"To become as evil as they are is to give up."

Photo: neural network

Maria (name changed) is 21 years old. A third-year student at Tomsk State University. Outwardly her life, as well as the life of the whole alma mater, has not changed much. Classes are on schedule. There is practically no discussion of the war within the university. It was as if nothing was going on. But the attitudes of Maria and her relatives have changed. They grieve for what has happened and find support in each other. And also in simple truths, which, as it turned out, have not lost their power.

- The February news is still ringing in my ears with my dad's voice from the phone. He was calling my mother, but the volume of the call was at maximum, and I, sitting next to him, clearly heard those terrible words: "Putin started a war with Ukraine. I remember only the physical sensations: cotton legs, noise in my ears. We looked at each other with my mother and could not move. Only my heart was beating faster and faster.

I spent all that day in class, refreshing the tape every five minutes-until there was nothing. People around me behaved as usual, and at first I thought I was the only one who knew what horror was happening outside our classroom. That's why I really wanted to see in someone else's eyes the same fear and incomprehension of what was happening as I was likely to read in mine. But gradually Moscow "woke up," rows of posts with black squares, weeping faces, endless reposts, flags of heavenly wheat color began to appear on the phone screen.

No one in my family supports the war. Among my friends and distant acquaintances there are several people who have joined the "ambiguous attitude," but with those closest to me we have come to an agreement and have become even closer. (Although it seems strange to call the "people should not kill people" principle, instilled in everyone since birth, an opinion).

What has saved me since the beginning of spring is that within the family (including grandparents!) we can openly live through everything that is going on - be indignant, cry, discuss the releases of Gordeeva, Shulman and others, be horrified, empathize with each other, marvel at what once seemed impossible, cry again and watch videos of the people listed above again to get a dose of "sober" and kind thoughts and to remind ourselves that there are many like us.

I was shocked by one of Katerina Gordeeva's latest videos with eyewitnesses to the war. Not the horrors, the deaths of loved ones and the atrocities these people had to endure (although they certainly did). It was amazing what they were like - quiet, exhausted, but not broken. And, most importantly, not embittered. There was no hatred or desire for revenge in their words. They were only half-whispering about how they didn't want anyone to be in their shoes. Not even their enemies.

Tomsk State University
Photo: TV2

At the university, everything remained as before. Within its walls there was no pressure "Za" or even discussion concerning the war. Only one lecturer, back in February, addressed us at the beginning of a lecture with the words:

- University is no place for politics, but it's not about politics anymore. It's hard for me to tell you about things as insignificant as my subject.

Her voice trembled, but she ended her little speech, so important to me, with a clear and brave "No to War. Then I cried with a pang of gratitude and sorrow at the same time.

If you look from the outside, my life hasn't changed much since February 24 - I haven't had to hurriedly leave the place where I was born; life, mine and my family's, is relatively safe. I haven't even had to fight with anyone close to me over disagreements.

Photo: neural network

But before, I hadn't seen my father cry over the fact that the village where he'd spent his childhood and where he'd secretly dreamed of taking us was now wiped off the face of the earth. I wasn't afraid that my friends or I would one day be forced to live thousands of miles away from our home and each other. I didn't run away from the common kitchen in the hostel while I traveled, just to avoid hearing the hate- and lie-soaked conversations of the guests. My parents didn't come sad from their best friends and when I asked "what's wrong?" they didn't answer depressed: "They're in for it, too."

I used to believe that the world, with its diversity, beauty and possibilities, was open to me and to every person on earth, the main thing was to open up to it in return. Now this feeling has been taken away from all of us, and it no longer seems that our lives are in our hands.

The state in which I live relies on brute force, anger, and fear. If all was well with Russia, I would not be afraid to write this text. But it is to the government's advantage that people are afraid to say what they think or do not think they are competent enough in politics. When there is only one permissible opinion, one truth, in a country, anything beyond what is "acceptable" becomes alien, shameful, and treasonous. For decades, propaganda has been poured into people's ears - and now millions of citizens believe it paranoid. Russians are little respected and disliked? Excuse me, what is there to love us for?

I decided that my main task and "help" to this world right now was not to become an evil person, not to join the ranks of the intimidated, prickly, afraid to face the truth. 

There are so many terrible events, people spewing venom, new laws strangling us... Sometimes it's hard not to lapse into aggression in return. But to become as angry as they are is to give up, to take the easy way out. So I stop myself, give myself time to get over all the "bad" emotions and go on with my life, trying to do something good today. Or at least not do any harm. And when thoughts arise that I am not helping the world enough, I remind myself that what is important is that I am not helping evil.

To end on something light, I will say: you must not stop believing that everything will be all right. Yes, that sounds overly romantic and unreasonable. Yes, it's naive and childish. Yes, it is something said in the forgotten ancient language of light, peace, and hope. We must always remember: this is our strength. In mutual help, acceptance, compassion. Otherwise, how are we different from those with whom we disagree now?

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