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In the run-up to Christmas it was clear that a war between Russia and Ukraine was becoming increasingly likely. So we asked Artem Chekh to write the lead story for our February issue about his home city of Kyiv and about how you live with the constant threat of everything being snatched away – the places you love, your home, your friends. We turned to Chekh because of his 2017 book Absolute Zero, about his time in the Ukrainian army, including months on the frontline in Donbas, and his story caught the moment perfectly. “Last spring my wife and I bought an apartment in a nice part of the city,” wrote Chekh. “But it’s impossible to enjoy it without reservation. Our son is 11 years old and traumatised by a war that has lasted two thirds of his life. He can just about remember when I went to the front. The other day he asked me and my wife, ‘If the Russians want Kyiv so much, why would they bomb it?’” 

As I write, Chekh’s family have left the city and he has stayed to fight. On a dime the world spins: things we took for granted vanish, new world orders emerge, threats that moved in the shadows are suddenly in our faces. And people – all of us – are left wondering, “Where next?”

For this issue, Alexei Korolyov, our Vienna correspondent, and photographer Stuart Franklin, have journeyed along southern Ukraine’s borders with Romania and Moldova, speaking with refugees, security chiefs and local leaders to see how these small countries could cope if all of vast Ukraine falls and they have Russia as a neighbour again. And also how they can help the stream of people seeking refuge. 

In these pages, we have also looked at everything from Europe’s Russian energy dependency to Kyiv’s media. If you want to get a sober, global assessment of all that’s happening, in real time, I also encourage you to listen to our news shows on Monocle 24 (all available as podcasts) and sign up to our free newsletter, The Monocle Minute, where our team has been delivering some great analysis and giving voice to people in Ukraine.

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The need to be prepared is a theme that comes up in other guises across this issue. Christopher Lord, our new US editor, has headed to Montana, which has become a thriving base for aviation companies building aircraft to tackle wildfires (see here). 

Over in Turin, meanwhile, our writer Jessica Bridger meets Fiat ceo Olivier François as the company pushes towards an all-electric future and attempts to reignite the industrial ambitions of its home city (see here). And then there’s our retail survey (see here).

Retail is something that’s easy to think of as a frippery when you have seismic world events in play (although even here, the decision of Ikea to cease its operations in Russia garnered global headlines). But good retail can do wonders. It can provide places where people come together, create jobs, build community, offer space for young entrepreneurs and help cut the number of delivery vans on our streets. And it can be fun too. So we asked writers in 10 cities to look at projects that proved resistant to the pandemic’s economic punch, people reviving high streets and good design turning around neighbourhoods.

Another standout this month is the Expo (see here), which looks at the strange, elusive notion of value. How can antique glassware be cheaper than modern knockoffs? Why does the allure of a good story add so much value to a piece of furniture? Why is an artwork that only exists as a contract so cherished? At a time when people get so overexcited about nfts and the roller-coaster values of digital currency investments, we felt that it was the perfect moment to ask, “What do you really value?”

This is monocle. We bring you stories from the frontlines but, even in the most adverse moments, we will regroup, think ahead and deliver some hope and direction too. And see the world from every angle.

Finally, some house news. If you would like to be part of a bigger, in-person conversation about everything from newsgathering to architecture, you should come to The Monocle Quality of Life Conference in Paris, that we will be hosting with Le19M, a prestigious new craft and innovation centre that is home to some of Chanel’s finest creative partners. There’s a welcome reception on Thursday 2 June, the main conference day is Friday 3, and there are special tours of the best of the city on the Saturday. To find out more, visit monocle.com/conference

Until next month, thank you for reading and if you want to contact me, send story ideas or know more about monocle, you can drop me a note at at@monocle.com.

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