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"Are you going to talk in your Russian again?" Four monologues of Russian women living in Europe

06.06.2022

The military conflict in Ukraine has torn many families apart.  Daria Kirillova recorded four monologues of Russian women living in Europe.

Even when we speak the same language it can be hard to hear each other, and when the culture and language are different it gets complicated, but you can see it for yourself.  

Victoria, France: "We came to a restaurant, and my husband said to me, 'Well, are you going to talk in Russian again?'"

When the invasion happened, frankly, we were all in shock - I myself did not expect that in the 21st century this is possible. My French husband even told me that if he wasn’t married, he would have gone to fight for Ukraine. Naturally, we started talking about it a lot. So, it turned out that my new French family was not at all aware of the problems with the Donetsk Republic, with Donbass - there was no information about these eight years. Yes, of course, this does not justify the war, and I think so too. However, when I only tried to at least voice these problems - we immediately quarrelled and turned to shouting...

It's not even that that makes me angry and upset. It's interesting that my husband used to like Russia, he used to visit me a lot before we got married. Both he and my mother-in-law were fans of Putin - they liked his policies.

However, now my husband is adamant: 'I'm never going back there again. And that's where we don't see eye to eye: I'm trying to convince him that we shouldn't draw a parallel between the orders of the government and the orders of the people. You know, I walk my dogs, and we get to know the owners of other dogs. So, after the war began, when people asked me where I was from, I was even curious to see what their reaction would be when I admitted that I was from Russia. In the end, no one said a bad word to me, all the French people I knew differentiated between the authorities and the people. My husband, on the other hand, believes that it is the same thing.

His family is certain that only a few Russians disapprove of the war, and that all of the other 140 million people are brainwashed by television, and don't understand what a catastrophe this all could turn into.

When my husband says this, I feel bad for Russia and we start fighting all over again. When the war already started, we went to Corsica, and he even told me: "Let's not speak in Russian in the restaurant". However, I'm a woman of principle and I spoke Russian on purpose - no one even lifted a finger. In summary, it hasn't come to divorce yet, but when we argue, I even think about returning to Russia...

A Ukrainian friend here, in France, first wrote to me to say that she was sorry, and that she didn't want to be rude, but she had to stop communicating with me. I replied that I understood her and did not condemn her, because I did not know what I would do in such a situation. I added that when she wanted to, she could always write. After a while she apologised and said that she didn't hold a grudge against me.

Now I also have strained relations with some friends in Russia - they support the "special operation", and one of my friends assured me that conscripts are not sent to Ukraine. Here, I couldn't agree, because I knew very well that this isn't true. I have a son who was drafted, who is in Russia now and I really fear that he will be sent to war. You see, I am a former serviceman, I served seven years in the FSB border service in Russia.

By the way, that was the time of the Chechen campaign and I remember that when I heard the word "Chechen" I had about the same feeling: I thought all Chechens were terrorists. Now for my new French husband "Russian" is a synonym for an occupant. Such is the irony of fate.

In my life it is also due to the fact that my relations with one person became better. I have an uncle who lives in Ukraine on my father's side. We have only seen each other a couple of times in my life because my mom and dad divorced early. Now this uncle and I call each other almost daily and support each other - me to him and him to me. One night I even heard a bombardment during the call.

One of my Russian friends told me that her Ukrainian relatives have stopped talking to her. My uncle, on the other hand, is a smart man, he doesn't look at his passport. I have no reason not to believe him when he talks about burying friends or bombing cities.

Although, I've stopped watching the news - I just can't watch it anymore and I can't discuss it with my husband afterwards. After the story with Bucha among other things - I just can't take it anymore. I want peace in my family and in Ukraine and I don't even know where in the world there is a place for me now.

Yulia, Hungary: "I think it may come to divorce"

My husband has Ukrainian citizenship and I have Russian citizenship. Of course, we cannot remain indifferent to what is going on, even though we live in Europe.

We have relatives in both countries, and of course each of us is worried. However, when we touch the subject it always ends up in the usual domestic quarrels, misunderstandings, tantrums, shouting and all that. I don't know why we have stopped hearing each other.

Perhaps if we were smarter we could have responded differently, but so far the dialogue is not very good. It's good that my husband is away now, and we communicate less.

I think you have to be able to distinguish political views from feelings and emotions. But most people don't know how to do that. We're very ordinary people in that sense, too. My husband is just mad about the whole world, and I, though I try to look at the situation more globally, too, often succumb to my emotions.

In this sense, I think that those who have read a lot of books, listened to various historians and have been interested in politics for a long time should really judge politics. Those who are suddenly confronted with the fact that the world is now black and white and you kind of have to take one side are just caught in some kind of trap. It's very, very complicated. I think it might even lead to a divorce.

I love my country, I'm a patriot. It's like with your own child - you see their faults, but you love him anyway.

So it's hard for me to watch the whole world now attacking Russia on social media, I feel resentment for my country. You know, it's like when my kid comes home from school and says he's been beaten up - I feel like I want to fight back against the offender.

We have Russian-speaking groups on Facebook in Budapest and I was really harassed there - sent away in rockets and bombs. Thank God, then the administrators began to control these things. Although, even my question about how I could get to Russia now was ridiculed. In times when you're depressed it's very hard to deal with.

