From Russia with love. This is what can be read under the two tricolour hearts on the sides of the Kamaz trucks leaving the IL-76 planes that have just landed in Rome. The TV show that comes from the neighbor's window praises their arrival. And my neighbor, in his own way, praises something else.

Perhaps even he didn’t accept that until some time ago, Putin had not bought our Romagna peaches due to the sanctions that Italy, together with the EU, had carried out after the start of the war in Donbas and the annexation of Crimea. Sanctions expired on January 31, 2020. But, even if everything is silent now, after six years Crimea is still annexed and Ukraine is still invaded. That's why those military green Kamaz with the RU logo don't fascinate me, even though I’m a big fan of military green.

Last summer, while Ingushetia and North Ossetia sped by the window of the Kia Rio that was taking me from Chechnya to Georgia, I saw a lot of poverty. Along the streets; on the facades of the soviet blocks; in the eyes of street vendors standing on the gravel; in the flip-flops three sizes too big worn by the children sitting on the steps. Especially when I was driving in line to get out of Vladikavkaz, between one Kamaz and another, I remember wondering about hospitals conditions there. Fortunately for me, I didn't have the opportunity to find it out.

But curiosity remains, so I start writing to my contacts here and there around the old USSR. For a moment, I chat simultaneously with a Chechen, a Ukrainian, and a couple of Russians. I know, it seems like a joke told at birthday parties after six or seven glasses of Sangiovese wine. But these are not times to laugh. The first cases of coronavirus have arrived in Grozny and Moscow, too. And there, people are very worried because their hospitals "В плохом состоянии" are not very good.

They send me some pictures and some personal stories. At first, I can hardly believe it. Some photos cannot be true: they look like mine taken in Chernobyl some summers ago. Others must be taken from the deeper, more rural and more distant Russia. Then I try to mediate. Because Russia is great, immense, and not all the hospitals might be so bad. There must certainly be some more upscale ones. The ones that Putin takes pictures of. And those where it costs a lot for an intravenous drip. I'm a teacher. Over there, I would earn 37,500 Rubles per month. More or less 400€. No. Luxury wouldn't be for me. I should hope to go under the right knife, or rather, not to go under it at all.

Now, if many of their hospitals are in such disastrous conditions, what help can they give to our hospitals which are among the best in Europe and beyond? Personally, I find it hard to believe the fairy tale "From Russia With Love". And I hardly believe that we will not be asked for the bill once the emergency ends.

In my opinion, Italy is one of the most beautiful, appreciated, desired countries in the world. And I had confirmation of this last summer, coming down from the Chechen Caucasus, when my driver listened full volume to Toto Cotugno. Or the other night, when I saw the Tbilisi Tower in Georgia illuminated in green, white, and red. This is why, as soon as I saw the knobby tires of those Kamaz rolling on Italian soil, I thought of a real colonization. Indeed, given the times, I would call it "coronization".

By Valentino Broccoli

09 April 2020 17:07