Back in the USSR

Are we going back in time?

Andrew Howells
5 min readMar 4, 2022


Outside the Russian embassy, Bayswater Road, last Saturday afternoon

It’s difficult not to be distracted by war in Ukraine. Shame on me that I only feel this now. Why did I struggle to pay so little attention to the plight of thousands of innocent Syrians when Russian planes were targeting hospitals in so called resistance strongholds? Resistant to what exactly, another dictator which Russia fancied, in this 8 year long civil war and counting?

Shiny new war

I wonder what’s happening there? The news spotlight is long gone, but this shiny, new war reminds me again of the total and utter devastation in cities like Aleppo. With all that destruction, what happened to the people who dared to want change?

Al Jazeera confirms that many Syrians are voicing their support for Ukraine, a view not surprisingly contrary to President Assad’s, who has only survived because of Putin’s commitment to provide fire power and maintain his position as another undemocratically elected puppet.

Syria’s war is a complex one with many vested interests. But that’s not the case in the Ukraine. It couldn’t have been clearer to see what was happening on the Russian side of their 2,300 km border. They even had help from Belarus, another country with an undemocratically elected leader, strategically important now in the campaign to conquer Ukraine.

Is it the unjustness of this invasion on a trumped up pretext or the proximity to home, friends and family which has really caught my attention?

Ukraine in 1979

I visited Ukraine when it was part of the USSR. As an 18 year old school boy, I watched Russian sailors goose step at The Monument to the Unknown Sailor at Shevchenko Park in Odessa on the Black Sea. Our coach from Birmingham’s Bull Ring drove every last mile to Odessa and then on to Kyiv in Ukraine. It’s not far, not far at all.

We spent a long time on the Romanian border crossing into the USSR. It included a thorough inspection of the 40 seater coach inside and out. Out meant underneath. It was standard practice to put vehicles over a pit so armed guards could wander the length of it with flash lights looking for whatever one hides…



Andrew Howells

Writer, male, London. Enough time to tell stories