" I quit my job and left because I didn't feel that it makes sense to try to have a career in a country that has no future."
"My name is Eva. I'm 38 years old. I came to Istanbul long before the events, in September 2020. Actually, I didn't plan on moving to Turkey. Other plans fell through. I was supposed to move to Malaysia. So, Turkey was my plan B. Actually, I left Russia about, uh, nine years ago. I wasn't actively involved in politics, but politics was a big reason why I didn't want to stay. Because I didn't feel that anything will be getting better in the country. I felt like if there are no free elections, no accountability for those in power, it will never get better. It will only be getting worse. And I wasn't exactly wrong. So, I left and I never wanted to go back, uh, for good during these nine years. And I was happy to have discovered Turkey for myself.
I guess now I can say that I'm definitely pretty much a dissident - talking to all the press here in Istanbul, telling about our projects and also how we disagree with the war going on, how it is unjust, how it is making the whole world a worse place. But I was never in trouble with the police in Russia, because back then I wasn't involved in any protests. And I also left a long time ago. For how I came to Istanbul. I came directly by plane, but I came from Jakarta, Indonesia, actually.
I mean, even starting 2020, I was joking about that planning is so 2019... but that was because of the pandemic. It was already hard to know what the future holds for us. And now it's even more problematic. Actually, I like being in Turkey. I liked it before. And now that so many interesting people are coming here, even if under these terrible circumstances. So, it makes it more interesting for me to remain here and try to build something here, to attempt to start some Russian cultural center and see where it goes. But for short-term plans, I basically, normally don't know what I will be doing the next day after tomorrow. I might have already plans for tomorrow. But next week... whatever. No idea. Things, happen. We have to deal with them one by one. I'm from Moscow. I used to teach philosophy and cultural studies at a university, and it was a pretty good university, but I quit my job and left because I didn't feel that it makes sense to try to have a career in a country that has no future. And even if I stayed there, at the same place, by summer 2021, if not earlier, I would have been fired already. Because many people had their contracts discontinued because of their political position and so on.
Do you think that Russia's invasion was justified?
No. there's no way to justify it. It is like one person's delusion and, no, there is no way, no rational justification for that happening. And nevertheless, it is happening now. There is this concept of the multiverse... very prominent in sci-fi, in popular culture nowadays. And it feels like we live in one of those alternative realities where an unlikely thing that didn't happen in most of the universes, did happen in ours and now we have to deal with it somehow.
About 70% of Russians supporting the war. It's not about how many people support it. We'll never get the real picture. It's about how these polls work. And they never count people who refuse to engage in the conversation altogether. And if they refuse, it's probably because they don't support [the war] but with all the new laws that make you accountable for what you're saying, especially if you say something against the government, nobody would be openly responding that they don't support it, won't express their disagreement, and so on and so forth. So, it doesn't show what real people in actual Russia believe in. It shows that people are mostly afraid or they just don't feel like speaking the truth - because that might cost them. And saying what the government expects to hear from them costs them nothing.
So, they say it and they go on with their lives.
I had no encounters with the Russian police, but, I will definitely have problems if I happen to go back to Russia. So I do not have plans of doing that myself and I very much hope I won't be deported for whatever could be the reason.
What kind of volunteer work do you do to help?
Actually, I'm helping my fellow Russians. By finding these apartments. Trying to make sure everything works, even though still there could be issues with the internet or something. So, I'm helping, uh, victims of this war, but the victims from the other side.
And, so, how do I spend my normal days? Uh, lately I've been talking to the press a lot, trying to tell our stories to anyone who would be willing to listen, trying to explain that not all the Russians support the war; that it is Putin's war, not Russia's war. We are hoping that the West can understand our predicament: between the repressions in Russia and the sanctions that left us without, a working banking system, and so on. It's really hard to survive and people are trying to get into Europe and not everybody can. So, I'm doing whatever I can at this point. Trying to make our voices heard.
That's what I do. I, like, I dunno, wake up and look at some news and despair. Then I go out and do things. Talk to people, meet people, try to make some connections, so we can have a cultural center here in the future, or maybe do some anti-war actions. Then I go back to bed. Read some more news and despair again, before I fall asleep. And then it starts again. That's it. Thank you."
This story was published in English in The "Edge of Humanity" Magazines in July.2022.