you’ve shared this post with us. As you say, appreciation of beautiful things and knowledge of current events are not mutually exclusive. I hope for strength for all of your friends and relatives in Ukraine, and for a peaceful resolution to the ensuing conflict, which I hope will be minimal. March 3, 2014 at 11:29am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much, Andy! One can’t lose hope. And as I was commenting to someone earlier, my grandmother chose to cope by making a cake. March 3, 2014 at 1:19pm Reply

  • silverdust: Terrible news about Ukraine while Putin’s in charge. Once KGB, always KGB. I was buoyed by the Ukrainian victory over the first wave of troops that were sent in from Russia and also by the pix of Ukrainians marching the streets with Orthodox priests taking the lead.

    For those who don’t know the atrocities committed by Stalin against Ukraine, here is a link: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/archives/ukra.html

    Godspeed to Ukraine. March 3, 2014 at 11:46am Reply

    • Victoria: If anyone has strong interest in the European history, I highly recommend Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. A powerful but difficult read. The main reason I’d recommend it is not so much about learning about the atrocities, but how well even the worst atrocities can be skillfully concealed.

      I was mentioning to some of my friends earlier that when I was growing up in the USSR, we didn’t learn about these events, although we all knew the stories. My great-grandparents lived through that period and survived.

      The memories of hunger were so deep that all her life my great-grandmother would absolutely refuse to throw any food. And such is her influence that I, someone who certainly grew up without grave shortages of food, have this fear of “running out of things.” My husband jokes that our pantry today, with no additional purchases, can feed us for a few months. I realize that it’s a bit too much at times–like the two of us don’t need 5 kg of potatoes, but I find it hard to fight the hoarding impulse. 🙂 March 3, 2014 at 1:31pm Reply

  • Annette Reynolds: Thank you for sharing this, Victoria.

    It is because we care about the beauty in the world that we rail against the ugliness.

    I don’t know my Russian family (although I know there is one somewhere out there), but I think of you and yours. March 3, 2014 at 11:51am Reply

    • Victoria: A lovely sentiment, Annette! And so nicely put. Thank you so much. March 3, 2014 at 1:32pm Reply

  • Maria B.: I pray for the Ukraine. Vladimir Putin seems to want to rebuild the Soviet Union. The megalomania of one man is the cause of a lot of suffering. I’m so very sorry you’re going through such a terrible time. March 3, 2014 at 12:15pm Reply

    • Victoria: The main problem is that the West can’t guess what he’s doing, while he has already calculated everything well in advance.

      Thank you for your prayers, for your thoughts! March 3, 2014 at 1:33pm Reply

      • Tammy: A child in its crib knows what Putin has been wanting. He was just waiting til the Olympics were over. This administration was warned repeatedly.

        But when your mother was a communist sympathizer and your mentor was a communist and you install the daughter and ex wife of a communist as your aide de camp/defacto Chief of Staff, you tend to downplay such warnings, or not even care if they come to pass. March 3, 2014 at 8:18pm Reply

  • mridula: I am so glad you wrote this. It takes courage and I imagine I am one of many readers to appreciate it. Though this is a blog about perfume, we all have multiple orientations,. I have for example an orientation toward peace, which is in turn a political orientation. March 3, 2014 at 12:22pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you. I really debated about writing this, because I don’t want to bring more of the life’s stressful, awful events to my readers. Heaven knows, we’re exposed to it all anyway.

      On the other hand, what I write Bois de Jasmin is so personal and so many of my scent memories are inspired by my Ukrainian childhood. Especially my great-grandparents with whose garden I grew flowers and collected petals to make my own perfumes. If I were to write down all of my childhood smell memories, 90% of them would be from that garden. So, when I describe Etro Messe de Minuit smelling like a moldy shed, I have the exact smell in mind–the small shed in which my great-grandfather stores his garden tools. I felt that I couldn’t continue writing about perfume without explaining what I’m going through at the moment. So, thank you very much for your understanding. March 3, 2014 at 2:38pm Reply

  • Ariane: Dear Victoria,
    Others have said all that I wanted to express, but you were in my thoughts yesterday, when I saw the protesters with their flags streaming up Madison Avenue to gather outside the Russian consulate on 91st Street here in New York. I couldn’t stop my tears. History is so cruel. Thank you for the beauty you bring us every day as a beacon and consolation.
    Ariane March 3, 2014 at 1:02pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Ariane. My friend in NYC sent me a photo, and it was so heartening! Any support right now is so much appreciated. March 3, 2014 at 2:42pm Reply

  • Barbara: Thank you for writing about it. I’ve been following the news but without any personal attachment. You put a human face on it for me.

    Praying for Ukraine and your family.. March 3, 2014 at 3:11pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Barbara! March 3, 2014 at 5:35pm Reply

  • Daisy: Perfume and forums to talk about perfume and perfume passion are great ways to create refuges in life. That being said, I really appreciated this interlude to talk about what is going on in Ukraine right now. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family, Victoria!

    As you mentioned, Russian and Ukrainian identities are complicated, intertwined, and inextricable. What shame it would be to have the situation descend into further conflict. Let’s hope that the international community is able to really exert a strong influence, hasten effective action, and call for peace. March 3, 2014 at 4:14pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Daisy! I find this whole situation overwhelming and devastating (I don’t know how many times I’ve used this word today!) on so many levels that it’s hard to think of anything else. But sharing and hearing other stories and just words of empathy makes a big difference. March 3, 2014 at 6:09pm Reply

  • Poodle: I am thinking of you and your family and I hope they remain safe. I also hope this conflict is resolved quickly and doesn’t escalate further. March 3, 2014 at 5:00pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much! I fervently hope that it doesn’t escalate any further. March 3, 2014 at 6:10pm Reply

  • Ksenija: There is nothing much I can tell you except that I feel your pain. I am from Yugoslavia and I will never come to terms with that beautiful country disappearing and neighbors killing each other. No one lives today a happier or any way better life int the new six republics.
    I hope it won’t be like that for Ukraine! March 3, 2014 at 5:02pm Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, Ksenija, I can only try to imagine. I have followed the stories of the Balkan wars, and I have many friends from different countries. It’s all so tragic. And since there is still some chance for things to change course, I really hope that it won’t come down to the same scenario. March 3, 2014 at 6:30pm Reply

  • N.: I also am half-Ukrainian and half-Russian. My Ukrainian ancestors fled Stalin’s tyranny and left all the vast land they owned to come to America. I pray for peace. March 3, 2014 at 6:30pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for sharing your story. I have many friends in the US and Canada whose friends came there in similar circumstances than yours. All of us are hoping and praying now. March 3, 2014 at 6:51pm Reply

  • Tammy: I have remained friends with former co-workers who are in Ukraine…I haven’t heard from them, and am trying not to worry. They’re in Kiev, so I’m sure all is well, but it’s still unsettling.

    Thank you for sharing you thoughts with us. It brings an extra depth to both your blog and my understanding of the situation itself.

    Blessings to you and your family! March 3, 2014 at 6:30pm Reply

    • Victoria: Kiev is fine. My cousin and many of my friends are there, and they went back to work already. Life continues. Everyone is, of course, tuning in to the news and following all developments closely, but my friend, with whom I spoke this morning, gave no troubling reports otherwise.

      Thank you, Tammy! March 3, 2014 at 6:55pm Reply

      • Tammy: Thank you so much for taking time in the midst of your own worries to ease my own. March 3, 2014 at 8:02pm Reply

        • Victoria: Of course, Tammy! 🙂 With my family and friends in Ukraine and Russia, we have a nearly constant support line open to make sure that everyone is ok. March 4, 2014 at 5:48am Reply

  • Elisa: Love and care to you V! Thank you for sharing these thoughts, links and beautiful photos. I believe politics ARE personal and you can’t suppress what you care passionately about. xo March 3, 2014 at 8:05pm Reply

    • Victoria: Same to you, Elisa! 🙂 Thank you so much.

