29 May 2022
Witness #6: Muscovite (30-40)
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.
War is a sorrow about which it is legally forbidden to speak. This happens in countries where human rights are an empty phrase. These words refer to Russia.
The news of the war caught me when I was buying bread. I held in my hand a black brick of bread called “Ukrainian”. A week later, this bread had already disappeared from the store. They say that they quickly changed the name on the packaging. That sounds better. For Russia, the war is, it turns out, a matter of linguistics. Speak correctly, otherwise you will be taken away in a police wagon.
I went to school in the early 90s. In those days, for every public holiday, it was still necessary to make postcards and cover them with official slogans such as: “Happy Russian Army Day! I wish you a peaceful sky over your head.” We were generally taught that war is the worst thing that can happen. And we were really afraid of it. We were afraid of the very word. And here it is amongst us and it frightens everyone so much that it is censored.
I remember conversations on the streets and in shops. Those early days of the war. Someone claimed that all this would quickly end. For some reason, somehow the deadline was determined itself – two weeks. Where did this come from? A week is not enough, but two is an entire period of time. Nobody knew why. Everyone just believed that it would be two weeks. Then came the third, fourth. People stopped talking about it. It’s like it disappeared from people’s heads.
In the early days, many people still talked about airplanes. It was as if everyone suddenly needed a passenger plane. Once it’s in the sky – that’s freedom, but the earth may not give it up. To everyone one of us it seemed that these were the final planes. They left Russia reluctantly, as if trying to stay on the runway to the last. The announcement board in the airport changed and with each change of its numbers one could hear the sigh of someone’s transformed fate.
This is what weekdays have become: every day you have to see someone off and promise to water the flowers in someone else’s apartment, find a home for someone else’s cat, pick up armchairs that are being given away.
And in the end, people stood thoughtfully with suitcases in their hallways and paused. Their children stood next to them, holding their toys. And beyond the threshold – fear. The worst has already arrived. It is amongst us. And we’re trying to get away from it. But is it possible?
A day without peace. Two. Now it seems like forever.
Then the wings rose into the sky, and those who remained below looked up at them, standing on spring’s frozen ground. In the spring it is so hard, literally like a stone. The same stone that we have thrown at our neighbour.
No one thought that the stone would fly so far.
Read in Russian here