"One of my grandfathers is Georgian, the other Estonian, but I grew up in St. Petersburg and of course I identify with the Russian culture. When I went to study in Berlin at the end of 2006, I didn't think it would be forever. I had a very close connection to Russia, but as time went by, it became clear that it is good I am here, and when my daughter was born, I realized that Berlin had become home.
Now, after February 24th, it is obvious that I won't go back there as long as Putin is in power. I'm glad I left such a long time ago. And I don't have to face this moral dilema now - to leave or to not to leave.
At first it felt like it couldn't start in the first place, then it felt like there’s no way it will last that long. It felt like there was a real struggle between good and evil going on. I don't want to get used to this thought, I don't want to get used to this war. And you cannot get used to it, because every day something even more terrible happens and you shudder. And you are sitting like that with this Russian passport.
In 2014 I made a documentary about a young Chechen who would not confess under torture to crimes he had not committed. I now work for Deutsche Welle and on the first day of the war we filmed an anti-war protest. And then I went to the
railway station without a camera, because I realised that the main thing for me now was not to make documentaries, but to help people in a more direct way.
It was only then that I got a chance to breathe. You realize that at least here you can help. And there were these amazing meetings. You arrive, you walk around this station, where the Russian language is absolutely indispensable now. The train is arriving and you learn to distinguish who arrived from Ukraine and you have to answer a million questions - for example, if the town of Augsburg, in which you have never been, is a good place.
A person's fate is decided in a few seconds and you take part in it. One young man asked "Where are you from? - After a pause, I replied "from Russia" and he said "that we can hear, but where from exactly"? At the end of the conversation he gave me a low bow.
I was telling about these meetings to a psychologist who is in Moscow. And she sobbed through the entire session.
My mother was born in Crimea, my cousin grew up there. We spent all our childhood summer holidays there together. Since 2014 (when the annexation happened), neither my sister nor I have visited the peninsula.
After February 24, the guilt hit me very hard, and at one point I even had the absurd thought that my cousin would not want to talk to me now. She and her family managed to evacuate from Kiev and they are now living with us".