      And I’m wearing Roses de Chloe today; your review is spot on. I think that it’s such a lovely perfume. March 4, 2014 at 5:54am Reply

      • Elisa: It is surprisingly lovely, isn’t it? March 4, 2014 at 11:36am Reply

        • Victoria: It really is! I didn’t expect much out of it, but after your description via email, I knew that it would be a kind of fun and sheer rose I enjoy. And you were right. Not sure if I need a bottle, with all other roses in my stash, but it’s good to know about another possibility. March 4, 2014 at 11:56am Reply

  • Ashley Anstaett: This was so moving, Victoria. Thank-you for sharing it, and I send many good thoughts to you and your family. This blog has brought me a lot of joy! Your grandfather sounded like a wise and wonderful man! March 3, 2014 at 8:41pm Reply

    • Victoria: He was such a special person and a sweetheart. I spent 3-4 months every year with my great-grandparents, and since my great-grandmother was a career lady, my great grandfather was left in charge of my breakfast. He could make only one dish–fried eggs with tomatoes. In the end, the 11 year old me got tired of them, delicious though they were, and I took over cooking. I recall there were some disasters which he ate stoically, complimenting me all the while. 🙂 March 4, 2014 at 6:01am Reply

      • Austenfan: That is such a lovely anecdote. I love how he looks at you in that picture. March 4, 2014 at 7:56am Reply

        • Victoria: I have this photo on my mantelpiece. I miss both of my great-grandparents and also my grandmother (on my dad’s side) very much. March 4, 2014 at 8:31am Reply

      • Ashley Anstaett: That is too funny, and very sweet! What a hoot. I’m sure he was happy to have try something new and…interesting. 🙂 Especially if it was made by you! March 4, 2014 at 8:59pm Reply

        • Victoria: Yeah, like soup mixed with omelette. 🙂 March 5, 2014 at 11:31am Reply

  • Jennifer C: I’m glad you posted about this. I’ve thought of you since all this erupted and have wondered if your friends and family there are ok. I don’t fully understand the politics of the region, but I will check out the links you posted. I don’t have much to add that hasn’t already been said; just wanted to chime in. March 3, 2014 at 8:46pm Reply

    • Victoria: All I hope is that in the end the peace will prevail. None of us want war, and I’d guess that the majority of people in Russia don’t either. One can only hope for the best. March 4, 2014 at 6:05am Reply

  • Martha: Best wishes to you and your family, Victoria. I hope for a swift and peaceful resolution to this problem. Please take care. March 3, 2014 at 9:18pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much, Martha! Meanwhile, I’m trying to remain optimistic, because one can’t be otherwise, especially in this period of uncertainly. March 4, 2014 at 6:08am Reply

  • Ruta: Dear Viktoria,

    Being Lithuanian, I know so well what you mean. Back in 1991, we had Russian soldiers rolling with tanks over people to protect us from themselves.

    I do pray and send all my wishes for Ukraine to get peace, reason and prosperity. For its people to decide themselves without militaries what and how they want. Hugs- hope things turn well. March 4, 2014 at 3:18am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Ruta! Let’s hope for this together. March 4, 2014 at 6:19am Reply

  • Sally: Thank you for posting these links – I read them all which much interest and a greater understanding of the issues at hand. Of course you must write about this here – never apologize for caring so deeply about something so intensely personal. I have been moved to see the outpouring of compassion from members of this online community – I’m a relative newcomer to the blog and have been so impressed by the depth of feeling shared. My thoughts are with you and yours and the people of Ukraine. March 4, 2014 at 3:22am Reply

    • Victoria: Sally, there are so many kind and warmhearted people here, and over the past couple of months–even before I posted anything on how much these events are affecting me–there have been so many nice messages. It’s so heartening.

