Russia’s war against Ukraine is finally sinking in. Strangely, I’m not escaping my Russian identity.
For many days and several weeks, I experienced and expressed my shock and pain over the war in Ukraine. The shock wasn’t from watching CNN. It was from hearing my mom cry in anger and despair. We have close relatives in Ukraine. A couple of weeks ago I was next to my Mom (I managed to get her out of Russia) as she spoke to them — it was heartbreaking to hear their stories of despair, their tears, their tragedy.
My shock was also my own shock. After I left Russia almost a decade ago I experienced a curious mental block — my mind shut the door on Russia, on Moscow that was once sweet home. I followed some news but in general, it all felt too far away. But the war against Ukraine hit really hard. Why, why, why I kept asking watching the terrible news, the images of ruin, missiles, refugees, and dead bodies. It felt like the evil from the Kremlin stabbed me, stabbed everyone, no matter how far away. Because it did.
Well, as weeks go by, it’s sinking in. I don’t mean it in a cynical way. But the war rages on and your identity absorbs it. I continue to read the news and numerous stories, every day I continue to chat with my friends and relatives in Moscow. But the shock of the initial weeks has sunk in.
How do I feel, as a Russian?
Angry with Putin. I don’t think it’s escapism (blaming it all on Putin) — unfortunately, incredible damage can be done by individual people.
Somewhat angry with the Russian people. Most of them support the war. “Somewhat” is because I understand what stories they are being fed in Russia.
Do I feel responsible for Russia’s aggression?
Yes to some extent. Call it collective responsibility.
I accept that several generations of Russians, whether they supported Putin or not, whether they live in Russia or managed to immigrate, face a lifelong reckoning with what bloody legacy their country of birth is cementing with its senseless and deadly aggression.
But I think the best I can do, given the circumstances, is to be a good Russian. I made mistakes in my life but I’m also proud of having become a citizen of the world in a very genuine way. I love my friends and connections throughout the world. I will seek to be always compassionate and respectful. I will try to build and create. I will seek to help…