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War isn’t funny: A comedy of errors

If everyone fought for their own convictions, there would be no war.

Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

Hey. Are you there? It’s me, Barabule Cuterescu, the Molodvan peasant, your humble potato. This will be my fourth dispatch from northeastern Romania, and to be totally fucking honest, it could very well be my last. If you’ve been reading these horrible diatribes of mine, you might remember me making some wise-crack about little green Russian men running around our corn-fields if Putin invades Romania. Well, turns out that shit isn’t funny, and it’s not what I imagined. It’s not going to be Russian tanks plowing through our fields. It’ll be all of NATO rushing to the front lines. I’m serious.

Originally published by The Transmetropolitan Review.

Let me catch you noobs up to speed. I live in an anarchist commune now completely frosted with the first snows. I have to keep the giant teracotă stove burning with wood all day, for both cooking and heat. It’s currently just above freezing outside. I live within 90 kilometers of Iași, the nearest big city and traditional capitol of the former Kingdom of Moldova. I live in the Moldova region of Romania, which is wholly separate from the Republic of Moldova. From my front door, it’s about a three hour hike on foot to reach the Moldovan frontier. Beyond that is a land outside of NATO, outside of the EU, and if Russia happens to invade Ukraine, the next country in their path is Moldova.

Crazy thing, there’s already 1,500 Russian soldiers nearby in breakaway Transnistria, along with 200,000 ordinary citizens who all speak Russian. This crazy non-country that Google Earth won’t even display on the map, otherwise known as the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, is wedged between Moldova and the Ukraine. In other words, if Russia overwhelms Ukraine, NATO is literally going to be staging their tanks outside my window, near the Romanian/Moldovan border. Why? Well, if you didn’t read the above paragraphs, I’ll make it real dumb: I live at the bitter end of the western world.

I really hate writing the phrase western world. It was pounded into me in school, and I only use it because a minority of deranged, powerful people are maintaining this western world as a semi-coherent entity. In their disease-riddled minds, Romania is part of this western world, but I’ll let you know right now, that’s all a load of horseshit. I know for a fact that the only thing western about Romania are the garbage commodities we’re told to buy, our Latin language, the weapons our military purchases, and the Orthodox Christian insanity we’re still too stupid to shake off our backs. Beyond that, we might as well be a bunch blood-sucking Turks, given our taste in music and food. I’ll give you a culinary example.

We eat it with tomato, bread, and salt, but I just drink the stuff

When I happen to visit my racist, peasant-ass parents, I always insist my mother makes what we savages call salata de vinete, or eggplant salad. Sounds Spanish, I know, but before I stress your limited reading comprehension, I’ll just remind you that Romanian is a Latin language, which means it comes from Italy, the place where Super Mario is from. So, yes, I love me some salata de vinete, I beg my mom to make it before I’ll even visit, almost like I’m extorting her, and I can devour an entire bowl by myself, with or without bread. I know, eggplant salad, what the fuck could I be describing? Well, you’ll be surprised to know that salata de vinete tastes exactly like baba ghanoush. To be perfectly frank, it is baba ghanoush.

No, nothing like salata de vinete

What is baba ghanoush? I’ll tell you! Since you probably thought it was some benevolent Arab leader, I’ll be kind enough to let you know that baba ghanoush is a blended Middle-Eastern mixture of roasted eggplants (yum), sesame seed paste (tahini), olive oil, lemon, garlic, salt. Hold on, though. Wait till you hear how us Romanian fucked it up with our salata de vinete, or eggplant salad. Ready? In our recipe, we use roasted eggplants (yum), onion, sunflower oil, lemon, garlic, salt. See? We’re peasant as fuck, using onions instead of tahini and sunflower oil instead of olive, but that’s only because sesame and olives don’t grow so well up here in snow-man-ass Moldova. You have to agree, though, baba ghanoush and salata de vinete are basically the same shit. So how did we all come to love this classic Levantine dish? The dirty, Islamic invaders, that’s how. The dreaded Turks. I don’t know, I guess they must have forced it down our throats or something, right?

