When I was six, my father took me to a German kinder-garden.

He was learning German, at 35, and thought I should start earlier.
In the end, I didn’t exactly learn the language but during the process I met a lot of nice German speaking people.

At 16 I read

The Death Factory, a book about the Auschwitz concentration camp

Well, actually it was translated in Romanian but the original cover is far more suggestive for non-Romanians.

That was when I learned to distinguish between a people as a whole and the atrocities committed by a minority.

As I grew up, under communist rule, I noticed the ‘little compromises’ my parents had to make in order to provide a better life for me. The small bribes offered whenever ‘necessary’, not speaking up their minds in ‘official settings’, allowing stupid, but powerful, individuals to boss them around…
As a young adult, I understood how those small compromises, made by almost all of us, added up and eventually caused the entire regime to collapse. Eaten up, from inside, by institutionalized corruption.

As a no longer young adult, after the regime change, I noticed that ‘compromise’ was so entrenched in our habit that it had been carried over into the new regime. As if the new found liberty had been interpreted as the freedom to accept ‘un-earned benefits’ from whoever offered them. In exchange for things which were not ours to give…
The same was happening in other ex-communist countries. The closer to Moscow, the more intense the phenomenon.

That was when I learned to dissociate corruption from any particular political regimen.

Soon after that I learned the international dimension of the whole thing.

BONN, Germany (AP) _ Germany is set to outlaw tax deductions for bribes paid to foreign officials, falling in line with a U.S.-led drive to fight corruption and promote fair competition.
The change is part of proposed tax reforms presented Monday by the new center-left government of Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Parliament is expected to approve the measure before the end of the year.
Currently, kickbacks paid by German companies abroad or at home to win contracts are tax deductible as legitimate business expenses unless the person who made the payout is found out and convicted of bribery. In practice, that rarely happens

AP NEWS, November 10, 1998

Gerhard Schroeder, who had called „the Russian president a “flawless democrat””, „has been tapped to join the Gazprom supervisory board”.

That was when I realized how many of those living inside a country have no effing idea about what some of their compatriots do when ‘working’ abroad.

A few short years later, a Romanian president had the audacity to shout ‘the emperor is naked’.

Corruption belongs to both the public and private sectors, and the president has said he does not shift responsibility to anyone, but that it must be “shared and assumed.”
An official cannot be corrupted if there is no one to pay a bribe, just as a ministry cannot pay 50% more for a contract if there is no consultant to do an expertise in this regard, Basescu explained.
“Let’s get out of the hypocrisy. If there is corruption, the state alone cannot be corrupted, it has a partner. The state cannot be alone. It has a partner and this is the private economy.”
Basescu was present yesterday at the launch of the Romanian Competitiveness Report prepared by AmCham.

Claudiu Medrega, Ziarul Financiar, 15/12/2011

That was when I learned that democracy alone is not enough to cure corruption. That democracy can also be eaten from the inside by this worm. If ‘the people’ do not pay enough attention!

This morning, on top of the already ‘normal’ news from the Ukrainian front, I learned that

“Last week, Boris Romanchenko, a 96-year-old Holocaust survivor, was killed when shelling hit his ordinary flat in the war-ravaged Ukrainian city of Kharkiv”
“The multi-storey apartment building where Romanchenko lived was shelled and caught on fire,” said the statement.
Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, has been under heavy fire from Russian artillery throughout the invasion, which Russian President Vladimir Putin calls a “special military operation” necessary to disarm and “denazify” its neighbour.”

Reuters, March 22, 2022

That was when I understood that ‘what goes around, comes around’ is driven by our bad choices.
By our unwillingness to make good what we have already learned from past mistakes.

Should have learned from past mistakes…

Really guys?
The Red Army had spilled its blood to free the people herded to be killed at Auschwitz and a survivor from Auschwitz is killed by a Russian bomb attempting to ‘denazify’ Ukraine?!?
Which Ukraine wanted nothing but to join the EU and NATO?
But couldn’t! Crimea was occupied while Donetsk and Luhansk have rebelled against the central government… and NATO – like all other clear headed alliances do not admit new members which are already involved in ‘border disputes’.

Putin says Russia’s concerns expressed over three decades about NATO’s expansion were dismissed by the West, and post-Soviet Russia was humiliated after the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union.”
He says NATO, as an instrument of the United States, was building up its military on Ukraine’s territory in a way that threatened Russia.
On March 11, Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told Putin the West was beefing up military forces close to Russia’s Western borders. Putin asked Shoigu to prepare a report on how to respond

For almost 25 years, the West believed Russia could be tamed by diplomacy and trade to maintain stability and security in Europe. In 1997, NATO and Russia signed a “founding act” that was designed to build trust and limit both sides’ force presence in eastern Europe.
The alliance also sought to build a partnership with Russia, which took part in NATO exercises in the Baltic as recently as 2012, according to retired U.S. Admiral James Foggo, who commanded U.S. and NATO fleets in Europe for almost a decade until 2020.

After Russia annexed Crimea in 2014… NATO created small, multinational combat units in Poland and the three Baltic states, which serve as a forward presence to deter Moscow. But the force numbers are designed not to violate the “founding act,” which has hindered NATO’s ability to move troops into the Baltics and Poland on a permanent basis.

So. Putin, spooked by a NATO who doesn’t dare to violate the ‘founding act’ – not even after Russia had occupied Crimea, orders the Russian Army to demilitarize and denazify a country whose independence and integrity was guaranteed by the Budapest Memorandum.

And, caught in the middle, a man whose life had been saved – some 75 years ago, by the Red Army ends up being killed by the Russian one…

Simply because we didn’t pay attention.
And allowed what went around to come back!

Boris Romantschenko of Ukraine, along with five other former prisoners, renews the oath of Buchenwald, from April 19, 1945, at the Buchenwald Concentration Camp Memorial, in Weimar, Germany, April 12, 2015. Picture taken April 12, 2015. Michael Reichel – Buchenwald and Mittelbau-Dora Memorials Foundation/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo