As a Russian, I am angered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

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Kate Kotlyar copy editor

I am Russian and I am angered by Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine

While I am ethnically Ukrainian and Moldovan, my parents grew up in the Soviet Union, went to Russian schools, spoke Russian and practiced Russian culture, so I call myself a Russian. I always felt more drawn to Russian society because it’s what I grew up with–that was, until Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Now, I’m ashamed that I ever called myself a Russian. 

I can’t remember how I learned about Putin’s invasion. It was probably through Instagram, the place I routinely get my information before I dive deeper later in the day. I did originally think the headline was a joke, something satirical from the Onion. To my dismay, it wasn’t. The headline was real. Ukraine was being attacked. 

While I may be over 6,000 miles away from Ukraine, that does not mean that I do not feel the reverberation from the bombs dropped on beloved Ukrainian cities. I feel the pain of other Ukrainians as I watch videos of bombs being dropped on Odesa, the city my grandmother called home for most of her life, and the country’s gorgeous capital, Kyiv, where my grandparents built a life together and where my father called home for 21 years. I think of the stories my mom told me of when she would vacation by the Black Sea or see the watermelons of Kherson. I think of the way my grandmother would describe how Kyiv smelled after a rainy day and complain that American rain didn’t feel the same. I think of a country that I feel so connected to, heard so much about, know so much about, but have never been to. 

I feel pain for Ukrainians across the globe, but I also feel pain for people like me in the United States. On Feb. 22, I was sitting on the couch talking with my mom, as news coverage about Russia’s pending invasion of Ukraine aired. We watched the TV screen in silence for a few seconds until my mom turned to me and sternly said, “From now on, you are Ukrainian, not Russian. You’re not allowed to speak Russian outside of this house.” She wants me to hide the Russian part of me because she’s scared of what Americans might do if they found out there was a Russian among them. She’s scared for another Red Scare, just as I am. 

As I scroll through Instagram and see videos of missiles flying into Ukrainian cities and see protestors across the world chanting “нет войне,” or “No to War,” I also see Beverly students reposting a meme that Donald Trump Jr. posted about the crisis. He posted a popular meme of Kanye West holding up a notepad, but the original text was replaced with “Russia wouldn’t be invading Ukraine if Trump was still president.” 

Seeing this post angered me.

This post angered me because it was posted two days after former President Donald Trump’s interview on The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton show aired, where Trump called Putin a “peacemaker ”and a “savvy” man for his actions toward Ukraine. Seeing students, people I go to school with every day, repost that meme pains me because of the false information they’re spreading and because this decreases the severity of Putin’s invasion by placing partial blame on President Biden.Even Trump claimed that he knew that Putin wanted Ukraine, saying, “I knew that he wanted Ukraine. I used to talk to him about it.”

I urge every single student and faculty member on our school’s campus to not spread false or vilifying information about individuals who had no direct part in Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. I urge students to not make jokes about this invasion because there are people on campus whom this invasion directly affects. Jokes are not okay when people are dying. I also urge students to please check in with and ask your Russian and Ukrainian peers how they’re feeling because if I were asked, I’d say that I don’t want to feel ashamed to call myself a Russian, I don’t want to be afraid to speak Russian in public and I don’t want a resurgence of the Soviet Union. 

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