We have made the difficult decision to stay in Russia. I can’t leave my beloved parents. I can’t leave my younger sister, who is planning to apply to the Academy of Arts this year. They are dear to our own little family, and we are dear to them. Why do we need another, freer life if our loved ones will be far away? How can I deprive my children of unconditional love and their extended family?
If we leave, who will stay here? Everyone is fleeing thinking that it won’t be for long, that they will return home. But I feel that it will be a one-way ticket for many.
I look at the Ukrainian refugee families who are rushing home from Europe, even though their homes are no longer there, at those Ukrainians who won’t agree to go even to the most hospitable homes and remain under bombardment with their relatives.
I look at those who are fleeing Russia, because it is difficult to endure the tension, shame, fear, condemnation, and uncertainty.
I think that this is the first time that I have felt such love for my unhappy country and the people here.
We are not afraid of everyday troubles and the danger of losing our jobs. Much more terrible is the fact that people are voluntarily drawing the symbol of the war [“Z”] on their cars. The criminalization of society, which is already beginning to gain momentum, is frightening. The propaganda in the schools scares me.
I have friends who have gone from being poor to being almost beggars. There are those whom I can help just with my presence, hugs, and the opportunity to say what they think.
This disaster has united us even more, and I will live in the hope that together we will survive it all.
I’m sorry that I’m writing incoherently — I don’t even remember the last time I got a good night’s sleep.
Source: a private communication to a close friend of mine from an acquaintance in Petersburg, 8 March 2022. Although the author gave me permission to translate and publish the letter, and to identify them by name, I decided to conceal their identity for their own safety and to omit certain parts of the letter. Translation and photo by the Russian Reader