I'm used to making friends and talking to people of different nationalities and I've never asked anyone for a passport. I've been travelling a lot all my life. So, here I had a lot of fellow Ukrainians. That morning they all wrote me a lot of angry words, deleted me from their friends or blocked me - and that's it.

Of course, these are all little things that can be dealt with, but it doesn't seem fair to me. I have a right to live. I live here. I'm not guilty of anything! I have the right to love my country. I have the right to go back there. Yes, nobody hurt me physically but the moral pressure is enormous.

Of all the people in this country I have only one person left with whom I can speak Russian. One.

Sonja, Germany: "I doubt we'll break up over this but over arguments about vaccinations, maybe."

I have been living in Germany for a little over a year, my husband is German and he and I and his family have always looked at many things differently, including politics. The pandemic almost drove us to divorce, because we could not reach a consensus on vaccinations. What to say about hostilities - I knew in advance that they would not get along with my husband or his family!

My father-in-law is a public person: he is a priest. On February 24th we were just invited to my husband's parents' house for dinner. I was even afraid to go - what if there is a scandal because of the news! Despite this, the dinner went surprisingly well, and then my husband's father invited us to the service at church.

Of course, they also prayed for Ukraine, but maybe because of me, I do not know - during the sermon the word "Ukraine" itself was not heard. My father-in-law simply said that we would pray for peace, but he did not use the words "Russia" or "Ukraine".

Of course, after the war my husband and I still discussed it, but it was very difficult to find a common language, we were constantly fighting and didn't understand each other. My husband only watches German television and I try to convince him to use some other sources of information. For example, I know families from Donbas, and they say they weren't allowed to live there, and I have no reason not to believe them. Friends from Lugansk sent me a film by a German journalist, where the view of the Donbas events is very different from the one generally accepted in Germany. My husband, however, refused to watch this film, even though it is in German. I got away from him at this point.

We simply talked and decided that from that point on, we would either avoid this topic or try to be politically correct and not to turn to personalities.

Was what happened on February 24th a forced step on Russia's part? I don't know, it's a very difficult question, very difficult. It seems to me that, after all, war is not the solution to the problem. On the other hand, maybe we really would have been attacked in a day if we hadn't done it first. Now I tend to believe that I trust the Russian government. Although it is more and more difficult for me to answer many questions for myself.

I am a patriot, I love my country madly, but such aggressive actions also shock me, to tell the truth.

I feel inexpressibly sorry for the civilians. For example, a classmate of mine has already died there... By the way, I immediately offered my husband to take in refugees, because we have a very large apartment, 150 square metres. In general, there are posters everywhere in Germany, calling to help Ukrainians. So, my husband, who lip-synchingly defends them, refused. He said that they probably would not want to live with a Russian (although my friend in France has a girl with a child, and nothing). Many Germans, our friends - also refused, although all are very supportive of Ukraine and all have huge apartments ...

By the way, my husband never said anything bad about me or my family, and I am very grateful. There was no such thing that he asked me not to speak Russian or accused me personally of military aggression. Another thing is that he used to love Russia very much, and dreamed of driving along the Trans-Siberian Railway and visiting my relatives but now he refuses to go.

I think that no matter how events develop, our marriage will not fall apart because of the war. However, if a new wave of coronavirus comes, it might, because the pandemic was much harder on us.

In Germany, they want to make vaccinations compulsory, but I am against it, because for me it is an issue of core values, one of which for me has always been freedom, especially as it relates to my body.

Last week I had my driving test, and I was afraid of prejudice. They were looking at my documents and I have Russian citizenship. In the end, everything went absolutely fine. Besides, I had two more interviews after that, and they also went great - after all, the Germans I met were able to distinguish in their brains between the Russian authorities and ordinary Russians.

Olga, Italy: "We just closed the subject to preserve relations”.

I have lived in Rome for 12 years now, but when everything started on February 24, I was in Russia. I started getting calls from Italian friends, and with some we immediately had a very big fight in relation to what was going on. My husband warned me before I came back to Rome that his whole family was very negative about Russia in general. So I asked him to tell his family not to bring it up in front of me and not to try to talk to me about it. Let me explain: I believe that everyone has the right to their point of view, and therefore I don't think it's necessary to change anyone's mind - let them say what they want.

Having said this, I know that if I started discussing things with my Italian relatives, it would be one endless scandal. We already have a ten-year confrontation about Russian policy, about Putin and in general about any actions of the Russian government and Russia as a whole.

They were not happy with Russia and Europe. Everything is much more emotionally charged now. I am also a sensitive and fragile person, especially taking into account the fact that some of my relatives were in Ukraine (thank God, they have been evacuated now)... That's why I told my Italian relatives: 'Find out what you want, but without me’.

Understand, Italians are very temperamental people, all disputes are very loud and emotional, and as a result, me, my mother-in-law, my husband's sister all remain in a bad mood. Worrying too much about my fight with my mother-in-law - I take it all to heart, so it's better not to.

I can not say that we have some kind of big conflict in the family - we just decided that we do not touch the subject to preserve the relationship.

Indeed, with many of my friends here I had to stop communicating - with Italians, I mean. However, my husband has a very calm and understanding attitude towards this situation, he sympathises, but I think this is how it should be in a healthy relationship.

Note by: Daria Kirillova

Photo: Shutterstock.com

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