Should My Family Flee Russia? Perhaps, Not.
My mother implied that she would only leave if ‘shit hit the fan’ — but what more was she waiting for?
When the war started seven months ago, my Ukrainian wife and I were in Dubai and woke up at 6 A.M. to watch Putin’s announcement on CNN. When I told my wife, TV still on, that Putin thinks “Ukraine is not a country, and he’s invading it,” her reaction was simple and purely emotional. “Is he out of his fucking mind?!”
The following seven months seem like a single day, a never-ending quest of chasing the news and communicating back and forth between our friends in Russia and Ukraine. I interviewed people from Ukraine, sent money to volunteers, and wrote articles for major Russian and international publications. But at some point, I got tired of the war — and learned the term war fatigue — so I tried disconnecting myself by focusing on other things. I moved to London from Tbilisi to get farther away from the war, focused on building a career and settling into our new life.
My wife couldn’t do the same.
We spent multiple evenings arguing: me — telling her it’s important to take care of her mental health and not read the news as much; her — accusing me of being like “all Russians”: ignorant and a hypocrite. It was understandably easier for me to “disconnect” from the war — being far away, in the safety of the UK, and not being Ukrainian by birth.
It was understandably more challenging for her, having spent more than half of her life in Odesa, a port city in Ukraine.
My wife’s parents moved to Russia from Ukraine during the Soviet Union. It was the same country back then, and you could be sent anywhere to serve in the army. My would-be-father-in-law enrolled in the navy of Murmansk, the northern city of Russia, renowned for its polar lights, brutal temperatures, and endless winter nights.
After the USSR collapsed, he was handed a Russian passport and told that he was now Russian. Things intensified after 2014 — when Putin illegally annexed the Crimean peninsula and started an 8-year-long war in the Donbas region –and he couldn’t return to his home in Odesa. He was supposed to give up his Ukrainian citizenship and was now officially an…