The Russian Embassy in Berlin

There was no time to walk around Berlin, at least no daylight time. In part, it was my bad planning – after I changed my flight from Chicago to Friday instead of Sunday, I could easily change the flight to Berlin to come earlier on Tuesday and leave later on Saturday. There was just way too many things going on, and I forgot.
Besides the conference, we could do just one thing – walk to the Brandenburg Gates and then a little bit along Unter Der Linden. We also walked to where we had dinners, but these walks were in complete darkness, and we could hardly see anything around.

This morning, we used the only daylight time we had – less than two hours before going to the airport, so we could not go far from the hotel.

First, we saw the word AEROFLOT on the top of the nearby building, then we saw the barricades around it, and then we saw that the barricades continued along the whole block, And only then we figured out what was a setup – the barricades were guarding the Russian Embassy!

I didn’t see the sign that this is the Russian Embassy, only the flag on the top of the buildign

The memorial is located in the middle of Unter der Linden, so that it is clearly visible from the embassy windows:

And there is an incredibly powerful message on the opposite side of the strre, once again, visible from the Embassy:

During the conference, I talked with many people from different countries about the war. I think, the words of my long-term Republican friend from Texas says it all: we are sending guns to Ukraine, and we will keep sending guns. Ukraine is defending all of us. If not for Ukraine, we won’t be in Berlin today.

We always have political arguments with this old friend of mine whenever we meet, but this time, I didn’t even argue with him about the gun laws when he said: we need guns to send them to Ukraine!

***

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.

Crossing The Border

I wrote this post yesterday and forgot to post it. I am not pretending I didn’t suspect what was going to happen, but still, what happened today, didn’t happen yet….

A very disturbing thing happened when I went through the border control in Helsinki on my way back. First, I was happy to see they now have the same machines as in London, where you can scan your chipped passport. Then I saw that I still had to present the passport to the officer. On my way back, I never ever encountered any questions. This time, the office started to scroll through my passport pages and asked me which countries I had visited and whether I was in Russia. Just to be clear, since I am a naturalized citizen, my country of origin is indicated in my US passport, but still!

The office kept scrolling, found the stamps from 2019, and looked at me inquisitively. I said – I haven’t been there since 2019. He kept scrolling and finally said: good; I see your entrance stamp. Because if you visited Russia at that time, we would have to question you (and he waved in an unspecified direction).

It was very disturbing but understandable. I know I have my share of guilt with everything happening, and it’s in Finland where I feel it even more.

And since I am posting it today, not yesterday, I want to reiterate – we stand with Ukraine! I saw these flags in the Southern part of State Street, quite unexpectedly:

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”

Happy

I can’t even remotely describe how happy I am with the development the war is taking at the moment. I am afraid to jink it, but God, how great it feels!

And how happy it makes me feel that I know that my “two cents” are a part of this development! I know it was more symbolic than anything else that I wanted to give money to the defense of Ukraine in addition to the humanitarian relief, but still, it feels incredibly good.

And also… it is historically funny how the language of the Russian propaganda these days not even resembles but cites the old Soviet-times play The Dragon by Eugeny Schwartz.

And I will stop for now 🙂

It Can’t Continue That Way

Boris went to Saint-Petersburg again. The main (and almost the only) reason for this trip was the dissertation defense of his post-grad. This student is going to emigrate from Russia, so it was vital to have all the paperwork (he won’t be able to receive his diploma for several months, but at least Bors did whatever he could).

Boris was surprised to find out that it was very difficult to get the tickets on the bus. Remember that his bus is now almost the sole mean of communication between Russia and the rest of the world. We still could not figure out, however, why all of a sudden the demand had grown so much.

Today, when Boris returned back to Helsinki, the first thing he told me was, “now, I know why there are no tickets available.” Most of the seats on the bus were occupied by families clearly heading to their vacation destinations, with huge luggage, wearing sunhats and shorts. After he complained about mothers screaming at their children, I asked: ok, what’s your problem with this? Screaming Russian mothers are, unfortunately, a very familiar site. He said: It’s not right! It’s not right that they continue to live like nothing is happening!

I could not agree more. That’s why I support Zelinsky’s call to Western governments to completely ban Russian tourists. And I do not want to hear anything about “those who are innocent.” Not everybody can take out to the streets. Not everybody can take a risk of arrest, and not everybody can accept the possibility of being fired. But there is one thing that an honest person can do: not allow themself to live life as if nothing happens.

I saw this video on my friend’s blog, a horrific video showcasing the worst cases of ignorance. I can’t comprehend it: I feel my guilt all the time, even though I never voted for Putin. How come people in this video do not?!

The World Is Going The Wrong Way

Yesterday, Boris and I talked about the current war situation. I am so desperate that everybody (meaning – all countries) says they are standing with Ukraine and for Ukraine, and at the same time, barely doing anything. All this is multiplied by the natural gas situation and calls for “peace first.” And I was so mad about these statements from Russian officials about the Odesa port: yes, that was us, and we are going to continue. And yes, we are committed to the grain agreements, but we will still shell the port and fire at the ships and the warehouses, and we do not care a bit about the UN Secretary and anybody else.

We talked about why it all happens and whether the gas dependency is the only reason. Boris said that yes, but also, there are other things which we do not see and the politicians can’t talk about, like there is a constant string pulling by the spies on both sides. He mentioned a couple of episodes from the Soviet Union times spy wars, which he knew from his father. The moral of these stories is that there are likely other reasons why the Western countries are not pushing hard enough.

And back to the gas supply. Just to think that Russia receives at least the same amount of money for gas from the Western countries as these countries use to support Ukraine… I can’t wrap my head around this, and when I think about it, I feel helpless and hopeless.
Every morning, I wake up with the hope that a miracle happened, and every day, I repeat the words of one of my Ukrainian friends: this day will come, just not as soon as both you and I would like it to come…

The State Of War – Again

In the past couple of days, my optimism about the development at the war front started to return partially because there was some good news, partially because I could see some panic in the ranks of pro-war bloggers.

At the same time, I was deeply saddened by some conversations I had with my Russian friends. All of them are against the war. All of them say that they feel endless shame and disgust with the actions of the Russian government and pain a sorrow for the sufferings of the people of Ukraine.

But that’s where the similarities end. The are two ways they think about “how this can end.” One – Russia will become a complete outcast in the world, a country completely isolated from civilization, and will stay like this for long, maybe forever. And another way – Russia will be destroyed and disappear from the earth’s surface, “and we deserve it.”

s I mentioned before, I firmly believe that only the defeat in this war might give Russia a chance to come back as a new country, a defeat as profound as Nazi Germany in WWII. But with my friends, such a defeat is either a tragedy or “it won’t be enough, it won’t change the people.

Both make me sad, and I do not know what to do with it…