      And in general, the perfume community as a whole–not just people who comment regularly on this particular blog–are so generous and nice. 🙂 March 4, 2014 at 6:35am Reply

  • Nataliya: Dear Victoria,
    I am so touched by your post. You just expressed what I feel these days.
    My family lives in Ukraine and I am so worried about them. The situation is very complex and I really hope that russian troops are back from where they came and Ukraine can have a fresh start after the events in the last three months.
    I am praying for peace! March 4, 2014 at 4:46am Reply

    • Victoria: Nataliya, sending you lots of strength and care. My best wishes to your family, and I hope that they’re safe. As my grandmother says, “мысли материальны, (approximately, the thoughts can become reality),” so let’s think positively. March 4, 2014 at 6:39am Reply

  • Alessandra: As a student in International Relations with special focus on human rights, I have been keeping an eye on Ukraine events for a while, and I couldn’t agree more with you, Victoria. I second every word. My thoughts are with you, your family and your country in general. xx March 4, 2014 at 5:56am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much, Alessandra! As I mentioned already several times, the positive thoughts mean so much. March 4, 2014 at 6:50am Reply

  • Bea: Dear Victoria,
    I am so sorry that you had to write that post. I honestly never thought it would come to this in Ukraine and hope and pray that there will be a peaceful solution where Ukraine and the people who live there will keep their independence.

    Very moving story about your great grandfather. Thank you for sharing. March 4, 2014 at 10:54am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Bea! I hope that it will never ever come to this. There is always a peaceful solution, if there is willingness on both sides. Nobody wants to fight, especially in the countries where the memories of war are still so strong. March 4, 2014 at 11:44am Reply

  • Anka: Thank you, dear Victoria, for sharing this relevant post and the interesting links for further reading!
    (I am a Political Science graduate too and always interested in posts like this – I can recommend eg. http://www.democracynow.org for an elaborate perspective on international politics and topics in general). March 4, 2014 at 12:38pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much, Anka! So many people interested in PoliSci around here. I mentioned it to someone else recently, but great perfumer Pierre Bourdon started out as a political science student before switching to perfumery. 🙂 March 4, 2014 at 3:31pm Reply

  • Lynn Morgan: Dear Victoria-

    I am so deeply saddened by the news that you have family in the Ukraine, possibly in harm’s way. My thoughts are with you, and with them at this awful time. I can only hope for a peaceful solution. Love, Lynn March 4, 2014 at 2:52pm Reply

    • Victoria: Lynn, I appreciate these positive words and kind thoughts. We will keep hoping for best. The 20th century has taught us so much how small conflicts can escalate into major catastrophes, so I hope that no such mistakes will be made again. March 4, 2014 at 3:45pm Reply

  • Donna: Victoria, I think you are in a unique position to write about this issue, and I am very glad that you have shared both your thoughts and feelings as well as the politics with us.

    Physics has taught that a group united in thought, prayer and intention affects the quantum field, so let us all focus on bringing about a peaceful resolution.

    I am sending light and love to you and yours.
    Donna March 4, 2014 at 6:37pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Donna! It’s a beautiful thought. 🙂 March 5, 2014 at 11:07am Reply

  • BasiaS: Your great-grandfather looked just like my grandfather. When I saw the photo browsing through your blog, I stopped in my tracks. I was born and grew up in eastern Poland and the events unfolding in Ukraine are unnerving. Like you, I deeply wish for the most peaceful resolution. March 4, 2014 at 7:21pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Basia! I love looking through the old photo albums, and if any of my friends are willing to open theirs and share their family histories, it’s such a nice treat. Like you, I often feel looking at the photos that comforting sense of recognition. Some of the older war veterans I met here in Belgium also reminded me of my great-grandfather. It was so moving, especially since I miss him very much. March 5, 2014 at 11:31am Reply

  • ChanteusedesIles: Thank you for sharing this, the photo of you & your great-grandfather is lovely. My grandfather was also in WWII, and I treasure the memories I have of him growing up. I have been following the situation here on Canadian news, but thanks to your valuable insight & very helpful links, I feel like I have a much better understanding of what is actually going on, esp with regards to the often confusing & contrary reports on the actions Putin’s government. March 4, 2014 at 9:24pm Reply

