Nadezhda Vertyakhovskaya: "People like me are antibodies in our sick country.

Nadezhda Vertyakhovskaya, an engineer from Chelyabinsk, explains why she does not want to leave Russia, the country that unleashed the war in Ukraine. And she recalls another war in which her father fought. "Eyewitnesses of February 24. New issue.

Tell us about yourself.

- I am a pensioner. I am a chemical engineer by education. Now I live in Chelyabinsk.

How did you learn about the war and what were your first feelings?

- I heard about the bombing of Kiev. I thought it was some kind of scary dream and that it was impossible. Before that, somewhere on Facebook, I think, I saw a public poll: "What do you think about the prospects [of a war between Russia and Ukraine]?" - and I answered that it was impossible. Honestly, I was in shock. It took me a very long time to come to my senses.

Have you thought about leaving Russia?

- No. I was desperate for what had happened. I even cried. And to leave - well, where would I go? I've been abroad a few times, but a long time ago. It was connected with vacations and business trips. I do not speak the language. I can read something with a dictionary, translate some technical texts, but I don't know how to speak it. And then I think that a person should live where he was born. I'm ashamed of what's going on, of what I see. So no, I had no thought of leaving. Of course, circumstances may be different in the future, I'm talking to you and I understand that there may be pressure. But someone has to stay here. I think people like me, this minority here, are the antibodies in the body. When a person is sick, he develops immunity, antibodies appear, and the more of them, the stronger the body is. The fact that our society is sick, unfortunately, must be recognized. So many years of propaganda, so many years of this violence - it seems to have done its job. It's scary. It's just scary.

Are you afraid of criminal prosecution?

- Of course I won't go to an uncoordinated rally, but I'm proud that there are brave people, including those in Chelyabinsk, who came out, who didn't keep quiet. There is a feeling of some kind of surveillance on you. I don't know what will happen next, but I don't hide my point of view. Among my acquaintances there are people who support it, but so far without the insults, although people like me, and called a fifth column. But what can we do? We have to work, carry out explanatory work. I think that time will put everything in its place.

Do you have relatives in Ukraine?

- I have a lot of acquaintances here with Ukrainian roots, or those who have relatives living there. One acquaintance had hypertensive crises in the first days - her blood pressure was 220 because she was worried. I have an acquaintance from Lugansk region, who was born before [the Great Patriotic War] in Chernigov region, their house was bombed, and after that they moved to Odessa, and after graduating the institute in '57, she came here. And now for her it's a horror that Chernihiv is being bombed, she has close relatives there, nephews and grand-nephews. She calls it all crazy. I have acquaintances who lived there. Children of acquaintances live there. You can get firsthand information about the devastation that's going on there. They say, of course, that it is terrible there: in Kharkiv, and in Mykolaiv, and in Chernihiv. Well, Bucha is just a tragedy. It is a shame that we cannot wash away. People can't understand that this is another country, that we came to restore order in another country - that's the worst thing.

Do you feel guilty about what is happening?

- Absolutely. I don't know what I can do in this situation. You see, I was born 15 years after the war. And I wonder why our parents told us so little about the war, about how terrible it was. My father and mother were twenty-six years old. That is, in fact, my parents were fifteen years old when the war started. My father was even at the front with Japan, he was decorated, and now neither my father nor my mother are alive. I keep thinking about Julia Drunina's poem, it's a short one:

I've been hand-to-hand many times, [Original: "I've only seen hand-to-hand once.]
Once in real life. And a thousand times in my dreams.
Whoever says there's no fear in war,
He knows nothing of war.

I am now taking it all out on the children, on the women who are there - it's horrible. You see, we may not even listen to or believe the Ukrainian media, the Western media, our own media. Now any of us can go to websites with satellite images and see what was before and what is now with the cities. This is all in the public domain. And we can see it all.

What's wrong with Russia?

- Dictatorship, dictatorship, dictatorship... We have no choice, we are no longer a democratic country. Hate speech against dissenters. There is no way to get your opinion out there. I think the reason is the one-man rule for 20 years.

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