The weekend was fun, spent in part responding to abuse from BOTH SIDES in the Ukrainian conflict.
First there was a very well-written young lady (I couldn’t fault her English, at least) who was angry that I was repeating Russian ‘talking points’, specifically that Ukraine has a corruption problem, which the Russians apparently think justifies their invasion.
I pointed out that the Ukrainian president had long said the same thing – that Ukraine had a corruption problem – and that, in my opinion, the country’s poor governance certainly hadn’t made it more secure in what was, and is, a very hostile neighbourhood.
She further objected to me having written that the war was all Putin’s fault, or words to that effect. I should have said, apparently, that it was the whole of the Russian people raping Ukrainian women, destroying critical infrastructure, and so on.
Well does any reasonable person think that, were RUSSIAN governance to better refect citizens wishes (given a free press, credible elections, and so on), the country would go around sacrifcing the lives of its young men on such daft imperialist projects?
Not to say that the whole of the Russian people aren’t, in some way, at fault. But without their crazy leader, it seems improbable that things would have got so far.
I’m betting that what’s behind the young woman’s argument is money. Blame just Putin, and the Russian people and their future goverments might have a case for avoiding paying for the damage caused to their neighbours. Whereas if it’s the whole of the Russian people at fault, well then, they should pay the consequences, meaning foot the bill for reconstruction.
Next I heard from the Americans, specifically from someone accusing me of gullibly repeating Ukrainian propaganda, and enclosing a link to an article published by libertarian nut cases ‘The Cato Institute’. Their website states that they keep busy “Promoting an American public policy based on individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peaceful international relations.”
Sounds reasonable enough when put like that, but according to the nut cases, Russia was provoked into invading its much smaller, non-nuclear, neighbour. The war was all Nato’s fault!
I confess I didn’t read the article in detail, and won’t link to it (Google the institute if you’re interested) but while there’s an argument that the USA totally stands to gain as Russia wastes blood and treasure on an extended war against a neighbour, and another that the yanks should maybe mind their own business (which would be a first), the stance that poor, innocent Putin had his back to the wall and so no other option but to invade nasty nazi Ukraine is plainly, as I put it to the link-sending lady, bullshit.
So there you go, both sides think I’m helping the enemy. Guess I must be doing something right, after all!
And so, to business.
You’ll find today’s FREE article in our thirty-part Summer Series here:
It’s long, it’s quite hard, maybe C1 in places, but it’s very interesting – about the lives of Italian conscripts in World War One.
I sympathise with conscripts in ANY army, by the way, and today’s article gives a good overview of the dangers and miseries they face, and have always faced.
At the end of the article, there’s a link back to an episode from our first Summer Series – four years back, on the Romans – the idea being that readers can compare the treatment of Roman troops and WWI conscripts. I’d highly recommend reading both, if you’ve time.
Not interested in war, particularly? Italian cuisine, maybe? Our writer covers what soliders ate (Roman soldiers too, in the linked-to article), and how conscription helped spread awareness of Italian regional dishes amongst Italians themselves.
Ever wondered why in some parts of Italy they eat rice, in other places polenta, while further south it’s all pasta, and foods like bread and potatoes are more or less likely to appear on the menu depending on where you happen to be dining?
Milanese specialities, for instance, are very different to what Bologna’s restaurants offer, and if you want decent bread and cheese, then Rome’s the place.
The reasons are geographical, obviously, but also historical – trade routes and so on. There’s a lot in the first Summer Series – on the Romans – about the need to import grain from places like Egypt, so as to feed the city’s citizens, and those in its hinterland.
In this year’s series though, we’re working through from the Risorgimento – the creation of the Italian nation and state – and covering the events (such as WWI but not only) that shaped the new country.
Conscription, for instance, would have provided opportunities for young men from all over the peninsula – when not busy getting bayoneted or machine-gunned – to find out what compatriots from other zones liked to eat, how they spoke, and so on.
