Ukrainians share information about war with relatives in Russia

9 March 2022, 03:09 PM

NV has collected the stories of Ukrainians who have quarreled with their relatives in Russia over the full-scale invasion by Russia of Ukraine.

After Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “military operation” against Ukraine, 75-year-old Ukrainian pensioner Olha Malakhova wrote a message to her brother, 66-year-old Sergey, who lives in Krasnodar Krai, Russia.

“Dear Sergey, my brother! Did our parents think that we would be on different sides, that the Germans would defend the Ukrainians from the Russians?” she began her message.

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“You are a Ukrainian both by blood and by birth, you’ve lived a third of your life in (the western city of) Lviv. Have you met even one Banderite? Has anyone ever attacked you for speaking Russian?”

The pensioner sent this message to her nephew Maksim, asking him to forward it to his father.

In response, Maksim sent the following message: “I’m still optimistic in this regard: The Russians will cleanse Ukraine (peaceful citizens of Ukraine and other nationalities) from the Banderites and other pro-fascist scum, along with politicians who illegally came to power in Ukraine in 2014. You will come out of the basements and live a free peaceful life. Politicians who are friendly toward Russia will be put in power in Ukraine, and everything will go on as usual.”

Malakhova, who provided this correspondence to NV, was shocked by this answer.

She had long avoided talking about politics with her brother, but her nephew seemed to her to be a more progressive person, because he has access to the Internet and is able to see what is really happening in Ukraine.

According to the woman, her relatives in Russia are kind and sympathetic people, always ready to help, but now their reaction to the war is astonishing.

“(Ukrainian President Volodymyr) Zelensky, the illegal government, and the Banderites with the Nazis are not your family members, they are terrorists of your family members, but a good neighbor will free you from terrorists,” Maksim wrote, to whom his own aunt had told that she was living in a basement, hiding from Russians bombs.

“Maksim, it’s terrible what you’re writing!” the Ukrainian pensioner said, trying to convince her close relative of the facts.

“You’re a smart, modern person. Do you really watch nothing but Russian television?”

Many Ukrainians face similar complete misunderstanding of the situation by relatives living in Russia: Journalist Halyna also provided NV with correspondence with her aunt living in Russia.

“Hello, by the way, Putin has declared war on us,” the journalist wrote to her aunt early on Feb. 24.

“We woke up at 0500 with the sounds of shelling. If we stop getting in touch, it means that the mobile connection is turned off or we are no longer alive.”

Her aunt answered: “We learned about the start of a special military operation in the morning. There was no talk of declaring war. Only military facilities are being destroyed. The settlements aren’t being shelled.”

With each new day of the war, their correspondence became more and more emotional. Halyna sent her aunt photos of the shelling of residential areas of cities, and the wounded among the civilian population. She wrote that she was forced to flee the city with her baby, to travel to a safe place for a long time. But no words could convince her aunt.

“No one is going to humiliate and destroy you! Unlike your ‘peace-loving country,’ which has been bombing its citizens for the past eight years. And now you again call on your men to destroy your people and country,” her aunt answered without compassion.

According to Halyna, after that, her aunt “died” for her: she will never be able to forgive her heartlessness.

Roman Timofeev, a well-known fashion expert, told NV that he came from Kharkiv, a city that is now undergoing perhaps the greatest destruction by the aggressor.

His entire large family lives in Kharkiv Oblast and Russia. Ties with relatives in Russia began to deteriorate in 2014. His uncle, who had previously visited Kharkiv every summer, began to say that he would be killed for speaking Russian, said Timofeev. All attempts to refute this turned into rows. The relatives have not seen each other for eight years.

His grandfather and grandmother also live in Russia, near the Russian-Ukrainian border, and, according to Timofeev, they exist “in the world of (Dmitry) Kiselyov-(Vladimir) Solovyev” (Russian propagandists). Russian television is the only content his grandfather accepts. On the very first day of the war, the grandson wrote to his grandfather that he was safe, to which the grandfather replied: “Nothing threatens you. Our military does not shoot at civilians!”

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The next day, Roman sent his grandfather a photo of how a shell fell right under the windows of his Kyiv apartment. “It’s impossible, our troops do not hit civilians. Probably, they hide military equipment between the houses,” his grandfather said.

“It turns out that he doesn’t care that this shell could have hit my house,” Timofeev says sadly.

He says he will never understand how his grandfather can trust the “collective Kiselyov” of Russian television, and not believe the words of his own daughter and grandson, eyewitnesses of the actual events.

Timofeev’s sisters also live in Russia, in big cities. They are shocked by what is happening. But behind what they write, Roman feels hesitation – they seem to be wondering if what their brother is telling them is true.

However, there are also encouraging cases. Hennadiy Zubenko said that his sister, who lives in the Russian city of St. Petersburg, perceives the situation accurately and has offered help.

“We are all upset, very upset. We don’t need death, which will be a stigma in Russia for many decades to come. The most disappointing thing is that we did not choose all this and cannot influence anything,” Zubenko’ sister wrote to her brother.

Anti-war protests are taking place in St. Petersburg and other Russian cities. However, not so many people join them.

Russian female citizen Zoya, who moved to Ukraine six years ago and now lives in Lviv, explains to NV that it is very difficult to get through to relatives through the layers of propaganda that have been created over decades and that have also enmeshed the Internet and social networks. She had a quarrel with her sister and faced a misunderstanding with her mother. The sister told her that Zelensky had fled the country and that this was not a war. She was also not convinced by the photos of residential buildings destroyed by Russian shelling that Zoya had sent to her.

Zoya’s mother seems to be worried about her daughter, but also says that the latter does not understand anything. Therefore, Zoya has decided that there is no point in explaining anything. She has to do something else – help Ukraine, and those in trouble.

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