Over and over again — throughout the entirety of my adult life, or so it feels — I have been shown Polish photographs from the beautiful summer of 1939: The children playing in the sunshine, the fashionable women on Krakow streets. I have even seen a picture of a family wedding that took place in June 1939, in the garden of a Polish country house I now own. All of these pictures convey a sense of doom, for we know what happened next.September 1939 brought invasion from both east and west, occupation, chaos, destruction, genocide. Most of the people who attended that June wedding were soon dead or in exile. None of them ever returned to the house.
In retrospect, all of them now look naive. Instead of celebrating weddings, they should have dropped everything, mobilized, prepared for total war while it was still possible. And now I have to ask: Should Ukrainians, in the summer of 2014, do the same? Should central Europeans join them?
…and here’s the thing. Ms. Applebaum is married to the Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs. The question of whether another set of Russian tanks are going to roll over Poland again is not exactly a detached question to her: and the sight of Vladimir Zhirinovsky – a man who I did not want to believe could possibly exist in real life, when I first encountered him – idly talking about nuking a place where her family lives is perhaps not genially amusing to the woman. Never forget: people are always conservative about the stuff that they like, and know best.
PS: I’m sorry, but I don’t know what the hell we can do about Russia invading Ukraine that isn’t already obvious to everybody except Barack Obama.