    • ChanteusedesIles: I neglected to mention that the terrible 1915 Battle of Ypres, is still very much remembered by Canadians to this day. My thoughts are with you, your family, and every Ukrainian hoping for peace. March 4, 2014 at 9:39pm Reply

      • Victoria: Thank you! This year being the centenary since the start of WWI, there are so many documentaries on the European channels, and we were planning to visit more war memorials in the Northern France. My husband is Canadian too, by the way. March 5, 2014 at 11:38am Reply

    • Victoria: Glad that it was helpful, and I really was trying to find something balanced. It’s all confusing, on all sides, and with the developments happening quickly, it’s even more so. But one thing is true, nothing is ever black and white.
      As long as there is a peaceful solution, it’s the most important thing. March 5, 2014 at 11:36am Reply

  • Ari: Praying (or as close as I get) for the safety of your family, dear Victoria. March 4, 2014 at 10:18pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much, Ari! I just got off the phone with my grandmother, and she was watching a cooking show and writing down the recipes for me. 🙂 March 5, 2014 at 11:42am Reply

  • Lizzy: Victoria, you and your family in the Ukraine are in my thoughts and prayers for a restoration of balance in the region. I was particularly touched by your memories of your great-grandfather and his perspective on the unity of all human beings, regardless of race, ethnicity, or nationality. A very wise world view, that.

    I remember visiting Khatyn when I was in Russia and Belarus during a cultural exchange tour in high school and being haunted by the barrenness of the landscape, the ghostly shells of partially reassembled foundations, and the memorial to the victims of Khatyn and nearly two hundred similar massacres. Even the wind seemed to be still in this place. The hairs on the back of my neck still stand on end when I remember walking there. It was a stark reminder of the evils of “us vs. them” thinking. I pray that those involved in the current crisis in the Ukraine can remember and act from a place of being “we are one.” March 5, 2014 at 3:38pm Reply

    • Victoria: Lizzy, thank you so much for your nice words and for sharing this poignant memory. I have never visited Khatyn, but I worked in Poland and many people bore the scars of that period. If I ever get a chance to travel to Belarus, I would go mostly to visit the memorial. We need to remember such events to prevent them from happening. March 6, 2014 at 11:20am Reply

  • OperaFan: Dear Victoria,
    I’ve been thinking of you this past week as the political tension plays out all over the news media. I, too, come from a place with a long-standing history of struggle against a large and aggressive neighbor. Where you are and the current situation, it is far closer to “home” than I am to mine.
    Thank you for sharing your personal story and the reference links. I am also hoping for a peaceful solution, and for the safety and freedom of your friends and family. March 7, 2014 at 12:07pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you so much for sharing your story and for your support! I certainly don’t expect anyone to share my views or even care much about the situation, but just reading this comment thread lifts my spirits. March 7, 2014 at 12:39pm Reply

  • Isis: Victoria thank you for this article. And thank you for having the patience to explain to me how something like Coromandel compares to Angel or Borneo 1834 while there are such big and real things happening in the world and in your life. I hadn’t reacted to this post yet, I just didn’t quit know what to say, but I want to let you know that I did very much appreciate it, it is good to acknowledge that life isn’t all sandalwood and nailpolish. The foto is beautiful. I hope your family is safe, and I hope you can find some distraction while the situation lasts (which is probably where the sandalwood and the nailpolish come in?). March 13, 2014 at 12:49pm Reply

    • Victoria: Please don’t hesitate to ask me any other questions (tomorrow we’ll have our Recommend me a Perfume Thread). You’ll give me a chance to do something other than refreshing the news page every 5 minutes.

      But seriously, while I won’t deny that this is a challenging period, we all need our distractions, and sandalwood and nail polish can do that well! Thank you above all for your thoughts, Isis. March 13, 2014 at 1:08pm Reply

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