I Lost All Hope Regarding Russia
One year into the war, it’s clear: there’s nothing to return to because my country will never be the same.
When I was leaving Russia in 2019 and decided to stop returning in 2021 — a year before the war started — I did it for personal reasons.
All my childhood, I hated living in Russia. I hated the cold, the bitterness, the grey buildings, the angry people, and the Soviet rhetoric that kept being pushed down people’s brains even though it was time to move on to something else.
I saw no future for myself there, and I wanted something bigger.
So I left.
Still, in the back of my mind, I thought: if I ever wanted to return, I’d be able to. I thought I’d be able to visit my family, walk around the streets of Moscow like a tourist, and enjoy the beautiful northern summers where I grew up and where everything smells familiar.
Over the past several years, I moved between three countries, married (to a Ukrainian, by the irony of faith), and settled in London. Life in Russia now seems distant and surreal. I still read the news but generally feel I’ve emigrated. And no matter how much content I consume, I have no idea what Russia is like anymore because I have lost touch with it.
I became one of those standing in line at a Russian deli in London who emigrated in the late 1980s and pretended they understood what it’s like to live there forty years since.
And neither do I.
The country of my youth used to be a grim and cold and hard place to live in. It was a place of conspicuous consumption as a religion and stupid, pointless rules that nobody followed. The way to break into “people” (as Russians say) — to make money and become successful — was to lie, cheat, steal, or somehow find a way to make money on bizarre things, like selling paperclips and construction nails.
It was a place without ideology, mission, or a system of values. While Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, and other post-Soviet countries moved forward, Russia kept looking over its shoulder, reminiscing about the past.