Sofya

«I left quite a long time ago; I haven't lived permanently in Russia since 2013. I am in the category of so-called "undocumented emigrants" who kept coming back, consciously or unconsciously. As a geographer, I travelled around Russia a lot, studying it. At the end of 2021 I had this illusion that it was possible to share my time between two countries.

I couldn't fully go back, because the science I was doing cannot be done in Russia (in particular I did a lot of repression research), so much effort, money, emotions were wasted on this way of life. I spent a lot of time in Moscow, and in my country house. And then I felt how this space started to be "taken away" from me. I remember I was pregnant and walking around Moscow, and I felt my space being reclaimed by Sobyanin's (Moscow mayor) “improvements”.

On February 23 I took my daughter on holiday for the first time in a long time and woke up on the 24th to a friend's text message saying that the war had started. At the institute where I work, we were all immediately offered a mental health leave, both Ukrainians and Russians. Our institute took the position that anyone who feels affected by war - we hear it.

For me, being Russian is about three things: space, being able to visit; connection to the society, belonging to the crowd; ability to work on Russian material. The war has destroyed all this. I have nowhere to go, no people, it's a different country, a different space. I can't work with the Russian context either, because it's not safe and will probably be considered extremist activity.

On the eve of Bucha I burst into tears for the first time. And after Bucha I realised that I wanted to give up my citizenship, it lost its meaning. I actively don't want to be associated with what's going on in the country anymore. Because citizenship is a product of political system. Whereas the Russian language is very important to me, I want my daughter to be able to speak Russian. It is not the language that controls us, but we - the language.

I try not to cry in front of Ukrainians, although it's difficult for me. But when in five minutes this woman from Odesa calms you down - there’s certainly something wrong here. And so you go around crying. When I came to the train station in Berlin, saw all the infrastructure, and stood there weeping.

I still want to think that in a couple of months everything will settle down, that he will get sick, that he will die, that everything will change. But it's really hard to talk about it, because we are still in a state of free fall. Before Bucha I thought there was hope. But now - I don’t think so. Yes, I miss Russia. I miss Moscow very much. But, - you know, - if it should burn with fire, let it burn with fire. At the moment I am more concerned about people in Ukraine stopping dying.

We all had a huge misunderstanding of what was going on. On a level of personal transformation. Who these people are. Where this soldier was born, how he studied at school, who his parents were. We just had 5% of schools where we enrolled our children. And we thought that the other 95% just wouldn't play. We simply underestimated the systemic nature of bringing up this violence”.