When the Russian troops invaded Ukraine in February, I was, like everyone else, shocked. While wars all around the world are (sadly) no big news anymore, I think we all have in recent years grown accustomed to the impression that Europe is a safe space. For me, as for most in my generation, some things were always a given: rents may be high and we have tons of social problems, but at least we have peace. Now things have changed. The warfare, which was in its beginning only directed against the Ukrainian state and people, has found a second target: us.
The Russians don’t fight us with weapons, it’s much easier. All it takes is to decrease the amount of gas in the pipelines, and nearly everything gets severely more expensive (a good reason for renewable energy). Who would have thought that! And it’s not just the nice but somehow unnecessary things like a large beer in my favourite pub that got much more expensive. The war also scrapes on our existence: the energy prices partly tripled, groceries got much more expensive, landlords increase rent. It’s the existential things of life that got so expensive over the last few weeks, that many just can’t afford them anymore.
In last weeks Observant, university employees have reported that they can’t cover their monthly costs anymore with their usual salary. I work for the university, and know many cleaners, janitors and other supporting staff that are getting up every morning to enable the university can function properly. One family father now has to work every Friday and Saturday night in a casino to pay his gas bill! “That’s how it is, you can only do so much”, he always says. He would never complain. I even heard of students who moved back home again because of exploding costs.
How long can we still do this? And which impact does this situation have on our generation, now that we just survived covid? I think every generation has its defining common experience, and only got stronger by living through it. I just wonder (and fear a bit), being in my mid-twenties now, how much more there is to come.