I have said many times that I am “walking backward” into this chapter of my life. I decided to turn around and to look where I’m going. The photo above is not only precious, but it it typifies the look of wide-eyed innocence that I am wearing. I think it also has a certain “okay…what’s next” feel about it. I was lauded for this move during the pandemic, now I also have a war going on in my front yard. I leave for Albania this coming Saturday, and my friends here are bewildered as to why now. When I try to explain the EU rules, they just shake their heads, they proclaim how foolish it is that I am “forced” to travel during these times. I will remain intrepid in my pursuit of following the rules. My residency visa is in, and my “super sisters” Olinka and Danka are going to do everything to help me remain in Slovakia upon my return. From 5 March, until 5 June, I will have been out of the EU for 92 days – plus/minus a day.
Tonight was my last night at Zlaty Jelen (Golden Deer). Vlado made Goulash with knedlou (a bread-like dumpling). It was out of this world! The meat was Stag flank and it melted in my mouth. The paprika and spices put just enough heat in it that kept my interest on my plate and out of the conversation for a bit.
The conversation of course centered on the event taking place to the East – Vychod. There was every viewpoint on the spectrum; from Putin is crazy, to the US is crazy, and everything in between. When it came to me, they all turned and waited for my perspective. “I don’t care who is right, nor who is wrong – killing is killing, and it should be avoided at all costs”. Once it was translated for the non-English speakers, they raised their glasses and as a group solemnly said, “Boh ti zehnaj” (Bo- tee shu-n-eye)…God bless you. I mentioned in a prior post that there is no easy answer here. Central/Eastern Europe has one of the MOST complicated histories on the planet. World War One did nothing to help by drawing “artificial borders”, attempting to establish territories along ethno-linguistic and cultural similarities. Looking at a map that represents those particular groups with a color, you would swear it was an abstract painting…colors thrown together slap-dash and bric-a-brac; co-mingling, yet highlighting the color(s) in its edges.
I was lucky enough to be sitting next Emilko (eh-milko), a former director of the Slovak National Dance Theatre, and he began to tell me how his Grandmother was actually buried in Ukraine, even though she was a Ruthene from what was considered the “Upper Kingdom” of Hungary, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Ruthenes were spread out along a north-south axis from the Baltic in the North, into the Carpathians to the South. They too are Slavs; originating from the Kievan Rus and other tribes in the area of Belarus, and Ukraine. I shared my story with him about the fluid border between Poland and the North of Slovakia; Orava – where my Grandmother was born. There are no easy answers, only hard questions. I have been absent from the news pages simply because there is very little reliable information based on fact. It’s all spin.
What is fact is that the Ukrainians are here. I waited on my own sidewalk for them to pass. The first gentleman smiled and said “Dobre vecer” (vetch-eer)…which is “good evening”. I smiled as warmly as I could and said “Vitajte” (Vi-tie-teeuh)…”welcome”. It was about 2 dozen people in all, not counting a small gaggle of kids. I felt so glad that these kids made it, and I tried to think of anything else but how it would be for the children, and adults/elderly, who couldn’t get out. There are a great many buildings on Grosslingova here that are used for Airbnb, and I was sure they were going to one of them. Our buildings are full up. My friend Vlad has every apartment rented through the next few weeks. After I leave, so will mine…on Saturday night.
I am looking forward to Albania; I will walking forward with eyes wide open. I received an e-mail from our friend – the Ambassador to Albania and he will still be here in Bratislava when I land in Tirana. He wants me to reach out to him on the 8th or 9th to touch base with him…so he knows where I am. It’s good to have good friends. Without my connections, I believe I would be a “fish out of water” by this point in my stay. I am grateful…and humbled. I could very well be on a plane headed back to the US on Saturday. I am just getting started on my “Plan A”. I am excited about a journey even deeper into history…The Greek, The Romans, The Persians, and The Ottomans. So, like Mason and Penny, my eyes will be forward-facing and I will keep an open mind. I am focused on keeping an innocence about me, and be ready to re-adjust at a moments notice.
This is my last post as I have a full week planned, packing, cleaning my apartment…etc. I thank you all for following these humble missives. Let’s all keep in mind how lucky we are to be comfortable, and well fed…clothed and housed. Be good to each other and I will write you all soon. Please take care of yourselves