How long does a crisis last? When exactly does it start? How far into the future do the multiple legacies of profound change endure? With an end of the covid-19 pandemic in sight, and recognising the significant uneven geography of its effects, I write this message against a background of news media reports around the world on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. By 2 March 2022, the UN reported that over 675,000 people have crossed the Ukrainian border into Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Moldova. They have done so in fear for their lives and seeking safety. ‘Prior to this 2022 crisis’, the UN Refugee Agency reports, ‘almost 3 million people were already facing humanitarian need in Ukraine, including 850,000 internally displaced Ukrainians and 5,000 refugees from other countries.’ The very constitution of Europe, the return of the latent fears of nuclear war, and historical comparisons between Russian artillery strikes and the Battle of Britain have been cited as a means of making sense of the narrative of the conflict of which we are witness to unfolds.
The 2013 T2M conference crossed the border between Finland and Russia, with proceedings starting in Kouvola and ending in Saint Petersburg. The theme of the conference was Transport and Borders. Transport, Andrey Vozyanov remarked in his conference report, must accommodate ‘the fact that the world is full of borders […] borders are sometimes what mobility needs – to boost new ideas and developments.’ What new ideas and new developments might emerge out of the current crisis in Ukraine is a hopeful prospect; a counterbalance to the human tragedy escalating there every day.
The theme Disruptions and Reconnections of the 2022 conference jointly organised by T2M and the Centre for Advanced Studies in Mobility and Humanities (MoHu) of the University of Padua, gives us a fitting opportunity to reflect on the meanings, reasons, factors and legacies of moments of crisis. Crises which include those affecting nearly everyone as the covid-19 pandemic has, and crises somewhat localised and instigated by the prospect and reality of war. What is a disruption to some, may escalate to become a tragedy to others. Forced reconnections inspired by selective readings of the past may ignite the kind of unity that was previously unthought. Our annual conference, which in 2022 aims for a hybrid online and in-person format, provides a fitting forum to reflect on whether and in what ways do moments of crisis have entered our lives, and including the role that transport and mobility may have played in them. Raising the question of what disruptions and which reconnections take shape in the process is a powerful analytical lens to reflect on where crises fit into history and our future.
The T2M team, the local organising committee of the University of Padua and the MoHu Centre, look forward to receiving your contributions to this year’s conference in whichever format suits. Collective reflection is always welcome and it feels that, against the events of the past 2 years including the first quarter of 2022, there couldn’t be a more fitting time to insist that we all do.
With all best wishes,
Carlos López Galviz
Lancaster University, UK.