I left Russia, because I couldn’t breathe anymore.

By A Russian Journalist who has fled to Finland and writes anonymously for their and their family’s safety. By publishing this blog post Sopiva Association wants to remind that there are lots of people in Russia that oppose the war and Kreml’s propaganda. The post has been published also in Finnish.

Graffiteilla maalattu korkea muuri Moskovan katukuvassa.
Graffiti in Moscow.

When I was about 8 years old, I had a chance to talk with my grandmother about the Chechen war. Despite my young age, I clearly understood that something was wrong. My grandmother hated this war: the fact that our country was doing so much killing towards the Chechen Republic and its people who only wanted freedom and independence.

Later on, as a teenager, I understood that this war was a demonstration to the other 21 republics in the Russian Federation in case they ever wanted to claim independence. Each republic has its own ethnicity, language, and culture. Every republic, deep inside, differentiates itself from Kremlin goals and views.

Back then, I realised that I should not believe everything that is said in the media because I had an example of a person with an independent opinion right in front of me—my grandmother. She watched propaganda television, read newspapers, and listened to the radio, however at the same time, she never ignored independent media. She never let herself get brainwashed. She quietly taught me to be critical about everything I see and hear, and I am grateful for that. It is always crucial to see different sides, even uncomfortable ones. This way you can see the reality. 

The fear of saying your true opinion about power is in our DNA. 

And now as a grown up adult, I instinctively follow those rules taught by my grandmother. She had a different opinion about the President’s politics, but she didn’t share it publicly because she had witnessed as a child her relatives being repressed for reading ”wrong” books and sent to jail for the rest of their lives. The fear of saying your true opinion about power is in our DNA.  The whole nation inherited this tremendous fear of The Power. 

Many Russian men have fled since they have been forced to choose between going to fight in the war and kill or be killed or, alternatively, go to jail for ten years. I have friends who have escaped to Kazakhstan, South Korea, or China alone or with their families in order not to have to choose.

One of my schoolmates is currently in the war, fighting against Ukrainians. Before leaving, he told me that when they came to his door and made him join the army he felt like he had no choice. Going to jail didn’t seem like an option to him. I thought it would have been better to be in jail, because you would not be forced to kill innocent people, and you would not be killed yourself. Ironically, those who are blackmailed and forced to go to war are so scared of jail, but they still believe that they will have a chance to survive and return home from the battlefields. 

We are not evil but also victims of our own country.

Personally, I could not stay in Russia after it attacked Ukraine. I felt like I couldn’t breathe anymore. Getting silenced is a horrible feeling. That made many others to leave Russia. I have many friends who  absolutely disagree with this war but who could not leave the country for different reasons.. I can assure that their hearts are bleeding.

It makes it even more sad that many European countries have turned away from all the people in Russia, even the dissenting ones. Like a very close friend of mine from Saint Petersburg says:  we are not evil but also victims of our own country.

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