***

Several posts in drafts and too many things going on. Just this one thought I wanted to post today. I am shocked not only by the Dnipro horrible war crime but also by the reactions of many people in Russia. There was only one person who messaged me with a normal (at least what I believe is normal) reaction. And I know there are several other people who think the same way, even though they didn’t message me. But these people are inminority.

I Can’t Stop Thinking About It

That is – about people in Russia who are not just silent but actively and voluntarily support the aggression. And I know that those of my friends who stay sane amongst this insanity are as horrified as me, only, unlike me, they have to live to face this insanity every day.

And once again, I can’t stop thinking about where I would be if… I recall the conversations I had with my friends sometime in 1980 or 81. I think I already mentioned that, and I want to repeat it again: at that time, most of us didn’t have good feelings toward Jews who were emigrating. We thought that they were cowards and wanted the easy life, and didn’t think about the consequences of their departure for those who stayed (the latter was true).

I was in love with L. (he liked me but didn’t love me and gently tried to push me away), and his family obtained the vise and were getting ready to go to Israel. L. didn’t want to go. He was eighteen and told us he would rather stay and go to Afghanistan than join the Israeli army.

I clearly remember that that’s what he said, and that’s what we all thought, and we hated his parents for not understanding such an obvious thing.

What was I thinking? What all of us were thinking? When I shared these horrific memories with Boris, he said that at least the Soviets didn’t launch missiles against Afghans. OK, they used other weapons. But that’s why I kept thinking: what was wrong with me? And those few Russian people who understand – I really admire them because I have no idea how they managed to stay human, and I am afraid I would not measure up if I were there.

There are people who understand that standing for your country’s independence is not an act of war and that Russia initiated the war, not the other way around, but there are so few of them!

That Is My Alma Mater. That WAS.

I am shocked by this news. I guess I should not be shocked because Boris told me multiple times about the situation at our university. The one that used to be THE University.

Hopefully, my non-Russian-speaking friends will use Google translate to read the article above in its entirety, but to give a quick summary, it tells about the hackathon, which was organized by Wagner with the goal of finding solutions for drones without GPS. The first-place winners are the students of Saint Petersburg State University, who previously graduated from one of the top specialized high schools (fortunately not my school, but that’s not a consolation).

And they are saying that it was fun to participate because it was an interesting problem to work on and whatever else…

Again, not like something unexpected, but truly disgusting.

And Let This Stay Here As Well

Also, I wanted to embed Putin’s address to the Russian people just so that it would sit here and be a reminder, but I didn’t come right away with any video with English subtitles, so I am leaving this link here.

One more thing I want next year to happen: I want this one to be the last Putin New Year address!!!

…and also, I want to be able to have the tag “ukraine” without the tag “war”.

All I Want For Christmas…

I am getting more and more disappointed in Russian society. I can’t believe I am saying this. I always used to say that the country has potential and healthy forces. Whenever others told me that nothing good would ever come out of Russia, I would always argue and remind others how much society has changed in 1991/92. I still have a lot of newspaper clippings from that time. I remember how we were hungry but hopeful and open to new ideas. I remember how in 1996, none of us, recent arrivals to the US, planned to stay here forever. We talked about going back and bringing back with us all the knowledge, all the new ways of doing things that we learned. I thought … well, does it matter what I thought back then?! 

I am shocked to find an imperial mindset in many people I thought were completely normal, intelligent, and understanding. The most frustrating thing is that these people do not understand that they have this problem. The level of entitlement is skyrocketing. I am horrified that I never paid enough attention to that and never noticed the level of this ignorance in the people surrounding me. 

Last weekend, Anna and I talked a lot about that. (This recording of Chervona Kalina I posted a couple of days ago was made during our conversation – there was a lot of singing). For many years, I told Anna that most of the Russian political opposition is not that much better than Putin and that being against Putin is not enough to be a decent person. Now she said she realized that. The opposition is continuous frustration and disappointment. Why do they feel OK behaving like a Big Brother when they come to other countries? Why do they believe that opposing Putin entitles them to some special treatment? Anna told me that at the beginning of the war, she thought that although Ukrainians are wholly entitled to say as harsh words about Russians as they want, they are indeed too harsh. But now, she says, she has concluded that the Ukrainians were right from the beginning. And that’s how I feel, as well. 

I can’t believe that even now, many people who once again seemed to be completely normal complain about the inability to travel to Europe as if it’s the worst thing in the world. There are a few of my very long-time friends who are not like this, but so few!

As for us, we feel the weight of collective guilt, and it’s more than just a word for me. There were many facts that I chose to ignore, not pay attention to, and not analyze. I have already said multiple times that I am not sure where I would be if I didn’t immigrate. I was thinking about myself thirty years ago, and I can’t be certain I would be on the right side of history. That’s why the blame is on me, and I can’t imagine people going around with their holiday activities without Ukraine in the background. 

I know that all I want for Christmas is a victory for Ukraine. Not peace, but victory. 

***

I feel like I blogged on this topic multiple times, but I want to repeat it.

I do not understand why so many people in Russia do not understand that in Ukraine, “Russians” sound exactly like “Germans” during WWII. Back then, people said “Germans,” and for them, it was the synonym for “the enemy.” This is not “discrimination based on nationality”; this is how life goes. And I do not know why it is so difficult to take in.