Closed that Silk Road real good, didn’t they?

Regardless, I love the stuff, especially the way my mom makes it. Every other Romanian peasant like me will tell you the same thing, probably, at least if they have a tongue that works. But let me tell you, if you act dumb like me and tell the village bar denizens about the Turkish origins of our salata de vinete, or eggplant salad, you’ll be accused of sacrilege. Meanwhile, these same Molodvan peasants heckling me at the bar while I read out the baba ghanoush recipe will go to the house with all the scrap cars this Friday and dance to manele like that shit didn’t also come from Turkey. I don’t care how thick people’s heads are, the truth is obvious: Romanians still love the invader’s food, just like they still love their music. By the way, if you want to see some big juicy booties, just type MANELE 2021 into Yotube, hit play on anything, and you might experience a fragment of my world.

It can be a pretty stupid world, one where I have to explain that Turks aren’t Arabs, they’re Turks, I guess. Growing up under communism and capitalism, both systems taught me that the Turks were the historic enemy of our beloved Romania, the opponent through which we defined ourselves as a glorious nation, that kind of bullshit. To put it simply, the Ottoman Empire began its invasion of the north in the early 1400s and basically ruled over this place until the mid 1800s. We’re talking about 400 years of uninterrupted Islamic influence up here in the snowy hills, but don’t let me fool you, it wasn’t happy fun time. We’re also talking about 400 years of uninterrupted warfare, carnage so bloody it gave birth to the Dracula legend.

And yet, in the midst of it all, a miracle occurred. One day, Vlad the Impaler himself, dripping head to toe in blood, was offered a dish of baba ghanoush by some poor Turkish peasant woman he’d enslaved. As he took the earthen dish, filled with a strange melange he was about to throw in the woman’s face, the food was magically transformed before his very eyes. Vlad no longer saw baba ghanoush, he now beheld salata de vinete, or eggplant salad, and the moment that first delectable bight passed across his tongue, Vlad the Impaler became a fang-sporting vampire for life, just like everyone who eats it. At least that’s the story I grew up with in the wastelands of Moldova. So if this article has made you hungry for eggplant salad, be careful. My vampire charms have only just begun.

To be perfectly blunt, I’m trying to make a point, so here it is: if it weren’t for all this war and hatred, we all have a lot of tasty shit to share with each other, and that’s putting it mildly. I want that world, I really do, a world where we all travel the globe in peace, sharing what we can, especially recipes and secrets. I think my friends and I have built a tiny piece of that world here, in this poor Moldovan village, but unfortunately for us, we’ll be on the literal frontline of any future war in Ukraine, and this usually impoverished, peaceful, sleepy region will become an armed military-state with NATO and the Romanian secret police running background checks on all of us crazies. If it really heats up, who knows what could happen, and that’s why I’m writing this now, because war is more likely than not. Maybe you’ve read my other dispatches and pieced it all together by now, but I’ll do my best to tell you why Ukraine is fucked (surprise, surprise). It might take me a minute, though, so I apologize in advance. I know you have to pee.       

I also know they do unspeakable things to you people in the US, but if you can sludge through your glitched-out memory, you might recall something from either highschool or your catatonic father’s History Channel programming, a factoid about winter being Russia’s greatest ally in the war against so-and-so. Ring any bells? Napoleon? Hitler? Defeated by snow? Anyway, winter is this thing that begins soon, on December 21, 2021. It’s not even here yet, at least according to the Earth’s tilt, but let me tell you, it’s already cold as fuck, and I’m not even in Russia. 

From my tranquil little commune, which I love with all my heart, it would take me about a month to walk to Saint Petersburg, but only if I did it in the spring and summer. If I tried something like that in winter, I’d die before I left Ukraine, which sort of wraps around the north of Moldova. I know this will be hard for you to conceive, but my commune is around 1,600 km south of Saint Petersburg, which has always been the European city of Russia (ie: the western city). We’re talking almost the same distance as the entire western coastline of the US, by the way. That’s how close this western city is from Iași, the historical capitol of the Kingdom of Moldova. So can you imagine me, or anyone, walking that far in winter, especially the one that’s swiftly approaching, with Saint Petersburg clocking a record breaking -25 degrees C (or -5.8 degrees F for you losers) a couple weeks before the solstice?

