Tuesday. 28/6/2022

The Monocle Minute

Image: Artem Chekh

Opinion / Artem Chekh

Into the woods

I live with 20 combatants, all recruits in Ukraine’s Territorial Defence Forces, in an old house in Polesia, a wetland region north of Kyiv. The columns of Russian troops aiming for Kyiv passed through here. Every family can tell you about the horrors of the occupation. Residents of the area help us with food: milk, eggs, venison. We help them with gasoline and our presence. They are calmer with us, they say. If we are here, there is no enemy.

In late March the Russians were forced to turn back from the capital and my unit was moved into the woods near the border with Belarus. We heard stories of murder and looting, mined cemeteries, raped girls and boilers stolen from houses. When we entered a new village, the women would surge towards us, hugging, crying and thanking us. But we were embarrassed. We hadn’t liberated these lands; we hadn’t chased the Russians away.

My unit moved here to prevent a new attack on Kyiv, to build defensive ditches, dugouts and bunkers while more armed units are fighting in the east and south of Ukraine. We have come to terms with the fact that the war will be long and we will have to reconquer our territories one at a time. This is a great and terrible war. But I know that we will win. We have no other option.

I’m lying on an army couch. I haven’t taken off my shoes because I’m on patrol in half an hour. We are prepar­ing to go somewhere closer to the fighting in the east or south. I’m glad because, right now, the stoves in our house are so hot that I can’t breathe. A long night of patrolling the woods is ahead of me. I’ll lie down for a while, then I’ll make myself a coffee, fill my flask and go out into the dark woods, hoping to finally meet a deer. I have never seen a live one before.

Artem Chekh is a Ukrainian novel­ist and soldier. Subscribe today to read his full frontline report in the July/August issue of Monocle, as well as a pre-war dispatch from Kyiv in our February issue.

Image: Felix Odell

Transport / Denmark

Gearing for action

Denmark’s cycle lanes are packed with thousands of commuters and schoolchildren on any given day. But later this week, amateur cyclists will make way for the world’s best bikers as the 109th Tour de France launches in Copenhagen. The bike-loving country has invested DKK150m (€20m) in the event, enlisted thousands of volunteers and even given a bridge in Sønderborg a makeover in yellow, the race’s traditional colour. “The atmosphere in all of Denmark will be electric,” Jeppe Kofod, Denmark’s foreign minister, told The Globalist on Monocle 24. “Cycling is part of our DNA in Denmark.” That cycling culture and the clean air that it enables were key to Copenhagen coming top in this year’s Monocle Quality of Life Survey of the world’s most liveable cities. Kofod hopes that the Tour de France will encourage even more Danes to hop on two wheels – and no doubt boost the global soft power that Denmark draws from its cycling prowess too.

For the full rundown of the best cities to call home, pick up a copy of Monocle’s July/August issue or subscribe today.

Image: Reuters

Energy / Japan

Feeling the burn

Japan is used to ferociously hot temperatures – but not this early in the summer. The country’s highest-ever June temperature, 40.2C, was recorded in the city of Isesaki in the Gunma prefecture this weekend and the mercury was above 35C in Tokyo. As demand for electricity surges, the government issued a warning yesterday that Tokyo and its surrounding areas might not have enough power and urged homeowners and businesses to conserve energy as much as possible, especially between 15.00 and 18.00.

It was the first use of a new alert system, launched in May, which alerts the public a day before reserve electricity supplies drop below 5 per cent. Two causes of the shortage have been highlighted: increasing summer temperatures and the closure of power plants after the 2011 Fukushima disaster. With global energy prices unstable and a public still resistant to a return to nuclear power, the move to alternative sources is more imperative than ever.

Hear more from Monocle’s Tokyo bureau chief, Fiona Wilson, on yesterday’s edition of ‘The Briefing’ on Monocle 24.

Image: Reuters

Society / UK

Court in the crossfire

Barristers in England and Wales begin a second day of strike action today, the latest public service professionals locked in a dispute over pay in the UK. British barristers, famous for their black cloaks and white wigs, specialise in courtroom advocacy and expert advice, and are required by law in criminal trials. The current dispute revolves around “legal aid”, a system by which criminal defendants who cannot afford legal fees are provided state-funded representation.

The Criminal Bar Association, which represents barristers in England and Wales, argues that legal aid remuneration is too low and points out that the profession lost as many as 40 per cent of junior practitioners in one year (pandemic-induced case backlogs aren’t helping either). The government has offered a 15 per cent pay rise but not until the end of 2023. Following recent mass strikes by railway staff and a vote in favour of industrial action by British Airways ground staff, there is a sense that industrial relations in the UK are getting worse.

Image: François BOUCHON/ Figarophoto/Camera Press

Fashion / Italy

True visionary

Leonardo del Vecchio, founder of the Luxottica eyewear group, has died at the age of 87, the company confirmed yesterday. The Italian billionaire, who spent much of his childhood in an orphanage, started Luxottica in 1961 to supply components for glasses. The publicly listed company went on to become EssilorLuxottica, the world’s biggest eyewear group, by merging with French rival Essilor in a 2017 deal valued at about €50bn, with firms including Ray-Ban and Oakley under its banner. With Del Vecchio (pictured) at the helm, Luxottica also signed licensing deals with some of fashion’s biggest names, including Giorgio Armani, Bulgari and Valentino.

“I lost a friend with whom I have shared a long and pioneering professional adventure,” said Armani in a statement. “When we first met, we immediately realised that glasses, from simple functional objects, would become indispensable fashion accessories.” Del Vecchio was one of the main shareholders in Italy’s Mediobanca bank and insurance company Generali, while also acting as chairman at Luxottica. All eyes of the group’s 80,000 employees will be on what the board does next and how it builds on the legacy of this far-sighted founder.

Image: Shutterstock

Monocle 24 / The Big Interview

Poppy Northcutt

The women’s rights attorney and former Nasa engineer speaks to Emma Nelson about working on the male-dominated space programme in the 1960s, what it was like to help retrieve the Apollo 13 astronauts after their mid-flight disaster.

Monocle Films / Global

Meet the photographers: Rena Effendi

In our latest film series, we meet and celebrate some of the people behind our iconic photography reportage. In our first episode Istanbul-based photographer Rena Effendi talks about her process, why she shoots on film and her assignment to Libya in 2021. She had never been to Tripoli before but was soon won over and captured a mesmerising mix of full-blown glamour, oddness and a perhaps unexpected order and calmness. Discover more with The Monocle Book of Photography, which is available to buy today.

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