War and violence in everyday life Europe | DW

A snack bar in Swinoujscie (Swinemünde), a Polish town on the Baltic Sea. Fast food restaurant “Bei Oma Halinka” specializes in the famous Polish dumplings Pierogi. I feel reminded of my grandmother. I love your Russian Pierogi!

Everyone in Poland knows the taste of Russian pierogi: a filling of potatoes, quark and onions, with lots of pepper – delicious! I stand in line at the counter and suddenly I am surprised: on the menu board, the printed “Russian” is pasted in front of the word Pierogi. Now it says: “Ukrainian pierogi.”

Pierogi is popular in Poland – it is sold here at a kiosk in Krakow

According to the Polish border guards, 3.4 million refugees from Ukraine have entered Poland since February 24 this year. Plus as many as 1.5 million Ukrainians have lived and worked there before. In der selben Zeit sind zwar auch etwa 1,3 Millionen ausgereist, doch das ändert nichts am Gesamtbild: Überall im Land hört man auf den Straßen, in Läden und Cafés Ukrainisch, Russisch oder dieses, allchente Mischench Polnisch a Speicher he is.

But with the pierogi in the snack bar, something else struck me: the war had entered everyday life. It changes consumer behavior and shapes popular culture. For better or for worse.

War and daily life

Soon after the snack stop, I go to a useful event for young Ukrainian artists. A DJ in a loose-fitting Led Zeppelin print plays the role of new Ukrainian folklore. They drink beer, move to the beat of the music and shout “Glory to Ukraine! Death to the enemies!”

Another example: a well-known Polish producer of mustard. Suddenly, the popular variety in its range of products, “Russian mustard”, disappeared from the shelves. They are no longer available, as stated on the company’s website.

Customers in front of a shelf in a supermarket in Krakow

Russian products disappear from Polish stores

An opera by Mussorgsky was also removed from the Polish National Theater program in solidarity with the “heroic struggles of Ukrainians for their homeland,” the theater director said.

A respected liberal writer lectures his followers on social media that “Russians” are murderers and rapists. Anyone who refuses to admit this and tries to separate is called an idiot.

After all, a prominent progressive journalist allows himself the temptation almost every day to post videos of the current events of the war. A grenade launcher is fired, a cloud of smoke and fire rises from a Russian tank. Sometimes the videos are accompanied by military music, sometimes they are simply with a happy pop song and are captioned as “good news.” It is worth noting that not only members of the regular Ukrainian armed forces are “celebrated” in this way, but also members of volunteer battalions, whose political inclinations the journalist has recently found completely repugnant.

residual violence

I’ve seen wars that have become a part of everyday life and pop culture in many other places. About twenty years ago, during my first trips to Lebanon, I noticed stickers on car windows. They showed an armed man in a heroic pose, with a machine gun in one hand and the infamous Hezbollah flag in the other. When I followed the matter with one or another car owner, they said: I do not have to share the political views of the party, but they are fighting for the freedom of the country.

Lebanese soldiers and military vehicles drive under large portraits of Hezbollah leaders Hassan Nasrallah and Muhammad Raad during Lebanon's general elections on May 15, 2022.

Pictures of Hezbollah leaders Hassan Nasrallah and Muhammad Raad in Lebanon

I also remember the hand-stitched dolls in national costumes, with a Kalashnikov felt on their arm, in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico. At a time when social media was hardly a factor, it was marketed through a network of local stores where you could buy it, complete with a DVD of the Zapatista family’s struggle under Subcomandante Marcos.

Southern Lebanon and Southern Mexico are just two of the many regions in the world marked by decades of war and violence. Because it is very difficult to end wars that have become a part of everyday life and entered popular culture. Once violence is in our midst, it spreads relentlessly. We all get used to conflict and learn to live with it. With this comes the danger of prolonging and intensifying them. With the outbreak of war in everyday life, Ukraine is not alone facing a bad fate.

Stanislaw (Stan) Strasburger is a writer and cultural director. His current novel, The Story Dealer, was published in German in 2018 (in Polish in 2009 and in Arabic in 2014). The author was born in Warsaw and lives alternately in Berlin, Warsaw and various Mediterranean cities.

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