As for industrial-ass Iași, the city no one ever thinks about, it’s almost 2,000 km away from Brussels, headquarters of the European Union. For you American pig-dogs, that’s almost the entire length of your cursed eastern seaboard. If I walked from Iași to Brussels during winter, I might live, but only if I caught a boat right here in the Black Sea and sailed over 3,000 km to Antwerp first. These are the huge scales we’re talking about, distance-wise, and poor Iași is almost in the middle, but not quite. We all know Ukraine is in the exact middle history, as always. 

Anyway, I got a little sidetracked with my geography there, but now at least you can imagine thousands of kilometres of frozen winter mountains and fields and forests, along with human cities that rely on natural gas to heat their Soviet-ass boilers in their Soviet-ass apartment blocks. If the gas were to go out across eastern Europe, the electricity would become scarce and most people would begin to freeze. Their apartments would become uninhabitable and only us peasants with wood-burning stoves will be able to remain comfortable indoors, though probably in the dark, unless we start burning our cooking oil in lamps. If the natural gas were to go out in Europe in the middle of this winter, it would be a catastrophic humanitarian disaster, to put it mildly, one that would also severely damage the natural world. When faced with death, most humans will cut down a tree and burn it to stay warm, even if it’s wet and green.

The Russian state is banking on this winter to win their war, and they are right to do so. I can’t be the only person to see this, but if I am, it’s really pathetic. When the first battle kicks off, when the little green men start streaming over the border, bet on the gas ceasing its transit through Belarus and Ukraine, instantly crippling eastern Europe and throwing the west into crisis. Every day that war continues, thousands will die and millions more will begin to freeze. Within a month, the Ukraine will be shredded apart, and beyond that, the implications are terrifying. I hate to call it hope, but the only glimmer of something I can see is that the EU, the Ukrainian state, and NATO will have to swiftly negotiate with the Russian state or risk total disaster in the middle of a pandemic.

That’s not the only silver lining, if you choose to call it that. As it happens, a shit-ton of fascists are at the front lines, their guns pointed eastward. There’s a lot of propaganda flowing from both directions, sure, I’ll concede that much, but there is a fuck-ton of documentation (ie: receipts) of the pervasive and heavy presence of overt fascists in the Ukrainian armed forces. There’s even fascists from your disgusting country gleefully shivering in a trench, lured in to battle by some promise of defeating the Soviet Union. They’re all gonna die, by the way, because on the other side of no-man’s-land is the psychotic Red Army of their nightmares, taught from birth that Russia’s greatest contribution to history was smashing the Nazi army in the middle of winter, and now they’ll get a second chance. Ideology’s a hell of a drug.

It’s going to be ugly and horrible in poor, unlucky Ukraine, ravaged for a solid two centuries by literally everyone. I tell this to the peasants down in our village bar, they sort of understand what’s coming, but the other night I got a bit animated when some fool said the war will be over quickly. To make sure he knew how dumb he was, I painted this scenario: imagine a missile falling on the central gas plant in Iași, this giant Soviet beast that still heats most of this industrial city. Nothing would bring it back quickly, and all those giant buildings surrounding it would be uninhabitable. All of the old Soviet cities are designed like this, not just Iași, and the Ukraine is full of them. After that outburst, I asked the bar to have a little sympathy for the foreigners, always a big ask around here, and to give these Moldovan peasants full credit, they all took a drink in silence.

Plus, all our shit is falling to pieces

Unfortunately, the Moldova region is like the south of France, minus all the ritzy wealth, leaving only the racism and bigotry. The rest of Romania looks at us as backward savages, and when the bar quickly resumed jerking themselves off at the prospect of our little village being near the front, I’m tempted to agree. To be fair, they’re mostly excited at the prospect of something changing, anything really, because our performance space, our weekly movies, our dinner nights, our computer lab, and our dirt-cheap mill just aren’t enough to keep them happy. They’re true nihilists, and deep down, all of them want this neo-liberal nightmare to end, and if Putin is the one to deliver, they’ll go with that guy.

