Almost three weeks into the war — it hurts as bad, but somehow I’m optimistic

Alexei Sorokin
3 min readMar 15, 2022

I’m wary of talking about my “hurt”. It ain’t hurt, when I’m thousands of miles away, when life is all as usual for my family. I rushed to get my Mom of collapsing Russia, but she and I discussed how our stress is nothing compared to what our relatives in Ukraine are experiencing, to the suffering of the millions of women and children forever displaced from their homes.

Still, the sense of shock over Russia’s war on Ukraine would not subside.

I shut the door on Russia almost a decade ago when my family immigrated. It wasn’t my intention to “shut the door” but for some reason, that’s how it felt. The country that was once my home no longer occupied my mind. I used to love Moscow but not once did I want to be back. I used to engage in light-minded Facebook debates about Russia with my friends, but I gradually abandoned even this effort, preferring to digest the country’s developments privately with my family.

The annexation of Crimea in 2014 was, of course, a big deal, an event of historic scale, the biggest mark — until recently — on the timeline of Russia’s fallout with the West. I was stunned to see how patriotic fumes from Putin’s Crimean operation intoxicated even my most liberal friends back in Moscow.

But I have to admit — the door in my head had remained shut. Russia was no longer home. Putin “belonged” to the Russian people living in Russia. What he did or didn’t do with Crimea was their liability or pride.

But the war on Ukraine shattered my senses, my identity to the core. The moment I saw the news of Russia’s shelling Kyiv is something I’ll carry in my memory to my deathbed, forgive me for being so dramatic.

I ask myself why — why was the shock so big? Because it’s a brutal senseless war on a brotherly nation, that’s done no harm, whose people I know closely — as relatives, as friends, as business partners. Because it’s ruin and death. That’s how I’d answer my own question. Because I’m Russian. The scale of this tragedy is so huge, that I can’t distance myself from it because of some unique circumstances — how I left Russia years ago or how I never supported Putin. I feel that everyone who identifies as “Russian” now faces a life-long reckoning with belonging to the generation, maybe a few generations (thanks to Putin’s never-ending reign), under which this senseless aggression has been allowed to unravel.

Alexei Sorokin

A Russian immigrant in America, father of 4, Cambridge and Harvard Business School alum. I run and write every day. More here: