29 May 2022
Witness #4: Freelancer, Russian Far-East (50-60)
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 / Инстаграм and Telegram / Телеграм.
This situation with Ukraine really began for me in 2014. Of course, I was shocked when I learned that Russia had annexed Crimea. I was shocked because I understood that this was a state-led hostile takeover and Russia had taken the territory by force.
Then, as we remember, the inhabitants of Russia began to be artificially divided into those saying “Crimea is ours” and “Crimea is not ours” with the help of propaganda manipulations “a la Surkov”. It was then that I realized for the first time that one of the binding forces of the state was hatred. I squabbled with my close friends until I was foaming at the mouth; they like to assert that the “ukropi” [word meaning dill in Russian, also used to refer to pro-Russian Ukrainian separatists] themselves were to blame, and Crimea had to be seized. I still can’t find the strength to be back in touch with those people.
I thought then, in 2014, about going to Donbass, I wanted to fight for Ukraine. But my chronic illness made this impossible and I stayed at home. A few years later, in the worries of everyday life, Crimea began to be forgotten.
In the winter of 2022, there was a lot of information about Russia preparing for a war with Ukraine. I did not believe it, because I understood that Ukraine has serious weapons (Javelins, Bayraktars), and huge potential for partisan warfare. I thought that the Russian army would be destroyed. I was wrong, of course – the war began. The Russian army, as expected, is suffering very serious losses and has not achieved tangible successes.
At the same time, from the very beginning of the invasion, I feel as if I myself have been replaced by someone else. The endless scrolling, the search for news on independent channels. It was like this around the clock for almost a month. It was as if bombs were constantly exploding inside of me – my head was refusing to believe that Russia had started a war. And after I began to receive information on Telegram about the atrocities of the Russians, the deaths of civilians and children, I literally burned up inside, I felt very bad physically. I still haven’t been able to recover my health.
Probably, any normal man, whether he is Ukrainian, Russian or Japanese, at the sight of dead soldiers, women, children of a defending country, is ready to go to war, take up arms and destroy the occupiers. Or in this case to provide all possible assistance to Ukraine. Unfortunately, my illness has long tied me hand and foot. Of course, I was ready to go out on solo demonstrations, to do something else noteworthy, but I could not survive in a cell without my pills for more than a couple of days. I’m not making excuses.
When it all started, I wrote to some relatives – the war had begun. There were two answers. The first – do not stir, they will explain everything on the news. And the second – we should have punished the Banderovs a long time ago [Russian propaganda slang for Ukrainians that Russians claim are followers of WW2-era Ukrainian nationalist Stepan Bandera]. Since then, from the very beginning of the war, I am no longer in touch with my relatives, listening to their nonsense is beyond what my strength can take. Every day I continue to read the news in Telegram, I watch different streams on YouTube. My heart is torn to pieces, I quietly celebrate every victory of the Ukrainian army.
I have many acquaintances, those who are against the war and those who support Ukraine. I sometimes share news with them. But one must understand that over the decades the repressive machine has become so powerful, that people are afraid of their own shadows. Fear and hatred are the binding forces of modern Russia. Previously, you got a “dvushechka” [slang once used by Putin for two-years in prison] now you get a “pyatnashechka” [15 years]. The Russian government, which grew up with the delights of the brutal NKVD, does not know how to live any differently.
I have seen many examples of Russian soldiers raping civilians and looting in Ukraine. And when I see the dead soldiers of the Russian army, I feel no pity whatsoever. That’s what you deserve you bastards – I’m sorry but these are my black thoughts at such times.
At the same time, I see a lot of cheerful teenagers walking around. And I think – God forbid you guys get fed by the delights of the NKVD. I understand perfectly well that Russia will have to kneel and beg forgiveness for several generations not only for the war in Ukraine, but also to get rid of this dominant Gulag genome. It must be understood that the creation of such “animals” in Russia began in 1917, and our country was very good at it. Bloody collectivization, the repressions of the 1930s, millions of lives destroyed by mediocre commanders in the early years of the Great Patriotic War [WW2]. It has been a kind of era of executioners.
Then there was the peaceful and impoverished Soviet Union, which crippled several generations. People still hate the inhabitants of neighbouring countries because they live better.
To be honest, I’m dreading the end of the war. Because thousands of participants in the war in Ukraine will return to the country with slaughtered psyches. And Russia is already full of people with brains that have been “rewired” for war. How this mass will behave is generally unknown. But I’m not going to leave Russia. I don’t have the strength, the health, or, of course, money. The latter has been felt especially keenly in the last two months. Prices are rising at a breath-taking pace, there is barely enough money for bare necessities.
But despite all this, I am counting on celebrating a Ukrainian Victory Day in the near future, I really look forward to it, truly.
Read in Russian here