Witnesses Against War #23: A teacher at a Moscow university

22 July 2022

Source: Witnesses Against War

Witnesses Against War is an anonymous international group of journalists, writers, historians and translators, who live in Moscow and London. For reasons of security, their project is anonymous. In addition to the above websiste, you can also find them on Instagram  and Telegram.

On the night of February 23-24, I was finishing and editing an article for a magazine, got up late and saw reports about the war. But earlier, during the night, Zelensky gave an address, and from this address, from his intonation, it was clear that there would be a war. And it’s strange because you can’t believe it, but you know it’s coming. Although it was clear even as early as a year before. In a conversation, a friend had asked me what do you think, where will this wave of repression lead? And I said then that up til now such a wave stopped only with the beginning of a war, but I didn’t want to predict this.

The main shock was the realisation around the awareness – “where have you been for the last 8 years?” Since 2014, I have not taken on Crimean projects related to urban development, although I was offered them several times. And my colleagues looked at me in surprise when I refused. But there was no sense that these past eight years were part of the war. This became clear only after February. And this is a terrible truth: that you can simply not know what’s going on if do not specifically look into it and ask: what is happening here?

At the same time, the feeling of personal voicelessness in public spaces never leaves one. It’s connected with fear. Before the law on “fakes”, I wrote (on social networks), carefully, but still I wrote, but then I became afraid of denunciations and removed some of the posts. Many of my colleagues have left the country. Everyone leaves quietly, without saying anything, then makes a post – and so here we are, in x. And it really cuts the ground out from under your feet. You understand that gradually half, if not more, are gradually leaving your environment. And this exposes those who stay behind, if they cannot leave – you’re unable to respond to public speeches, but neither can you betray your position against the war.

It’s almost six months, and the feeling of war has not dulled, it has just turned into something different. At the beginning, I hoped that it would end quickly, that they (the Russian authorities) would understand the madness of what was happening. Then, from the hail of news about missile attacks in Kyiv, Kharkiv, and now also in Vinnitsa, the news from Mariupol, from Bucha, you try not to go crazy. Because the number of people on the streets does not change anything, as the last 12 years have shown. Because you are absolutely powerless in this situation, because at the same time you need to teach students, you need to support elderly relatives and somehow to live. And the question, while you are in Russia, is very simple: if you are against the war and are not ready to act openly, then how can you maintain this position and at the same time not fall into the iron grip of the state?

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