Enclaves of Our Non-normality
Kyiv doch bleibt Kyiv
Following Biden’s trip to Kyiv on Monday morning, Vitaly Portnikov recalls Ronald Reagan’s visit to West Berlin in 1987, when in front of the Brandenburg Gate he asked Gorbachev to tear down the wall, signalling to the world that it’s possible — and necessary — for good to conquer evil. That’s probably the Berlin speech most Americans remember.
But I hark back to remarks Reagan delivered five years earlier in front of the Charlottenburg Palace, where he blurted out the “Berlin bleibt doch Berlin” the chorus of a folk song everyone laughed about afterwards.
The enclave at the time was chock full of irony, sexual tension and intellectual ferment, enriched with fingerfuls of hash and concerts at the Metropol. As I recall, Olaf, today’s chancellor of Germany, was staging protests to prevent the United States from stationing Pershing missiles in Europe.
In his 1982 pep talk, Reagan invoked Thomas Mann, who once wrote that “A man lives not only his personal life as an individual, but also consciously or unconsciously the life of his epoch.'' I liked that part.
The same words describe Kyiv today … where each moment of everyday life is spent against the backdrop of suffering and chaos. To be a Ukrainian is to live the great historic struggle of this age, the latest — hopefully not fatal — chapter in our endless quest for fast running times and liberty.
Or something like that.
We’ve come a long way since Day 26 of Russia’s full-out invasion, but not nearly as fast or far enough.