I am just finishing school

My story isn’t written to admonish or as a call to action. This is my personal tragedy that I would like to share with the world and be heard.

I was born and grew up in Russia. This year I’m finishing school, learning foreign languages.

I am just finishing the first extended stage in my life (school), therefore I can’t boast about having a rich life experience. But still, I am very grateful for my family, who have supported me in all my endeavors. I’ve never fought for my life but my family and I have always lived in strict austerity: my mom works as a school teacher (state employees aren’t paid much), and my grandmother and grandfather receive the minimum pension.

Russia is my home. Besides this country, I’ve only been to Ukraine when I was a child. But I love my homeland for its multinationality and heterogeneity. Traveling around Russia, anyone can come across authentic traditions of every single culture. It’s incredible that living within the boundaries of one country, many peoples managed to preserve their individuality, to not vanish.

There is no room left in this country for sensible people

My family members, including myself, were shocked and bewildered when they learned about the start of military operations in Ukraine, but in my circle of friends and acquaintances, I found no such support. To my dismay, people who had just a few days before ironically quoted the song “Do Russians Want War?” [a popular Soviet era anti-war song], alluding to the absurdity of statements made by American intelligence services, now vehemently shouted propaganda slogans. Many said the phrase "it’s not so black and white" [a common refrain on state news channels], but in this situation everything is completely clear—there should be no shades of gray allowed.

I was also astonished by the Indifference and ignorance. How can one remain unmoved by a senseless war that takes the lives of people, many of whom are relatives and friends of my countrymen? How can one say, "I don’t care one way or the other," when one nation is being destroyed physically and the other economically? Yes, I felt and [continue to] feel myself to be alone. You get the impression that there is no room left in this country for sensible people.

I wanted to get a respectable education. On February 24th, everything changed

I was preparing to move to the Czech Republic for language courses with the prospect of applying to university. I worked towards this when possible, started learning the [Czech] language, and managed to send documents for a student visa. It was difficult to decide to do this; we have this stereotype: “Europe is only for the rich.” But the idea of getting a higher degree in a developed European country was always attractive to me. I wanted to get a respectable education so that in the future I could work for a government that values a person’s intellectual labor. On February 24th, everything changed. The Czech consulates in Russia stopped their work—all my plans fell apart in just one instant. I can’t convey through text my feelings or what I had to go through then: I understood that my dream, which had already been converted into a goal that had almost been achieved, would have to be put aside for an indefinite time or maybe canceled. Now I am looking for options to get a university degree in a different country, but to tell you the truth, I have despaired. It’s incredible that I, a person who was born into and lived under the established regime and never voted for it, must bear responsibility for its actions.

I stayed in Russia not of my own volition, but due to circumstances. But I can say that people around me have become even more indifferent to the situation. The uproar has passed; everyone is starting to get accustomed, and I am more and more convinced that the fault lies in the disunity of Russians. Unfortunately, the population of my vast country is unfazed by the plight of others. We are crushed by fear. We know that no one would stand up for us, no one would protect us if one decided to speak out against [the war]. I think that one shouldn’t underestimate the effect of propaganda on people—in this situation, it becomes obvious that it has a huge impact on their minds. In my circle, no one has left Russia, but I reckon that it’s because of a lack of money and resources. I live in a small city, and very few can afford to voice their protest by leaving the country.

Probably every person I know has noted the rise in prices for everything, from produce to real estate. Many have lost their jobs, as before they worked in foreign companies. My family and I have to save, but we have always lived modestly, so this is not going to be a big blow to us.

Sometimes it seems like the future doesn’t exist at all

Now I can only vaguely imagine my future, and sometimes it seems like it doesn’t exist at all. I have to enter university. For now, I plan to do everything in my power to move abroad if it becomes feasible. For now, that’s everything I want.

I don’t think that I am lucky. In my circle, it seems to me that I was hit the hardest. I think that resuming visas would be the only thing that might improve my situation. To force the younger generation, which doesn’t even have a voice in elections, to bear responsibility for the actions of people in power is a flagrant injustice.

I really hope that someday Russia will be free, without imperial ambitions, and with a comfortable standard of living.

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Our stand on the Russian invasion to Ukraine

Russia started the war against Ukraine. This war is happening from 2014. It has only intensified on February 24th 2022. Milions of Ukrainians are suffering. The perpetrators of this must be brought to justice for their crimes.

Russian regime tries to silence its liberal voices. Russian people against the war exist - and the Russian regime tries its best to silence them. We want to prevent that and make their voices heard.

Connection is crucial. The Russian liberal initiatives are hard to read for European public at times. The legal, social and historical context of Russia is not always clear. We want to share information, build bridges and connect the liberal Russia with The West.

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