For a week now, we in the Bay Area have enjoyed a heat wave. And it’s January. The balmy weather has broken records with ideal 72 degree temperatures. Every day this week, I’ve soaked up the sunshine while eating my lunch outside, but it hasn’t quite taken my chill away. My chill is in my memories.
This same week, while I’ve been warm and comfortable, Eastern Europeans have frozen. Russia and Ukraine have battled since New Year’s Day over piping natural gas to their neighbors; and the European Union is angry. The heavy handedness of the former Soviets is frightening, especially after last summer’s military assertiveness in Georgia. Millions in the former satellite countries are suffering in well-below-freezing conditions and they are growing desperate. Elderly people and infants can’t survive without heat. Bulgaria is completely out of its gas supplies and Slovakia has threatened to restart an aging Soviet nuclear power plant to get some relief. (Can you say Chernobyl?)
I know what it feels like. I will never forget my first winter in Romania, 19 years ago, just after the old regime was toppled. By Christmastime, the government, which controlled the heat, still had not turned it on. The temperatures were just above zero, snow was knee-deep on the ground, and it was impossible to put on enough layers even inside to feel comfortable. Ukraine and Russia, please, bring an end to this cold war and don’t let another Cold War begin.