I am from Donetsk myself. My wife and I moved to Crimea ten years ago. We built a house outside of Kerch, in the backcountry. There isn’t a soul there in winter.
Suddenly, in February 2014, Russian choppers were flying over us every night. Then troops marched through Kerch. I saw it with my own eyes.
There was this fabulous thing: Russian religious pilgrims, columns of buses filled with people who were supposedly traveling en masse to worship Crimea’s Orthodox relics. I watched them change into army uniforms in a church yard.
Kerch was inundated with completely atypical characters: there were a huge number of Cossacks. I was getting hassled in town on the street, something that had never happened before. Drunken, fairly strong men would come up to me and ask, “Where you from, lad?” And this “lad” is fucking forty-five years old!
I got the feeling that everyone had lost their minds. There were rumors all over Crimea that the Right Sector was coming to kill ethnic Russians. Everyone was nervous they would knock down the statue to Lenin, erect a monument to Stepan Bandera, and force everyone to pray to it. People were completely worked up.
An old friend friend rushed into my arms and cried, “Andryukha! Our boys shot down three Banderite planes today, cheers!”
“You mean, three of our boys were shot down?”
“What, are you on the side of the Banderites?!”
“I’ve long known you somehow weren’t Russian.”
Then all the money I had to live on, forty thousand dollars, was confiscated: my bank account was blocked. When everything went totally south, Dinka (my wife) and I wrote a statement renouncing compulsory Russian citizenship, packed one bag each, and left. I am not sure we locked the door as we left the house.
We certainly did not want to leave. It was our whole life. We were very sad as we walked around the garden we had tended for ten years. Dinka took care of the plants, and I fixed things and pottered about, and even was into amateur radio. I left all my things there. I took two English radio tubes and one capacitor, more for the memories than for anything other reason, really. Maybe we will even try to sneak back there and get everything out.
It was a terrible pity, and it still is a pity. But there are things I cannot tolerate under any circumstances. It is like you wake up in the middle of the night and you are being raped. The guy keeps raping you all night, but in the morning he tells you that now you and he are going to the registrar to get married.
There was nothing good in store for us there. The propaganda phase lasts until the invasion, and after the invasion the mopping up and assimilation phase starts. I have read textbooks on how to invade countries. My grandfather was in SMERSH, he was a colonel in the KGB. He had all these amazing textbooks on integrating occupied territories. When I saw this shit was happening where I lived . . .
Good Lord, I would like to live in a province near the sea, but not in a place where “unreliable elements” are purged. All of these special operations are the same. They are taught the same way they were taught before. It is an old scheme, but it works.
We have now moved to Lvov. We are not exactly thrilled: there is no sea here. But life in the new Crimea was incompatible with my idea of a normal life. If it hadn’t been Russia [that invaded Crimea], but an aggressive Finland, then I probably would have stayed. But Russia now heads the list of countries where I would not want to be.
I think something went wrong in Russia. and quite a long time ago, but I don’t know how to treat it. Dinka has sister whose husband is a priest. Both of them are very Orthodox, very observant. When the first Maidan happened in 2004, they left their home and fled to the Volga region, because they had been told that the Ukrainians would now come and kill all the Orthodox believers. The Ukrainians didn’t show up, and they went back. You could have shot a sitcom about it.
For me the whole of human history is divided into two parts: the part that makes me ashamed to be a human being, and the other part, which doesn’t make me ashamed. You read the Malleus Maleficarum (“The Hammer of the Witches”), and you feel very ashamed. But then you read Faust, for example, and you are not ashamed. What is happening in Russia is right out of “Hammer of the Witches.”
I realize the situation has to be resolved somehow, but I have no idea where to find such a number of psychoanalysts and couches. Dinka and I imagined it in the form of a Martian landing, which drops the couches in on the first wave of parachutes, and the psychoanalysts on the second wave.
But then we realized it wouldn’t work. An individual approach is needed. You cannot cure this thing with another propaganda campaign and another brainwashing: by the time it was over no one would have any brains left. In this case you have got to take each person by the hand, serve them tea, put a plaid throw over them and say, “That’s it. This shit is fucked. It’s all over. We’re going to kill you now. Everything is fine.”
If you asked me whom I pitied more, the Ukrainians or the Russians, I would say the Russians. Because the Ukrainians have a chance of getting out of this dreary shit in which they are sitting. But the Russians, on the contrary, are sinking ever deeper into it.
Do I find any Ukrainian politicians likable? I like the fact they exist and they are at each other’s throats. As long as there is a real political struggle, adversarial decision-making, there is a chance things will develop. Imagine: people shit every day. Do I find the rectum likable because it does this? No, but I’m really glad it exists.
I would be happy if there were parliamentary elections once a month in Ukraine, and presidential elections every two months. Because the degree to which the body [politic] is intoxicated is such that it needs constant transfusions of blood and lymph.
It’s a shitty place, in fact, the corpse of the Soviet Union, where we live. Not a single country has emerged here yet. In my opinion, Ukraine has only been parasitizing this corpse all these years. But Russia tries with all its might to pretend this corpse is the best place on earth.
Mr. Nechayevsky’s testimonial is one of several such stories by Crimeans opposed to Russia’s annexation of the peninsula, published on the website Julia & Winston under the title “It’s All Captivity: Life in Occupied Crimea,” on July 23, 2015. Before leaving for Lvov, Nechayevsky and his wife lived in the village of Osoviny, in the far eastern region of the peninsula. Nechayevsky is forty-five years old. Photo courtesy of Julia & Winston.
UPDATE. Since I posted this in late July, the website Julia & Winston seems to have gone defunct for lack of cash. It wouldn’t be the first time.