Letters on Ukraine: 05/08/22 – Rome, Italy

Travelling in Italy, Steve Lopes observes the country's response to the war in Ukraine, and the influx of Ukrainian refugees across Europe.

I’m in Italy visiting family during a summer overshadowed by war. Here, the progressive Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, has fallen on his sword trying to fix the impossible and has followed in the footsteps of the UK by setting off a government collapse.

The Italian people are dismayed and angry with what is happening. Italians don’t “do patience” well. What they do do well, though, is generosity. While the country deals as best as it can with the increasing cost of living and lack of national unity, the one thing politicians have been in accord with is helping people from Ukraine. 

According to government figures, by 9 March almost 24,000 refugees had arrived in Italy from Ukraine, most crossing the Italian-Slovenian border. Another 10,000 arrived over the next three days, and by April the number had increased to 86,000. Now it’s close to 150,000.

With the shadow of war creeping over Europe and the toll on the Ukrainian people increasing, it’s heartwarming to see the immediacy of the government support from places like Italy and France, which cut red tape to quickly grant temporary refugee status to thousands of dispossessed.

As an Italian-Australian person, I know the generosity of Italy’s people. The other day a popular busker with a crowd of 400 in the bustling Trastevere area of Rome called up two recently arrived Ukrainian singers. There were massive cheers from the audience as they sung their local Ukrainian songs. I’m continuing to draw some of these  people, faces, and feelings I’ve experienced so far from this dark shadow that lies on Europe at the moment.

If you’ve been to Rome you will know there is a fair bit of graffiti on walls around the city, but like the streets of Paris there are heaps of anti-Putin signs and support for the Ukrainians. As Italy is known for its pizza and pasta, what is little known is that most of its flour to make the dough is imported or comes from the Ukraine. Due to the impact of war the prices of flour have gone through the roof, so the connection with Ukraine and its people lies deep within the spirit of Italy.

Everyone here is passionate and angry at the state of what’s happening in Ukraine, in a proud country that is impatient and suffering its own political upheavals with the Prime Minister Draghi.

Latest  /  Most Viewed  /  Related