“We moved away from Russia in 2014. For a perfectly prosaic reason - my husband, a Frenchman who had lived in Russia for eight years, found a job in France. Since then, and until recently, I always wanted to go back. I would go back even now. But I am very scared.
My government has shat in my soul, got its hairy hand to the bottom of me. They have taken away my opportunity to get to my beloved, best Moscow courtyard. They have taken away the memory of the most important family holiday of my childhood, the best day of the year forever bound with my dearest people, my grandparents. The day flooded with sunshine. The day of my grandfather's parade jacket and medals.
My government has deprived my son of the chance to be proud to be from Russia. It is shooting cannon flesh and blood of my fellow citizens, citizens of a neighbouring country. But my government is not Russia. I no longer know what this very Russia is. But I continue to treacherously love it.
In this war everyone survives as best they can. It is not physical deaths in our sofa troops. They die from hatred, from unbearability. From the irreversibility of what is happening. Someone goes into ignorance, someone believes they can get to the bottom of this on their own, doubling down on scrolling news feeds and a dose of anti-depressants. Some change the country. And some give up and change sides. Because it’s impossible to be bad and guilty indefinitely. It's hard to accept the fact that your country's actions have no right and can't be justified. Especially when you have generally always loved this country. Because there is such an unpopular notion nowadays - Motherland.
I try to breathe. You have to breathe, because when there is no air, there is no life. I know that hatred will choke me. I am saved by people. It's my way of not slipping into hatred. Not to depersonalise "them" or "us". There is no "them", there are people. Confused, lost everything. Ukrainians from basements, going nowhere. Russians from cozy Moscow flats, stuck in Constantinople's timelessness. If you look from afar, their suffering is incomparable. If you come closer and look closely, from the perspective of a simple human life, any of the people who set out for a new life with one suitcase go through their primitive, profound grief - parting with plans, with a house, or even with a collection of shoes, after all. And no, I cannot laugh at someone who mourns over shoes. Shoes are also a life that you built, loved, and no longer have.
I haven't found the strength to go to the border or the train station in a big city to volunteer. I know I won't be able to live with my family after that. That if I come face to face with this element, everything domestic, simple, family, will cease to matter. To my shame I choose my family and my children. It doesn't seem fair to me if their mum has forever blank, distant eyes. And I find solace in small things - helping potential conscripts from Russia to apply and get into a European university. I get a new neighbour boy from Ukraine into the judo club. Helping a Ukrainian mother to buy the cheapest car from her first French salary. I am looking for a place to bring dogs from Kyiv. Translating into French documents for social services. Not a great feat, but if I'm not prepared to face an ocean of misery, let my case be that someone breathes a sigh of relief for a moment: one of a thousand small domestic problems solved.
That's all I can do right now. I'd like to think that's not so little”.