«There was shock and fear on February 24. Now there is neither»

Dnepr. 10.10.2022. Photo: from the FB account of the Police of the Dnipropetrovsk Region

Nina Vetrova is a 68-year-old pensioner from Dnipro. During the Russian invasion of Ukraine, she decided not to leave her hometown. Nina talks about what it's like to live under bombardment and what the future relations between Ukraine and Russia might be like in the Eyewitness Project.

- I worked in the printing industry. First in a state printing house, then in a private one. Now retired. I was born and grew up in Dnepr. When I was young, I lived in the Urals for a while: I married a comrade from Udmurtia. We met back in Soviet times at a youth camp in Minsk. Since he didn't have an apartment in Udmurtia, he went to Minusinsk, where a series of factories were being built. And builders were quickly given apartments. I followed him, we got married, lived there for five years. And then we broke up. I came back to Dnieper.

You know, I lived in the Soviet Union for many years. I believed in the Soviet Union. I saw that not everything was as it should be, but it was my country. And I can't say that I was a great patriot of Ukraine. Yes, I missed it when I lived in Siberia, but then, when I came back, I decided to stay here forever.

We used to say about Dnepropetrovsk that it was "not the first city, but also not the second. It was a closed city - almost the entire Soviet "space" was produced here. And we were proud of it all. I love Dnieper, even though it is far from perfect. When I studied at the Moscow Institute of Printing Arts, Moscow seemed more "cultured" to me. Even Kharkov was more "intelligent". And Dnieper was more "rude". Not like anyone else.

Dnepr. 10.10.2022. Photo: from the FB account of the Police of the Dnipropetrovsk Region

On October 10, when Russia shelled Dnieper, I was at home. I only heard the sounds of explosions. And not all of them. There were seven or eight, I heard four. They said - whether Prydniprovskaya station caught fire, or something near it. But there was light. Apparently, they hit close by. I think it was aimed there. And in Dnepr on Kalinova Street in front of the turn to Klochko Street was once a Soviet car park - such a dull gray building. Then it seemed to have been bought by "Ukrtelecom". And apparently these morons had the notion that if they broke it, we would be left here without communication. And now the city phones are only in the bureaucrats' offices, like the city council. All the communication is mobile. And there's nothing wrong with it.

There was a huge hole in the road from the rocket (city services have already patched it up - editor's note), and almost all the windows in the neighboring 12-story building are gone. How are people doing now? It is cold already. When I got there, we were very shaken up - everything is very close, just a trolleybus stop, a 10-15 minute walk.

But I have a feeling that the power of these missiles was weaker than in the previous times. It seems that the bastards had run out of steam, so they launched some weaker missiles.

I don't know how many people died yet. Six, I think (the Ukrainian media reported five - note). I think that those who were traveling in cars, it was the peak time. And you know, there was shock and fear on February 24. Now there is neither.

Dnepr. 10.10.2022. Photo: from the FB account of the Police of the Dnipropetrovsk Region

We didn't leave Dnieper - the older people are, the harder it is for them to leave. And my second husband doesn't want to leave, either. He's a terrible homebody. And fatalist: "If it comes, it will come. I'm not going anywhere. Go away if you want." How am I going to leave him? To be honest, I didn't really feel like going anywhere myself. I don't know how to rent a place? It was my daughter who had to pay for me. My daughter and her family went to London two years ago. London is an expensive city, and there are a lot of problems of their own. They help out anyway. If, God forbid, there is an occupation, we will leave at any cost. And the arrivals, I think, we will survive.

I'm no political scientist, but I think that Russia's main problem is the "greatness" that has been thrust into people's heads since the Soviet Union until today. It's like in a bad school: capable kids don't even try, because they know that they will be the best against a weak background. But Russians also don't aspire to catch up with the leader because they have been indoctrinated that they are the best, that everyone around them lives badly or immorally, or envies them, the great ones. And discovering their backwardness, they only get angry, but they don't try to catch up. They continue to indulge in their greatness and sincerely believe in an invented great story.

Many people are nostalgic for the USSR. And, it seems to me, they are nostalgic for their youth. But it's not everyone, but those who are used to having everything decided for them. In the USSR, you could not worry that you would not find a job. That you would go hungry, that you would have to take care of yourself... I am not nostalgic. I had an ambivalent attitude. Both before and now. Yes, something was probably good. The ideology that was promoted was good in its pure form. But it was not borne out by actions, that's the problem. We did not know how people lived abroad - now in Russia they say how badly they live in Europe, and back then they told us this. So we thought that everything was fine here. But they are poor there...

Dnepr. 10.10.2022. Photo: from the FB account of the Police of the Dnipropetrovsk Region

On the other hand, I was just a girl when my father became disabled. I'm a late child. My father had a severe stroke. I saw how all kinds of bosses behaved. We lived in difficult housing conditions, but my parents were naive communists. The kind who worked and believed in it all. When injustice happened, they just swallowed it. And I resented it.

I saw how my father was pushed back in line for an apartment so that the head of the Party Committee could get one. I saw how he wasn't needed when he got sick. My father was the only specialist in his field. He bound gift albums for Brezhnev and Scherbitsky. Dad could be dragged out of bed at two in the morning to work and he would take the streetcar back... On the one hand, I sort of loved the Soviet Union as my homeland, but I did not love the Communist Party. I was persuaded to join, but I categorically refused.

If the government in Russia is replaced by an adequate and safe one, relations will probably improve very quickly. At least diplomatically. Purely human relations will be restored very soon. Those with whom we are in contact now, who support us, we will see even after the war, and the relations will remain good. But such people will be few. With the rest, hostility will turn into estrangement for a generation, at least.

Dnepr. 10.10.2022. Photo: from the FB account of the Police of the Dnipropetrovsk Region

I have two friends left in Russia. They called me in tears on February 24. One of them is a friend of mine from the institute, a very educated woman, who is not on the side of the Kremlin authorities. The other is from Minusinsk, now living in Kirov, and she understands that something is wrong with her gut, not her brain. She just doesn't want this war to happen. These two people, not counting Facebook friends, have stayed that way. The rest.... There are relatives in Crimea, they have not called once. There are in Israel, who have always supported Russia. It seems that now their views have changed, they are for Ukraine, but they never call or write. They occasionally comment on Facebook.

I don't know how long the war would last. When it started, we thought it would be a few days. Then it seemed like a few months. I think it will roll over the New Year for sure. I really hope that maybe it will end in the spring. It will subside. If it is possible to release everything except the Crimea, then negotiations will begin. This is my opinion.

I'm a fairly down-to-earth person, and I think the future of Ukraine will be difficult. And it won't be recovered so quickly. Corruption in our country is also actively developing. Now, however, it has been clamped down to some extent. If we manage to join the European Union, it will be better and faster. If not, it will take a long time to recover. Presidents are likely to change constantly, because the Ukrainians are often dissatisfied with everything. But in principle I am optimistic about the future.

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