“Once, on a deserted island in Brazil, my friends and I met people from Russia who, unlike us, were excited and eager to talk to us. When they heard that I was living in Germany, one of the men said: "Who have you left us for! Putin?!" Then it suddenly dawned on me very happily that I hadn't left them for any Putin. I had been taken away from Russia before him! When I was 16. And that kind of relieved me of my responsibility. Then, in Brazil, it made me not responsible for leaving them for him. Now it's as if for everything that's happening now.
It's very strange, but I don't feel un-responsible. And I keep trying to figure out why. And what exactly I'm complicit in. Apart from having a Russian passport.
I have lived in Germany longer than I did in Russia. And on my (albeit frequent) visits I have long ago stopped coming there as home, rather as an ethnographic expedition, where everything is very interesting. Different, native and foreign.
Since the start of the war and the endless stream of refugees, very often I have to tell someone that I am from Russia. It has become a real challenge.
„I am from Kyiv, and you?
„And I am from Russia“.
„We are from Kharkiv, and you?“
„And I am from Russia“.
„This dog is from Bucha, and yours?“
„And mine is from Russia“
And then there is this pause. That endless vacuum of silence a second long. And in that second, there’s everything. Everyone has understood something different. And no one has anything to say. It all comes down to a nodding smalltalk, to a smile.
In the first days of the war I suddenly realized that it was not Russia who attacked Ukraine, but it was me, Lina, who attacked my Misha from Mariupol, my Marina from Kyiv and her 87-year-old grandmother, my beloved boy Andryusha from Kharkiv... I attacked them, my dears. And I need to do something about it. I mean, I have to live with it. And they have to live with me. How is it even possible - they with me?
At night I read a lot about the war, I listen to everything related to the war. I look at all the pictures that have the „sensitive content" warning on them. I just have no right not to look at it. It's important to me. To touch reality. Not to break away from it, even when the magnolias and sakura trees are in bloom in the city.
In the year before the pandemic, I was in Ukraine twice. Both times I volunteered at Camp Derevo, a camp for families with special needs children. The last camp was near Kiev - a village called Severinovka. There is a forest around it. We did wonders with the kids there. Most often I remember that very forest and us in it.
Recently I decided to look how far is Severinovka from those scary places How far. To Bucha - 32 km. To Irpen - 29 km. To Motyzhyn - the place where a mass grave was found with civilians, with the village head, her husband and son, who had been earlier taken prisoner and disappeared - to that very Motyzhyn - 2,8 km through the forest from our Severinovka. We had a common forest with Motyzhyn! Common wonders. And now we have a common mass grave.
I remember when there was talk that maybe the camp "Derevo" should be tried somewhere in Europe, many parents said that children simply couldn't get that far, they couldn't even get to the city by public transport, that it was impossible. Now many of these families ended up in Germany, in Görlitz. So that’s how they made it. They made it. Thank God.
How I started to help. Why. Not for something, not because of something. It is just our life now, our air. And if before someone could say to you: "Take a rest, no one will die if you don't do it" and was right, now it is not so.
The important thing is that war does not become a routine, a backdrop, a normalised abnormality.
It always has to hurt».