On February 24th the world changed. What I thought could never happen has happened. Russia declared war on Ukraine.
I have not felt this level of sadness in years. I feel like someone close to me died.
But I am sitting in my comfortable armchair, with my headphones on, drinking coffee as I write, while somewhere in Ukraine, people just like me are being bombed by Russian artillery.
They went from going to Starbucks, shopping, and sharing carefree meals with their families to hiding in subway stations at the first sound of the siren.
Hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee to other parts of the country or to Poland.
I have to confess, Ukraine is all I can think about. I don’t want to write about investing.
For the last few days, I’ve been writing four, five hours a day. This is my way of dealing with this tragedy and stress. Some people drink, some take up smoking, I write.
I have written quite a lot, and I keep writing. This how I bleed, one word at a time.
I am going to break it up into smaller, more readable chunks. I’ll send them out as soon as I finish writing them. You’ll be getting a lot more emails from me than usual.
I hope this war ends soon so I can go back to writing on more trivial topics.
By the way, I share my more real-time, unpolished thoughts on Twitter – you can follow me here.
One last thing. If you know any charities that help folks in Ukraine, please send the info to me. I’ll be delighted to donate and will start accumulating a list at the bottom of each email.
Why Was I Blindsided by the War?
Eight days before Russia invaded Ukraine, I wrote an article saying there would be no war. I was certain of it.
I was wrong. How could I get it so wrong?
The more you knew about the situation, the more likely you were to get it wrong.
Let me take you back to my childhood in Russia.I and everyone around me hated the Nazis with every ounce of our souls. Every other movie made in the Soviet Union was about WWII.
A lot of those movies were in black and white. I am not referring just to the color of the film but to the lack of ambiguity of the message: Without provocation, the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union.
Russians were good, courageous, honest, peaceful people. Germans were heartless, evil, soulless invaders that slaughtered innocent Russians.
Russians were good. Germans were bad.
Reminders about WWII were not just in the movies. We studied the horrors of WWII in school, and then there was the May 9th celebration of Victory Day, when Germany surrendered, on May 9, 1945.
Unlike Independence Day in the US, which is just an excuse for BBQ and to sell couches at a 30% discount, May 9th was a day that was truly dear to everyone.
We all went out onto the streets to celebrate it. We all knew someone who had fought or died in WWII, and most of our parents had lived through its horrors.
WWII is not just an entry in a history book for Russians; its memories and lessons are deeply embedded in Russian culture.
This is the first reason why war with democratic Ukraine seemed unfathomable.
Even after it happened, my mind still didn’t want to recognize that at 4 AM – the same hour that Germany attacked the Soviet Union in June, 1941 – Russia invaded and started to bomb Ukraine.
I was looking at the Ukraine situation from the perspective of Russia.
But we are not dealing here with a rational national leader – or at least his rationality has nothing to do with Russia or geopolitics. As we do analysis of the situation going forward, we have to keep this in mind.
Putin doesn’t care about Russia; he only cares about Vladimir Putin. Trying to predict what Putin will do to maintain power is very difficult.
Photo credit: Max Kukurudziak on Unsplash