Aleksandra (Sasha) Krylenkova is a human rights activist from St. Petersburg who has worked with Memorial and served as a member of the board of that organisation. She is also the founder of ‘Open Space,’ a meeting space. She has worked on many issues, including campaigning in support of the defendants in the so-called Network (Set) case, publicizing alleged human rights abuses in Crimea, seized by Russia in 2014, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Below we publish translations of some of her recent posts on Facebook.
22 September 2022, Facebook
Scared? Very. And have been for a long time.
What can you do? No one knows. And what follows from that is don’t listen to anyone. Including me. Listen to yourself.
Don’t listen to all the it’ll-all-be-fines. It won’t. But what can you do? We don’t have any other life. That’s how it is. We have to live this one. We aren’t going to be reborn in another country or another time.
If we survive all this physically, we’ll be living with the war and its consequences to the end of our life. We’ve known it’d be like this—known it for a long time. We like looking at the end of the book, but we still have to read it, live through it.
Don’t listen to anyone. But in any situation (even one like this), I, for example, look for support.
Everywhere. Anywhere I might find it. And I make a list. It might include:
— material resources
— near and dear
— circle of friends
And a million more. We always have support. You just have to look for it.
If certain decisions can’t be taken today—don’t take them. If some have to be taken—don’t second-guess yourself.
Oh, yeah—don’t listen to anyone. Only yourself.
22 September 2022, Facebook
There was a question in the comments to my last post: Why not listen? I thought I’d write about that separately.
In our more or less ordinary psychological state we listen to the people around us, bouncing off of most of the opinions around us and reflexively shaping our own (in our usual way) and picking out who we trust more and who we don’t trust at all. Different people about different things.
But during collective traumas both elements are obstinate: the people who had wonderful ideas and came up with unusual and effectives moves during peacetime; and I can be exceptionally clumsy in an extreme situation. And vice-versa. Therefore, the usual pattern—“if Masha said so, she thought it all through. She usually checks her information and analyzes well”—doesn’t work.
But our ability to reflect given our circumstances is also diminished. And our filtering works much worse. That is, during peacetime we would have noticed that something had changed in Masha’s opinions, but now we don’t.
That’s for one.
And two . . . during disasters of various degrees of globality there are more or less statistically accurate solutions (usually we see this in hindsight, but sometimes in the process, too), and there are individual destinies. And if as a whole everyone is most likely to survive in certain circumstances, then this could lead a specific person or family to perish.
So don’t listen to anyone but yourself. And take care of each other.
23 September 2022, Facebook
Do you know what I have to say about the last two days?
1. You can kill, beat, torture, seize and imprison a person. But you can’t make a person fight.
In order to fight, you have to pick up a weapon and squeeze the trigger (or whatever they squeeze in modern wars)
2. All moral considerations aside, the likelihood of surviving (even a Russian) prison is around 90%. The likelihood of surviving war is at least two times less.
“They made us mobilize,” “they sent us off to fight”—this shows an extreme paralysis of will and agency.
Yes, of course. All choices during time of war are unthinkable. The presence of unthinkable choices has already happened. But who abolished personal choice?
There are lots of variations on resistance: legalistic: all kinds of alternative options, exemptions, reservations, there’s escaping: inside or outside the camp.
But I’m not talking about that. Where do we get the dilemma: “If they catch me, I have to go to the front”?
1 October 2022, Facebook
It makes me crazy angry that I’m worse off now than on 24 February….
Families here have been torn apart, life has been destroyed, friends lost, our near and dear are far away, and those far from us are near. But I know for a fact how those who’ve managed to survive have been living all these months.
But how, during one’s own pain, do you resist this biological compulsion not to forget about someone else’s pain that’s a hundred times stronger than yours.
How do you preserve your humanity and empathy? This is just the beginning…. Everything ahead is much much worse. How can we keep our survival instinct from vanquishing love, humanity, and compassion?
3 October 2022, Facebook
I just decided to do a separate post.
Strength and daring aren’t about not experiencing fear, pain, or despair, or about denying their presence, but in overcoming them. Getting up in the morning when you’re scared, washing up, having breakfast, and keeping on doing what you do.
It’s all right to admit your fear and your strength declining. The question is what to do about it. The idea of not recognizing a temporary feeling of helplessness holds a tremendous danger. It creates the illusion that the real strength is in never being afraid, the urge to turn off your feelings and emotions like in children’s movies about vampires.
Yes, it’s complicated and hard and painful right now. But only by recognizing that we are human beings and we’re scared can we learn to appreciate the pain and suffering of other people and overcome our own pain.
Translated by Marian Schwartz