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„I was on a transatlantic flight on my way back to Berlin when I first learned the war had started. At that moment I wanted to turn the plane around and not let it land in this new world, which - in a second - turned out to be an absolute hell. The war divided my life into before and after.

Although I was always against the Kremlin regime, I could never have imagined its madness would have come this far. I will never forget what it feels like to wake up one day and learn that my own country started a war.

These days I just want to disappear. To not be heard speaking Russian. To withdraw my head deep into my shoulders to not be seen. Being Russian has absolutely changed for me.

I can’t stay silent. I do speak up, raise donations through my photography projects, volunteer at the main train station to help Ukrainian refugees. I don’t even know anyone who wouldn’t do that right now. It’s simply impossible to stay indifferent.

I’m also aware that speaking up means for me that I’ll never be able to safely come back to Russia. I have no idea when I will see my family again. In a year? In two? Or five?

Of course this can’t be compared to the tragedy which is going on right now in Ukraine, for the second month in a row. It is heartbreaking. Soul-crushing. The war has to stop immediately.

There’s so much pain around right now. It’s everywhere in the air, in people’s eyes and in their hearts. I keep reminding myself that there is no hierarchy of pain, everyone’s pains matter. Maybe someone needs to read this: your pain is seen too. It’s not unimportant.

Right next to the pain and the human catastrophe, there’s also so much kindness and warmth around us. Just look at the unprecedented wave of selfless help and support from all over the world.

I choose to notice this. I choose to speak up like so many more other brave and amazing people. I choose to live while thinking about those who have to fight for this basic human right. I choose to believe that all our love and compassion are way more powerful than all the cruelty and madness we witness. I know they are“.

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