““Parlez-vous Francais?” I asked in the calmest voice I could muster. “Je suis un journalist Canadien. Franco-Canadien .” Franco Franco Franco. I couldn’t say it enough. Anything but English.
It was a ruse that probably shouldn’t have worked. But it slowed things down. The woman pulled down the arm of the man with the cellphone, buying us time.
For the next 30 minutes we withstood a withering browbeat. It was The World According to Putin — a fierce, beseeching laundry list of grievances, frustrations and fear, delivered in staccato Russian.
But the more they vented, the less angry they became. And about halfway through, I began to think — hope — vive le Quebec libre . My dismal command of Canada’s other official language was enough to persuade these desperate and panicked monolingual Russians in Ukraine that we weren’t really the enemy.”