Witnesses Against War #8: Sociologist (f) from St Petersburg, no longer in Russia

2 June 2022

Updated 4 June 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 / Инстаграм  and Telegram / Телеграм.

Feelings from the first days of the war: a foggy head, anxiety, as if you are literally driving a car that is totally out of control straight into a crowd of people and cannot do anything about it. From the first day until my departure, I called Russian-speaking friends living abroad and within Russia, read the news and went to demonstrations. Communication with friends and family was loaded with anxiety, swearing and difficult pauses.

I couldn’t clearly answer the question I posed myself – why am I going to demonstrations. In the evenings, my legs carried me to Gostiny Dvor (the main meeting place for protesters in St. Petersburg). In the metro, it seemed to me that everyone around me was reading news about the war. Very soon my first arrest happened. I had internally prepared for it, and wanted to make the most of the opportunity to personally communicate with members of the security forces. I managed to do it. I asked them questions about what was happening and about the attitude towards the war. On an emotional level, these conversations pushed me to leave. I realized that at this stage of my life I would have more opportunities to live a full life and influence the situation from abroad, whether it be activism, or assistance of a humanitarian or financial kind. The second factor that influenced my departure was the fact that I was in a relationship with a Spaniard. It was decided I’d leave for Armenia for an indefinite time, and later we’d register our marriage and live together. I stored my things with my brother and on March 11 flew to Yerevan.

I found a warm welcome in Armenia. For example, in Yerevan, a kind of co-working space had spontaneously been created in the office of a local music festival. Over the first two months, this place became a haven for immigrants from Russia. A community has been created, virtual and physical, because there is a need to support each other. People get to know each other, find jobs, create businesses, open schools, do charity work and activism – life goes on.

I am happy to see the positive changes that Russian immigrants have brought to Armenia. At the same time, it is sad to realize that these people have been the driving force behind all sorts of progress in Russia for years. I think many people now live with the feeling “where I was born, I was scorned”. Yerevan is just one city on the 2022 Russian emigration map. This means that Russia has lost a significant part of its human capital. Some of these people will return. Some won’t, because for many years they chose Russia as their place of residence in spite of, not because of, the trajectory taken by the authorities.

During these months, my condition of total anxiety has subsided, and life has got back to some familiar course. But the feeling of horror from what is happening does not leave me, or many others. We have to learn to live in a state of uncertainty and develop resistance to external events. Only by saving ourselves and continuing to do our work, can we change something.

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