An award-winning Italian journalist chronicles his travels along Europe’s eastern frontier.
In his first book translated into English, La Repubblica correspondent Rumiz vents his anger at the European Union’s “rhetoric of globalization,” which homogenizes ethnic distinctions and threatens to obliterate traditional communities. His nostalgic, engaging search for the heart of European identity takes him from the Arctic to the Mediterranean, through present-day Finland, Latvia, Ukraine and Poland. “On my do-it-yourself map,” he writes, “there are no nation-states, only historic border regions that have been swallowed up by geopolitics.” In these regions, the author finds depopulated villages, survivors of mass deportations and exterminations that continued long after World War II. He notes that 9 million Poles and Ukrainians changed countries between 1945 and 1956. Latvia and northern Poland are “a land of ghosts and the uprooted.” In Belarus, Rumiz found only 10 Jews still living where once there was a thriving community. “Not only have they disappeared, but also the Poles, the Lithuanians, the Germans, the Ukrainians, and the Armenians,” the result of ethnic cleansing. History has left the region bereft, and the lure of the West fuels ongoing emigration, especially of young people. In Warsaw, Rumiz viewed ample evidence that the city has been “sucked into the void” of the “analgesic illusionism of the West.” He hurls severe condemnation at Italy, where, he asserts, TV and mobile phones have made people illiterate; where supermarkets with genetically modified foods have replaced local shops; and especially where cultural amnesia has revised history. Unlike Germany, “Italy continues to pretend that it was not Fascist and that it won the war.” Exploring the border between Russia and the European Union, Rumiz realized that he was traveling “a seismic fault that’s only apparently dormant” because Russia, under Putin, is becoming a renewed threat.
A richly detailed journey into Europe’s dark past and vulnerable present.