Nikita Skoba: "In Russia, they always make you put your head down.
"All at once experienced - fear, confusion, anger, hatred. I wanted to go - to shoot, to defend. Then my wife talked sense into me. I realized I wasn't ready to take up arms. Guns bring only death. Nikita is 26 years old. He was born and raised in Ukrainian Chernigov. Since the age of 17 he lived in two houses. The second was in Moscow, where Nikita worked and studied music. There he got married. There he met February 24. After the invasion of Ukraine he left for Armenia with his Russian wife. Nikita talks about the price of freedom and what is wrong with peaceful protests in the Eyewitness Project.
Tell us about yourself
- I am 26 years old. My name is Nikita. I myself am from Ukraine, the city of Chernigov. This is the north of Ukraine, Chernigov region borders Russia and Belarus. Since the age of 17 I have already started to live in Ukraine, then in Russia. My hobby is music. I make music, I write and edit it: mixing, mastering, I do the whole process. I used to do the same thing in Moscow. I organized events. We had a small collective called "Mob of Drummers". I got married in Moscow. My parents live in Ukraine. My mother, brothers, younger sister and grandmother live there. I've done a lot of things in my life - I worked as a waiter in a restaurant, I've been through all that stuff. Now I'm in cryptocurrency arbitrage.
How did you find out about the outbreak of war?
- I woke up, my wife was in tears. My mother called, saying, "They're shooting, the war has started. There was a very wide range of emotions. I experienced everything at once: fear, confusion, anger, hatred.
I wanted to go right away - to shoot, to defend. Then my wife talked sense into me. I realized I wasn't ready to take up arms. Guns only bring death. Started helping out, doing logistics.
I see an ad: "Guys, we have a truck coming from Poland. If we have something to load it with, let's load it. I see there is something to load, but there is no transport, I "connected" them. I saw that the neighbors needed medicine and food, because for two months the family had been living in a basement, the entire house was in a bomb shelter. Sometimes there was no light, sometimes there was no water. By the way, there is no hot water to this day.
I see a neighbor whose kids I grew up with. She says: "My grandfather has a stroke. The doctors say we can't come, because you know, we're all full up, there's no time. I wrote to the volunteers I was in touch with and they came and brought medicines and food. I know that in various regions of Ukraine there are a lot of guys who are still doing this. There is Artem Rakitin, just a miracle guy. He took a lot of people out of Ukraine and evacuated them.
Has Chernigov suffered much?
- Yes, the city suffered a lot. A lot of infrastructure was destroyed. We have the hotel "Ukraine" in the very center, there was a big sign - "Ukraine". A shell hit there. There was a house and now there is a big crater there. Many of my friends had relatives killed and housing destroyed. My childhood friend's family just recently bought an apartment and made repairs. Their house was shelled from a tank, a shell hit the apartment, the wall is gone, no housing. There are a lot of people who lost family, relatives. It is horrible.
Why does Putin need war?
- One thought was that he was just a fool. There are a lot of thoughts about it, but the fact is that people are dying. People are dying to this day. Walking around with a gun is tantamount to me coming to your house, kicking down your door, starting beating up your kids, killing your relatives and saying, "You evict because I once rented this apartment before you did."
Are there Nazis in Ukraine?
- On the one hand, I can say that in some regions of Ukraine there is nationalism, there is ideology of the Ukrainian people.
But I can say that there is more Nazism in Russia. Because if we look back to 2004 and earlier, we see that back then there was already a movement of ultra-right-wing fans, who would go around and zigzag, roughly speaking, throwing. They were ideologically radical, they often attacked non-Russian people, they were really hitting them. I have Armenian and Uzbek friends who were in Russia at the time, and they felt the pressure from the Russian people towards them.
The city of Chernigov is Russian-speaking. They say "sho" and "ge" in surzhik, but everyone speaks mostly Russian. When you come to Kiev, you don't feel badly treated Russians either. In my childhood, guys from Russia came to Chernigov all the time, we all were friends, everything was fine. My grandfather used to go to work in Russia all the time. Well, there was no such thing, you're Russian, you're bad. When you come closer to Poland to western Ukraine, to Lviv, you can feel it there. I remember when I was a kid, I went to a sanatorium in Ivano-Frankivsk, in the city of Kosovo. I directly experienced it myself.
