We hit a new low: my country in its insanity and I in levels of frustration and anxiety. Mobilization was declared in Russia, meaning any man of age may be drafted to serve in army and sent to war. They call it “partial mobilization”, but they also call the war “special military operation”, so you be the judge.
The one word pulsing in my mind is pizdets. In English, I guess, I’d say “fucked up”. The situation is fucked up, the president of my country is fucked up in the head and we are all fucked up as a result.
I was in the bus when I opened Instagram and saw a black square with the word, mobilization, written in capital letters. I started crying in front of a group of school kids. I got down from the bus and continued crying on the way to my house, causing my almost-three-year-old to ask with concern, “Mama, did you calm down already?”. Then I cried on the phone with my husband, sharing the news. And then on the phone with my mom, after pleading with her and my dad to leave the country. “Nobody is going anywhere” she said through tears. Then again on the phone with my friend who is fleeing the country with her family in a few days. She is terrified they might not let her husband out. She cried too.
I know almost every post in this blog lately describes me crying for one reason or another. I cry a lot. Whatever. Tough times. And I am not even in direct line of danger — I live in Germany. But my friends and family are. I gave myself the right to grieve for my close ones, for my people, for my country.
I can see how there is very little compassion for Russians right now. Why should there be? We are the aggressor. Men were mobilized in Ukraine at the very start of the war and have been living the nightmare for the past seven months.
There were protests on the day the news broke. By the outside world the protesters were blamed to be protesting “the mobilization, not the war”. Where were you when Bucha and Izium happened? Fair enough. But let’s be honest for a second. Would you go to a protest if you knew there’s a high chance you would be imprisoned for 15 years? Very likely beaten up by the police? Left in the police station for days without access to water, a place to sit, let alone a lawyer? In the most cynical twist of all, the men protesting mobilization were arrested and served draft papers at the police stations.
Hand on your heart, would you come out to the streets? I’ll start. If I lived in Russia right now, I probably wouldn’t. Especially not now that I have kids. If you answered “yes”, congratulations! You are better than the rest of us, no sarcasm. If you answered “no”, congratulations! You are human.
Some are outraged that Russians are fleeing the country at the rate never before seen in history. “Come back and clean up your mess!” The idea that people living inside the country governed by a blood-thirsty dictator might want nothing to do with him, is somehow lost. We have but one life. As honorable as it may sound to give it up for the greater good, I’d rather flee in shame and wake up each morning to the sounds of unfamiliar language, but have the luxury to kiss my kids.
The last time I was thrown into the depth of desperation back in February, I got silent for five months. This time the strongest feeling in my chest is not that of helplessness or frustration, but of hatred. Never in my life have I hated a person so much to be muttering obscenities every time I see their face, to wish death on them. Some scary shit right here that I can barely admit to myself. What kind of human being am I to wish someone to die?
This time I don’t want to stay silent. I used to be scared to write about the war even though I live abroad. Because what if I ever travel to Russia and it’s used against me? What if I don’t travel there and it’s used against my family anyways? But now? What does it matter if the people I love are sent to war as cannon fodder?
I started writing this on the day when mobilization was announced, albeit somewhat aggressively. Is revenge writing a thing? I am calmer now. I will keep sending out my newsletter with my favorite seasonal ingredients and recipes. And I will keep writing about motherhood. This is the only way forward: focus on what’s in front of me, hold on to the shreds of normalcy, and then carry on, one foot in front of the other.
In the days since mobilization has been announced I have kissed my toddler more than ever and smelled my baby as if trying to inhale him whole. On the 21st of September I wrote down in my gratitude journal — I started one a few weeks ago because they say it helps to feel happier — the following:
Grateful for my boys.
Grateful for the little grocery store owner who has presented me with a whole smoked trout for no particular reason.
Grateful that this day is finally over.
Grateful that Germany has given me a place to call home.
I read your post and I was also in tears. You know, I’m American, living in Russia. At some point, I decided to try and live in Russia, got married and had a child here. Everything was great. But now, as the years have passed (I’ve been here since 2007) the insanity of the new laws and how the voice of anyone oposed is punished, I’m afraid. I can’t leave, no direct opportunity to do so.
I believe thinking that all Russians support this war is a very crazy idea. I know people who fled this country, due to their beliefs. But, they could all afford to do so, since their feild of work allowed them to work abroad. Others, just not sure what to do. And yes, by the way.. fear. Many are afraid to say anything. A prison sentence of 15 years would, believe me, scare many people who would be put into this situation. One more interesting thing to consider, many people don’t want to leave. Like me, for example. Why should I leave my home, my friends (my son his dad, since his dad can’t leave the country at all)..? Politics and the average person are completely different things. Nevertheless, there are people who watch national tv here and really believe that what is happening is for for their safety. (That’s what the gov. tv shows). That enemies are everywhere! For people who haven’t traveled and aren’t particularly educated, this is all they need. So everything is based on fear at this point.
I hope posts, like yours, help people to understand that Russians are just people, like everywhere else. I have family in the US, they are worried about me here, but have never judged me for staying here for so long. Because they know this country and have been here, seen the locals and been very surprised by the warmth and interest with
which they’ve been met. Let’s pray this war is over soon. No normal person want’s it. That’s the main point. Nobody want’s their friends or family dying. Not here, not there. God bless
Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I am so sorry that you have to find yourself in this difficult position, in between two fires. I fully agree, the people who leave the country now don’t always do it of their own volition. I myself have many examples of close friends who had to leave work they loved, uproot their kids and go to a foreign country where they know no-one.
And I know many people too who don’t want to leave at all. You are right, why should they leave the country they love? Why should the mobsters who took over the country and use it to stuff their pockets with money be allowed to stay, but normal people made to leave?
I hope you and your family are safe and my only wish for the upcoming New Year is that the war is over.