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Planes, tanks & automobiles
Pete Kowalczyk
15 November 2022

Pete Kowalczyk returns to the Polish-Ukrainian borderland and sees how daily life has been affected by the new war. US troops on Tinder, a Castorama carpark meeting point for Ukrainian refugees, sudden windfalls for car mechanics. 

 

Meanwhile, he looks for traces of the old war and of his own family history. « I had come here to find out what happened to my grandad’s family during the war. He once told me — it was clearly a painful memory — that when the war came, he was stuck on the wrong side of the river San in Przemyśl, and he never saw his parents or brothers again. Soviet troops were approaching his village. Crowds of refugees were fleeing in dust, dirt and panic. Nearby villages were burning. He had since tried to find them through the Red Cross in Ukraine and Poland, but there was no sign of them. The regular rhythms of their life, with all its small-town dramas, had been wiped out in an instant, and only a mute nothingness remained. »

 

Travelogues afford glimpses of both tectonic changes and ephemeral details. « Even if the war ends, » a contact tells him, « the NATO troops will stay here for quite a long time. » For the moment, you could tell the US army had arrived because « the local garages had sold out of whiskey. »

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