"After the report, the body was found immediately..."

Anastasia (name changed at the request of the heroine - editor's note) is a journalist from Saratov. She works in a small media outlet. After the announcement of the "special operation," her editorial staff continues to work, trying to comply with the requirements of stricter media legislation. Anastasia talks about how life has changed since February 24 in the "Eyewitnesses" project.

- I realized that something terrible was coming about a week before February 24, when they started evacuating more refugees from Donbass. I did not believe that Putin would go to war, though. On February 23rd it was a day off, but I was writing because one of my heroines had a trial on the 25th, and I had to turn in the material. This was the right decision, because on the 24th I wouldn't have done anything. I finished it at about one o'clock in the morning, which was midnight in Moscow. And I saw these two appeals from Pasechnik and Pushilin: "Come, Russia, protect us, please". It became clear that this was bullshit. I fell asleep and heard planes flying all night. In the next town, on the other side of the river, we have a military airfield. It was very scary.

At six in the morning, when I saw the news, I knew that that was it. War. I got the kids ready for school, fed them breakfast, and drove to work. There was a deathly silence in the newsroom. You should know our editorial office - we are very loud, all the time laughter. Within a month, no one was joking. There was such a stupor. My eldest daughter cried in my lap and told me that he (Putin) had robbed her of her future. It felt like everything had collapsed.

Saratov. Photo from the personal archive of the heroine

At the end of February we published my column against the war. Then we wrote about the first person from Saratov Oblast who was killed - it was a terrible story. The deceased was an enlisted man, who had not signed any contract. He was in the army for four months after the draft. And as soon as his unit crossed the Ukrainian border, he was killed. On February 25 the military commissar called his mother - and the dead guy had a birthday on February 25 - and said: "Your son was killed." The family turned to us, because they couldn't get the body to them. And I was struck by the mother of this guy - all the relatives in the material were clearly spelled out, and it was as if she had been erased. The wreaths, the cross in the barn. An unearthed grave standing, covered by a film. Snow everywhere. And it is not clear when the body will be brought. After the report, the body was found immediately and a funeral was held with honors. After the publication, the governor himself reported the first death. And before that, no one knew anything, no one died, and we are fine. Later, we still worked with the mothers of conscripts who were trying to get their sons back.

On March 4, they passed a law "on fakes" about the Russian army. We have a small editorial board that cannot "relocate" anywhere, and we decided not to write about the war. We don't give any official summaries in the news because we understand that they are lies. And we write "SVO" everywhere. It was a hard decision for us. But it was a decision that allows us to keep our team. We still write about families who have soldiers dying. About difficulties with medicines, which arose due to the fact that after February 24 the logistics changed. We still give that context. And we also immediately gave a disclaimer that we would work this way and that way.

Saratov. Photo from the personal archive of the heroine

Freedom of speech has been crushed in Russia. Turned it into dissent. It has been suppressed because it is more convenient for the authorities, for Putin. It is clear that this is bad for development. Development needs competition. But this is not about our president.

As for the attitude of my loved ones toward the war, friends with whom we coincide politically have been terrified all these seven months. Some of my colleagues have lost their jobs. For example, Novaya Gazeta closed down, and our correspondent for the Saratov region, a mother of four who is expecting her fifth, was left without a job - only freelancing.

With my relatives... My mother and father are in the same camp, my sisters and I don't really talk about it. But my husband, on the other hand, was horrified at first and posted "No to War" on Facebook. Now he's not on Facebook, and he's all patriotic. It's hard - I can't understand what changed him. When they announced the mobilization, my husband said that it was all bullshit, it would not affect us. He said that it would only affect those who recognize these self-proclaimed republics in order to find a place for people there. Now he has calmed down a bit, but we do not bring up this topic in our conversations either. I don't know if he is afraid or not. He's in category B, but now they're hustling everyone. And nobody cares about age or category.

Saratov. Photo from the personal archive of the heroine

Why do so many people in Russia support the war? Maybe it's easier to live that way. I chalk it all up to psychoprotection. Because it's very scary to think that you're going to have a big asshole in your life because of you. Let me try to explain. It became clear to me as early as February 24th that our children would go without medication. There could be all kinds of reasons for this. For example, the inability to leave the country for treatment. But many said: "Now we will put Ukraine in its place, and we will be fine! It seems to me that most people don't have strategic thinking, they don't see the cumulative processes that all this can lead to. It's impossible to accept that crimes are committed in your name, so people prefer to think that we're protecting something and someone. People live with the paradigm "A soldier wouldn't hurt a child." And those who live near military units take care of the girls, they follow them until they are 18 and beyond, so that they don't bump into these soldiers during their leave. Because they are well aware of how this can end. But still, "A soldier wouldn't hurt a child." That's some kind of doublethink. But I don't think it's unique to Russian society.

In the early days of the war, I had a desire to leave Russia. Especially since my youngest daughter was sick and dependent on medication supplies. But my eldest daughter was finishing school, so we had to make it to her diploma. When we reached her graduation exams, we somehow got used to the situation. The planning horizon grew from a few days to a few months. But then mobilization did its evil work. I don't know what will happen next, what awaits us around the corner... But to leave now? No one is waiting for anyone anywhere. With my profession I can only work in this country.

Saratov. Photo from the personal archive of the heroine

I don't see a future for our country. Given what is now happening in Dagestan, if all the republics say, "Fuck you," then everything will end with the collapse of the empire. What Putin feared would happen. If they "have the brains" to close the borders, the population will simply die out. Such a large territory with closed borders would not survive.

I don't know if relations between Ukrainians and Russians will ever be restored. Can this sin be somehow repaired? And I don't have an answer to the question of how to end this war either. We did everything to stop this war from starting. We went to rallies, we worked in independent publications by journalistic standards. But there are too few of us... All we have to do is talk. That is why I have an unclosed Facebook. In VKontakte I do not allow myself liberties, because I understand that a comrade major will come to me immediately, and I have two children. But on Facebook I express my opinion. I think it's important. You can have different opinions about Navalny, but he's an example to me. When they put you in jail, but you're still free. Because you're not afraid and you call everything by its proper name.