Conflict is great for nation-building! The Napoleonic wars, over a hundred years before, had a similar effect on other European states (France, German states, even Britain), I recall.
And arguably the current situation is strengthening national resolve in places that were formerly part of the USSR, or under its influence – Ukraine, obviously, but also Moldova, the Baltic states, Poland, and so on.
Here’s that link again: Episodio 10. La vita dei soldati italiani
And, as always, I’ll remind you that the first nine episodes in this series can be found on our History page.
Scroll right down to the end to find them.
P.S. Half-price eBook of the Week, ‘Vita in trincea’ (B1/2)
Like history? Enjoyed today’s Summer Series episode? Then don’t miss this week’s ‘Half-price eBook of the Week’ offer, Vita in trincea.
The offer is good until Sunday night, so you have all week to save 50%, but given that the story is about the same period/subject as this week’s free articles, if you’re on holiday or otherwise have time to study, why not take a look?
The level is B1/B2 (intermediate/upper-intermediate) which by my reckoning makes it easier than the Summer Series articles (today’s is fascinating, but quite hard in places…)
Also, it comes in .pdf format (the default download), with .epub & .mobi formats available on request at no extra charge.
Some may find ebooks more convenient than reading/listening to a webpage.
So, what’s it about?
Tra il 1915 e il 1917, durante la Prima Guerra Mondiale, l’esercito italiano e quello austriaco si scontrano nella zona montana delle Alpi Carniche, vicino al fiume Isonzo. I militari italiani, reclutati in tutta Italia, vengono mandati al fronte.
“La terra delle montagne, qui, ha un odore strano, una puzza terribile a dire la verità. Non è come a casa” dice Rino a suo fratello Felice a bassa voce, mentre il rumore di molti stivali come i loro marca il ritmo della marcia. “Ancora pochi minuti e arriviamo alla trincea, accelerate il passo!” comanda un ufficiale che cammina poco avanti a loro.
Gli stivali sono scomodi, con il fondo di cartone e i chiodi sulla suola sottile. I piedi dei soldati sanguinano dopo le lunghe ore di cammino al freddo sulle Alpi. L’odore, intanto, è sempre più forte. “Questa puzza viene sicuramente dalla trincea” pensa Rino di nuovo. Felice gli stringe un braccio e dice: “Non ce la faccio più, lo giuro. Devo fermarmi un poco” mentre va avanti a fatica. Rino lo incoraggia: “E dai, che stiamo arrivando, resisti!”
- .pdf e-book (+ audio available free online)
- .mobi (Kindle-compatible) and .epub (other ebook readers) available on request at no extra charge – just add a note to the order form or email us
- 8 chapters to read and listen to
- Comprehension questions to check your understanding
- Italian/English glossary of ‘difficult’ terms for the level
- Suitable for students at intermediate level or above
- Download your Free Sample Chapter (.pdf)
Remember, this week Vita in trincea is 50% discounted, so just £4.99 rather than the usual ‘easy reader’ ebook price of £9.99!
How do I access my ebook?
When your order is ‘completed’ (normally immediately after your payment), a download link will be automatically emailed to you. It’s valid for 7 days and 3 download attempts so please save a copy of the .pdf ebook in a safe place. Other versions of the ebook, where available, cannot be downloaded but will be emailed to people who request them. There’s a space to do that on the order form – where it says Additional information, Order notes (optional). If you forget, or if you have problems downloading the .pdf, don’t worry! Email us at the address on the website and we’ll help. Also, why not check out our FAQ?
Did you read/listen to Saturday’s bulletin of ‘easy’ Italian news?
I was at the beach, so haven’t yet got around to it. It’s on today’s ‘To Do’ list, along with loads of other stuff…
Many thanks, by the way, to everyone who responded to EIN’s bi-monthly appeal for donations, which has now ended.
So I won’t go on about it, except to say that if you’d been meaning to, but were at the beach, the donations page is always open.