The Lady with the Lamp

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This was an odd conversation: I was walking out of my building last September carrying a lamp (long story – well not really; it’s summed up below) and an old baba (possibly Ukrainian, possibly Russian, but an Eastern European old lady nonetheless) called me Florence Nightingale – the Lady with the Lamp. Off the cuff I boasted my trivia knowledge by referencing the Crimean War. She said “Ah, that was a good war.”

I’m pretty sure that was a response solely for the purpose of a response. I’m not an expert in any history let alone this particular 19th century conflict, and although she was a senior citizen she certainly wasn’t old enough to have been in the region at the time, although her baba’s baba may have been there to care for soldiers.

As Russia, now that the Olympics are out of the way and they don’t need to appear the least bit friendly to other nations anymore, makes a military move (or threats) on Crimea amidst the Ukrainian civil upheaval, that memory of carrying a kitschy lamp borrowed from a thrift store to help create an outdoor living room for a street festival comes to mind. It’s not a very relevant one. It’s certainly not comparable. I’ve lived in perhaps the greatest luxury of peace + prosperity + well-being that has since been seen by human civilization and I’m merely an audience to turmoil elsewhere in the world, with no sacrifice of my own required.

I have no point of reference to judge wars aside from being completely free of immediate military threat. Some might call this “objective” and others might more accurately call it “really fucking lucky, dude” because objective implies correct instead of oblivious and that’s exactly what I am. The baba who made the empty comment about an 1850s conflict has undoubtedly seen a fair share of conflict far beyond what I can imagine. Her accent suggests she wasn’t born here nor did she grow up here, which would make it likely that when she was my age she was behind the Iron Curtain. She may have friends and family tensely close to the escalating conflict. She may be from Crimea specifically, saying it was a good war because the outcome was a victory in her cultural folklore, or because Nightingale is her hero. She may not be from that area at all, but she would have far more wisdom in this area for me, and far more context for a voice and opinion.

And wouldn’t I be lucky if for the rest of my life it would never be in my place to speak on conflicts like these?

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