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March 12, 2015

The Last Days of Ukrainian Crimea: A Romantic Journey across Yalta, the Week before Russia Invaded

We knew something was happening when the boyfriend of the lady who we were renting a room from told us we better leave Crimea or we might not be able to get out. No one on the street knew for sure what changes were about to come, but there were already long lines at the ATMs. It was an added touch of panicked bizarreness to an already bizarre place. At least, for me, as an American, I thought Yalta was the definition of strange and beautiful. Looking back, it’s not a big surprise that the invasion happened. The Crimean man who spoke to Alina, my girlfriend, thought she was speaking in Polish when she tried to talk to him in Ukrainian. They were both Ukrainian, but the Crimean man only spoke Russian.

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We didn’t realize it at the time, but we were seeing a place, much like a dream, stuck in time, a pictured set of surreally unique moments; and sadly, even if we were to someday return to that land, to the place we were in those last days in Ukrainian Crimea, it would be impossible to ever return. As with any beautiful dream, what was there cannot last, and often our dreams morph into nightmares. I can only imagine how the people there are doing now, and what they have lost. I consider myself extremely lucky to have experienced such a place before it was lost to invaders in black masks. Alas, you can only live as you can, and hope to love, as you wait for the barbarians at the gate.

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