The impossible task of discussing Ukraine with my mother-in-law

Alexei Sorokin
3 min readJun 6

My mother-in-law just arrived after finally getting her US visa. On the second day of her stay, I told her, “With my Mom, do not, absolutely do not discuss Ukraine or any related topics.”

My Mom never got along with my mother-in-law. For many years I’ve had to ensure their paths cross as little as possible. With the onset of the war, the possibility of a clash became an even scarier situation to imagine. My mom is full of rage against Russia that she left soon after the war started. My mother-in-law, on the other hand, is strongly anti-Ukraine, pro-war, and pro-Putin. She is eighty. I guess I don’t blame her — she spends her entire days watching Russian TV.

I didn’t think that my mother-in-law, when she finally meets my Mom — which she will in the coming weeks, now they are both in America, would be so careless as to start any debate, but I felt like asking her to avoid it. I saw two of my best friends bitterly argue over the Ukraine topic. In my experience, it’s impossible to reconcile the opposing views of the Russian people, so it’s best to avoid the topic completely.

Well, things escalated immediately — between me and my mother-in-law.

For one thing, she’s racist. It’s a little hard to write this story because I’m revealing the characters of my close family, but I have to be honest in my writing. So Zelensky is not just a Jew but a zhid (a derogatory term for Jews) who played piano with his dick. I’m assuming my mother-in-law is referring to his career as a comedian. Since 2014 he’s been killing Russian children in Donbas, and apparently, he publicly announced that he’d prosecute Russian people in Ukraine.

“Did you hear him say that?” I asked my mother-in-law.

“I know everything,” she said.

I tried to explain to her that I listened to Zelensky very carefully. There is a speech in which he specifically addresses the Russian people. It’s poignant, composed, and touching. I also watched Putin’s speeches, at least during the early days of the war, and I didn’t see a normal human being. I saw a deranged war mongering, insecure individual.

To no avail — trying to discuss Zelensky.

Then we discussed other war-related topics. She raged when I said that Russia bombed the city of Vinnitzia, where we have close relatives (my grandfather’s family is from there and my Mom is still very…

Alexei Sorokin

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