The day after the invasion started, a woman and her husband reached Lviv from a small city south of Kiev. The woman was suffering the late stages of cancer. She was weak and tired. Her husband helped her into the bus that would take them to the Polish border. She was strong in spirit, well, she used to be. Among her painkillers and vitamins, her bag held sunflower seeds that she would have planted in their garden in late March. They were a gift from her sister, a symbol of hope. She carried them with her, along with some photographs and papers they would need. The husband and wife were exhausted as the bus slowed near the border. It was there that all men under sixty said goodbye to the wives, mothers, children they had brought to safety. The men would go back to fight. For the first time since leaving Bila Tserkva, the woman cried.
The same day, but kilometres away, the rear axle broke on an old supply truck. The Russian boy-driver had tried rocking the machine in the muddy field, jamming forward and reverse when he heard the snap. He and his comrades climbed out. Drafted, they should have passed two horrible, but quiet, years as Russian soldiers doing drills and pretending to fire rifles. But a month ago, they were told they would be peace keepers along the Ukrainian border. They were assigned to the truck and sent west. Now they were in a war, in mud, in a field, out of food, low on water, with a truck that would never move again. They didn’t even know they were deep inside the country of Ukraine.
This war, started by a delusional autocrat, could bring nothing good – unless it leads to Putin’s disposal.
I’ve never been to Russia or Ukraine. I’ve spent many months in central Europe, right on Ukraine’s doorstep, but never inside either country. I would have loved to have seen beekeeping there. Russia has a long history of innovation and invention in beecraft. Apimondia’s World Congress was set to begin later this year in Russia and I was planning to attend. The last big Apimondia meeting was in Montreal. I was there – and even gave a talk (about the foraging range of honey bees) and set up a poster (about the expanding phenomenon of urban beekeeping). I met a lot of interesting folks, beekeepers of all sorts. Some were Russian. Some were Ukrainian.
A few hours ago, Apimondia, the huge international beekeepers’ and researchers’ organization, held an emergency session to decide whether or not to convene in Russia this year – they have cancelled it. Unfortunately, during the first hours of the invasion, the Apimondia World Congress first released this statement, which infuriated beekeepers everywhere:
So, the people operating the international congress this year saw the violent invasion of Ukraine as one of the “geopolitical problems of the world”. I suspect that it was the Russian organizing committee for the 2022 World Congress in Russia that released this statement. Did they really want to host a world bee meeting that would have been attended only by delegates from Belarus, Syria, and North Korea? The rest of us would have boycotted it.
Actually, I should have thought of boycotting this one even before the invasion. The mobsters running Russia get a cut (“protection money”) from almost every dollar spent in the country. It works like this. If you rent a hotel room, some of your money goes to gangsters who make sure the permits are renewed for the hotel the next year. They also make sure that firemen will show up in case of a fire. Those local political appointees who collect the special ‘taxes’ from the hotel pass some cash along to their bosses, some of that goes to the next one up in the chain, all the way to the richest person in the world, who controls a large army and a quarter-trillion dollar personal fortune (Seriously, almost $250,000,000,000).
If you want to help the victims in Ukraine, there are ways to get involved. Here in Canada, the federal government will match donations made to the Red Cross Ukrainian Emergency Fund. We contributed while our 15-year-old daughter took $100 out of her savings (she had worked at a farm last year) and gave it to the fund, knowing that it grew to $200 immediately and will help some kids escaping the tragedy. Canada has the third-highest number or people with Ukrainian ancestry in world (after Ukraine and Russia), so the invasion affects families of people we know.
It’s difficult and dangerous for Russians to protest the war, even though a large portion of Russia’s population is risking lives to oppose their president. Arnold Butov (below) is the political leader of Russia’s beekeepers, president of the National Union of Russian Beekeepers. Hopefully this kindly-looking gentleman will not suffer consequences because of the cancellation of Apimondia’s World Congress. It’s a sad situation for Russia’s beekeepers, but at least their cities are not on fire as in Ukraine.
So, we are happy that Apimondia leaders met at an emergency meeting today and voted anonymously to cancel the Russian venue. They are looking for another location, somewhere else in Europe. Probably not in Kiev.