In 2017, the cost of feeding a child at school for a whole year is still a snip at just £13.90. Mary's Meals is now providing school meals to well over a million children, in communities held in subjection to poverty and hunger. As well as fundraising efforts however, I've also written about failures of diplomacy in the developed world, inhibiting efforts to deal collaboratively with crises such as the famine now menacing East Africa and Yemen.
Soviet war cemetery, Weissenberg, eastern Germany.
In return for a
special ‘Victory Day’ orange and black ribbon, and a sew-on police badge, given
to me by a young Ukrainian fellow passenger, i proffered a photo of the war
cemetery in eastern Germany, with its Russian inscription above the entrance;
“To the Best Sons of the Soviet Country”. Thankfully the frontier crossing was painless,
after which we continued via Anton Chekhov’s birthplace, Taganrog, to the bus
station in Rostov-on-Don.
There are plenty of west European cities with a less affluent feel than this.
The hotel at the nearby rail terminal was a bit pricey, so in clement evening
climes i made for the centre, looking out for a cheaper place, and/or an
internet cafe. I found the latter and made a sortie into cyberspace, but there
too options were limited, so going back outside i carried on as before, picking
my way through clusters of high-spirited Victory Day celebrators. Eventually i
settled for a place to sleep under a walkway in a court yard, but was
discovered very early in the morning by someone leaving for work, wishing to
know what i was doing. It wasn’t enough when i said i was a pilgrim – there are
no particular pilgrimage destinations in the vicinity of Rostov – but when i
said that my goal was Mexico he seemed to be amused, and said i could lie in for
 Nobel Laureate and soviet
Solzhenitsyn studied mathematics at Rostov State University in the late
1930s. Since 2009, the year after his death, his magnum opus The Gulag
Archipelago has been compulsory reading in the high school curriculum of the
Russian Federation. On the subject of atheism, in a book by Edward
E. Ericson Jr., "Solzhenitsyn – Voice from the Gulag," published in 1985,
he was quoted as saying:
a half century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of old
people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had
befallen Russia: "Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has
happened." Since then I have spent well-nigh 50 years working on the
history of our revolution; in the process I have read hundreds of books,
collected hundreds of personal testimonies, and have already contributed eight
volumes of my own toward the effort of clearing away the rubble left by that
upheaval. But if I were asked today to formulate as concisely as possible the
main cause of the ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our
people, I could not put it more accurately than to repeat: "Men have
forgotten God; that's why all this has happened."