I was walking with a friend I came with, and we were talking in Russian. The local guys heard us speaking Russian and followed us all the way to the camp. We realized they were following us, so we started running. We ran into the resort, they were already waiting for us. There were eight of them, and two of us. Finally we explained to the counselors what happened, they called the police. They talked to the locals themselves, they sorted it out. And they chased them away.
It's there, but it's a drop in the ocean. And now it is served under the sauce that everyone in Ukraine is a Bandera, that Russians are hated. There was much less of this attitude toward Russians until the Russians entered Luhansk and Donetsk, until they annexed Crimea. Until they did what they are now disliked for. After all these events, many became radicalized.
It doesn't matter if you're right or wrong. If you speak Russian, it's already bad. I'll explain it elementary, using my own example. In Instagram on the portal of the city I wrote my thought. And in favor of my people, in favor of the Ukrainians. People saw that I wrote in Russian, and began to say that I was a hired Cossack, a Russian propagandist, a Russian bot. I answered in Ukrainian: "Druzhe, you should see what I wrote to you, what I think.
How did you end up in Armenia?
- My wife and I, when all these events began, didn't think for a long time - we packed up and left. We wanted to go to Georgia, but our acquaintances warned us that Russians were not liked there either. But we spoke Russian. My wife is Russian. I am Ukrainian. It was ok for me, but my wife was afraid of being harassed there. We decided to stay in Armenia. Later we went to Georgia, it was very nice there, we didn't feel what they were scaring us about. Everything is normal. Everyone speaks Russian.
What are you most afraid of?
- Everyone is afraid of death, naturally. No one wants to lose loved ones. Honestly, I'm already prepared for a nuclear war. I don't know what to expect tomorrow. I live in one day now, I don't look far.
What can the Russians do to make the war end faster?
- The only thing that can help is to overthrow the government. Then the people of Ukraine will look at the Russians differently. You see, when I lived in Russia, I felt it firsthand. I thought for a long time about the difference between the Russian and Ukrainian peoples.
I realized that when you live in Russia, you feel under pressure, as if you are constantly being forced to bend over, to put your head down, to humble yourself. The authorities tighten everything up, tighten the screws to make your life more restrictive. People will "wail" and rebel at first, but then they get used to it. But in Ukraine you breathe freely.
I have many friends from Ukraine who don't understand why Russians don't want to go to rallies. And they are elementary afraid. People live in fear. Over these 10-20 years, they have already been intimidated and shunned. In his novel "Gulag Archipelago," Solzhenitsyn wrote about the events of many years ago: about the repressions, about how the Russian intelligentsia was leaving, about the scientists who lived in camps and were treated inhumanely there. The same thing is happening now.
There was a Maidan in Ukraine. People really came out, stood up, fought back. It was a very strong and brave act. We came to Kiev too, there was an atmosphere of revolution in the air. Indeed, it was a revolution, people were preparing ammunition, paving stones were being broken, someone was preparing food. It was impossible to breathe because pepper spray tear gas was in the air. You walk and your face, your eyes were burning. We were there day and night. People were dying, a lot of people. But they fought back, they fought for their freedom, for their future.
There is a mobilization in Russia right now. It would seem that everyone should come out and fight back. But no, they understand perfectly well what will happen. That they have to fight, you know. But on top of that, you realize that in Russia there are one and a half policemen for every one person. People know that they will simply be beaten and kicked to death. Navalny got everyone used to peaceful protests, and now people are trying to protest peacefully.
What happens in the end? One person gets beaten up, and 15 people stand around and film, supposedly to prove it to someone later. Who are you going to prove it to?
If we don't fight back now, if we don't overthrow the government now, if we just take all the people to a simple meeting, stop the work, stop the vital activity of the country, then that's it, there will be no other way out. They will think of something, they may replace Putin with someone else. They will take action in any case, if everyone unites.
Will you go back to Ukraine?
- I will definitely go back to Ukraine. We want to live in Ukraine. I have family there. I grew up there. It's my place of strength.