Excerpt from a Work-in-progress

by Andrea Scrima

View from the Villa Romana in Florence

March 1, 2022

I left Florence exactly two years ago, a week after the first Corona lockdowns went into effect on February 22, 2020; I returned to the city for the first time yesterday, just as Russian attacks on Ukraine shifted into full gear. Back in Berlin, the war felt suddenly very close: we share a peculiarly intense, at times numinous northern continental winter light with our neighbors to the East; we are united by weather fronts, massive drifts of leaden, seemingly immobile nimbostratus clouds inching slowly across the North European Plain through Poland and Belarus and drifting farther east and south, eventually yielding to the frigid Siberian High and the weather patterns of the Black Sea Lowland. Moving eastward, the clement maritime climate of the western plains gradually gives way to harsher temperatures: summers are hotter, winters bitter cold. The day before yesterday, as over 100,000 people gathered in Berlin between the Victory Column and the Brandenburg Gate to protest the Russian invasion, the sky was sunny and clear, and although there was still a frigid bite in the air, the snow covering the streets of Lviv and Kharkiv and Kiev had either passed us by or was blown into Ukraine from the northeast. Martius, named after the Roman god of war, marked the beginning of the ancient calendar year and the resumption of military campaigns following a winter hiatus. Today, on the first of this ominous month, a forty-mile-long Russian convoy is approaching Kiev. It’s just above freezing there; precipitation is in the forecast for the next several days, expected to give way to subzero temperatures. People will be bombed out of their homes and forced to flee in the freezing rain; later, the slush on the rubble-strewn roads will turn to ice, making their journey on foot even more arduous. Read more »