We left Moscow in 2014. The move was made because of my husband's new job and was not supposed to be an emigration, but a long business trip. A month and a half before the move, annexation of Crimea happened. I remember to the smallest detail the night my world was turned upside down. For the past few days I had been telling everyone and myself that nothing like that could happen because "this is the 21st century, no one is taking someone else's territory, it's just ridiculous and unbelievable, and those who are voicing such a scenario are just fools and neurotics. And so my husband and I stare at the ceiling, I periodically pull the blanket over my head, tears pour down, and I'm scared, just like when I was a kid. I persuade him to try to speed up the move - if I can leave right away tomorrow, I am ready to get the children ready in two hours.
We did not return to Russia from that business trip. Nevertheless, up until February 2022 we could safely answer the question "Where are you from?" and were not planning to renounce Russian citizenship any time soon. All four of our children, the third of whom was born in Geneva and the fourth in Berlin, consider themselves Russian. Russian is their native and main language. Unexpectedly for me, the children themselves often initiate conversations on the subject of "Where is our Motherland?" and invariably come up with the answer that Russia, despite the fact that only the eldest daughter vaguely remembers life in Russia, she was 5 years old when we left.
It would seem that how can we continue to believe someone who has already committed a betrayal? After all, we have already been deceived in 2014. But in 2022 it happened again. "It can't happen, simply because it can never happen" - I've said it before. For the first month of the war, I pulled a blanket over my head every day at night and replayed scenarios of a nuclear strike. Or a missile hitting our house in Berlin. The need to run somewhere with four children in two hands and not lose them in the crowd. In broad daylight, I took turns calling all my relatives and friends in Ukraine (I was born there and lived there for the first 14 years of my life, so that's a pretty big number of people), offering any help, shelter, if they could get to us. And read the news, help chats - all the time. Apart from the animal fear of a nuclear world war, I was tormented by uncharacteristic feelings: rage and hatred. For many weeks they overshadowed everything else. I lost the ability to work - to this day I do not know how my business, in which I spent the last three years of my life at peace, did not collapse.
About shame. It is such a strange state of mind peculiar to people born and brought up in the Soviet Union more than any other. I was and still am tormented by shame. I only went to the polls once in my life, at the age of 19, and voted for the party, which got just a miserable percentage - and I never went again. For the fact that I have a double-headed eagle on my passport, and there's no way I can change it (it burns me like a swastika would burn me). For not going to volunteer at the Main Station in Berlin, and generally doing far less than I could have. About 20 people stayed in our house in the first 2 months of the war, and I helped some people to prepare documents and open bank accounts, gave away some household items, and donated some small amounts, and that was it. At some point I realized that I could not keep up with reading the help group on Telegram, the burden was becoming overwhelming: 20 messages a minute, and each one was a heart-breaking cry.
If a German/American/French person asks me how I am coping with all this, I say: I have lived 14 years in Ukraine and 15 years in Russia. I feel like a tree whose roots are firmly planted equally in two pots. And now the trunk is tearing up from the bottom to the top, the pots are pulling in different directions. It would be better for me to break away from the roots and try to put them in a new place, but it seems impossible.