I remember how Boris told me exactly that at the very beginning of the war. He recalled how a couple of years before that, he saw a group of young men at the bus stop. One of them had a tube with drawings or something like that, and he was jokingly pointing it toward the others, shouting: puff, puff, I am Russian! Finns will never forget the Winter War, and Ukrainians will never forget this one… does it have a name yet?

… I am thinking about the conversations I had in the Greenleaf Art Center today. One of the visitors said, “Until it will be peace,” and I said – No, no peace! Until victory! And everybody agreed.

The beginning of the week was horrible with all these airstrikes. I have no doubts that those were the snaps of the tail of the wounded dragon, but they still can be lethal…

Refugees

so… I easily could skip this notification from the NextDoor, but I didn’t. And once I saw the situation the people are in, I could neither just walk away, nor drop some donations and check it done.

After one week of doing my best to help (with moderate success), I have a couple of statements to make:

  • It is awesome that we have so many organizations that help refugees
  • It’s ridiculous, that the refugees are not informed about them, and that there is no centralized agency which would direct them to the right resources
  • This whole system of affidavits is wrong, and I do not know how to make it right
  • Last week, I mentioned on this blog that I wonder why none of my Ukrainian friends ever told me that “I do not understand their situation,” and at the same time, most of my friends in Russia tell me that I do not understand their sufferings. Now, I want to make a similar statement. Why a refugee, who was a poll watcher, received multiple threats, had her friends arrested, and finally fleed Russia, why she is saying: Ukrainian refugees do not want to talk to us, I totally understand, after everything we did… and at the same time, people who are currently in Russia are saying: why the whole world is against us, just based on nationality.

Also, I am exceptionally thankful to Anna, who jumped in and spent a good part of her weekend her helping; to Igor who jumped in on the first day and helped in many ways, and to my next door neighbors, who donated not the things which they wanted to get rid of, but the items which were really needed.

Where Would I Be?

These days, I often think about what would happen to me if I wouldn’t come to the US. Suppose I would decide to stay, either because I won’t have the heart to leave Boris behind or for any other reason. Obviously, my life would be drastically different, but I am thinking more about what would be on my mind. Where would I be, and which side would I take if I stayed in Russia? It’s impossible to tell because all these twenty-six years made me a completely new person. It’s very tempting to say that I would be on the right side of things because of the “three generations of revolutionaries” because I was always a radical and “politically unreliable.”

But all these three generations of revolutionaries truly believed in Communism; they believed that you could “force mankind into happiness with the iron hand of revolution.” And I also believed in the communist ideals and social justice (one could argue that this didn’t change :)), just not so much in favor of the “iron hand.” I do not know where I would be, and that’s scary.
We talked with Boris about how we didn’t feel anything wrong with most of the engineers working for the Ministry of Defence or the Ministry of Defence Manufacturing. How we were very proud of ourselves, not caring how our ideas would be used. As long as the government was willing to pay us, we didn’t care. We were “above all of that.”

Now, when I read about Skolkovo and what projects are used now during the war, and how exactly they are used – why am I surprised? I was no better.

There is propaganda, and then there is this

Today, Russian State Duma changed the penal code to increase penalties for conscripts dodging draft, put in penalties for willingly surrendering to the enemy and reviving Soviet-era penalties against “marauding” (while also adding what would count as extenuating circumstances, which includes participating in the armed conflicts). And there are also supposed to be referenda on joining the Russian Federation in separatist-controlled parts of Donesk and Luhansk oblasti (the self-proclaimed People’s Republics), as well as the Ukrainian territories Russia occupied since the start of the war. The logic seems to be that, if Ukraine continues its advance, they would be attacking Russian territories, which would justify putting the country on war footing and partial mobilization. (As many people, including some pro-war commentators, have pointed out, the Russian Federation simply doesn’t have the infrastructure and the personal for the full-scale, World War II style national mobilization – then again, I can’t entirely rule out the Russian government trying it anyway).

The whole thing is flimsy as hell – but again, so is a lot of the spin coming out of Russian state media.

Continue reading “There is propaganda, and then there is this”

Sanatorium, part 3

Although most of the pictures from the sanatorium show me hanging out with boys, I mostly remember interactions with girls.

Since the purpose of our stay in the sanatorium was “to get more fresh air, we were outside a lot; almost all the time when it was not raining. When outside, we mostly played role games. We liked to pretend that the group of us was a family with many siblings. Since all the fairy tales were about girls or boys from poor families who would later become princesses or princes, we always played ” a poor family,” where everybody had to work.

As I mentioned earlier, there were two big girls in our group, Lilya was seven and Lyalya was six. Lilya just finished the first grade (she should have been close to eight then). They both, but especially Lilya, tortured us by “playing school.”

Lilya made small notebooks and actually taught a small group of younger kids to write in cursive. We hated it because our letters were coming out clumsy, and Lilya would yell at us (like teachers would do) and mark our work with bad grades. Somehow, I remember being more miserable when she yelled at us than when this would come from our teacher.

My stay at the sanatorium seemed endless, but finally, it was over, and mom and I went “to the South” again.

My historical posts are being published in random order. Please refer to the page Hettie’s timeline to find where exactly each post belongs, and what was before and after.