The thing they’re all missing is that Russia has a friend and ally called China, who they share a border with, whereas here in Romania, we only have our natural gas reserves, the biggest in eastern Europe, and the rest of the EU will want it from us, only that’s not going to go well, is it? It’s all lined up, a bunch of dynamite dominoes, and the only action that will satisfy Putin is total western withdrawal from the Ukraine, which I guess he made clear to Biden the other day. So far, the west is careening forward like an intersectional bowling ball, paying attention to everything but the bloody reality only those expendable Ukrainians will have to live through, if they can. 

All of this could be stopped right now, but those western monsters have invested too much money and too many weapons into this geopolitical game of theirs, and some of them still think the scheme will work, even though all they’ve done is create a giant ammo dump, ready to explode at the slightest spark. Meanwhile, here in Romania, a bunch of sly thieves recently stole millions of dollars worth of diesel fuel from a US military base in seaside Constanta, and this was over four years. Yes, I know, your sick country has a fucking military base here in Romania, and as you can see, we’re a solid NATO ally. Much further to the north, the 36 year-old Finnish PM was exposed to COVID, left her phone at home, went clubbing until 4 AM, and basically did the sanest thing a PM could do at this moment in history, because Russia comes out on top in every scenario, and the entire world is about to change, even here in Moldova.

If the Russian army overruns the Ukraine, if Belarus gets in on the action, the Republic of Moldova will have to make a choice. Do they lean west and allow NATO to access their eastern border, or do they lean east and allow Russia to access their western border? Pretty sure they’ll lean into Russia, in that scenario, because they all know what a disaster Romania is. In that case, the little green men will be a half hour drive from my village, and all of NATO will be here, parking missile launchers in our corn fields.

I’ll probably stick it out, even if they invade our village. This is the only place I truly know, and it’s been through a lot. My friends and I have tried to change our region for the better, and we made our first public stand against the Church thanks to COVID. Luckily, over half the village was with us because our priest is a creepy, corrupt asshole with a paved road leading to his Church. It’s the only paved road in town, obviously, and the cement they used is already crumbling apart. Thanks to all his corruption and greed, few people trust this priest, especially when he spouts gibberish from the internet, claiming COVID was made by Bill Gates and causes homosexuality. The village isn’t a liberal bastion, not at all, but even our strongest elders can’t survive COVID, and despite our best efforts, we lost over a dozen of our neighbors, people who were born before WWII and knew shit you can’t imagine.

The good thing is that we don’t have to go to Church anymore, and few will think badly of us for it. Even the Russian state is cracking down on this Orthodox insanity, sort of, but this winter pandemic won’t be fun, anywhere. If a war starts, it will be a hell beyond description. I wish I could fly to Brussels right now, burst into the EU HQ like the witch Margarita, smash everything to pieces, and force those Euro fucks to not go through with it. When I was done, I’d do the same in Moscow, then I’d go to DC, and at exactly midnight, the magical pumpkin bombs I left in each seat of power would explode, leveling those temples into powder. I’d do this, and more, if I could, but I can’t, and neither can you. All we can do is make where we live a better place, for everyone.

To those of you who actually know me, trust that underneath all of my dark humor and stupid jokes, I truly love you. To everyone else trying to figure out who or what I am, just know that what I’m describing is brutally real, and I’m only telling you the bullshit condensed version. We all need a reality check, and trust me, yours is coming soon enough, just like it is for me. Wish us all luck, keep us in your hearts, and for fuck’s sake, don’t let people ignore what’s about to happen in the Ukraine. If all goes well, these words will be as dumb as they truly are. If not, you’ll see why I have my dark sense of humor. It’s the only way to make this nightmare bearable. Ciao, bella. 


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