"I became the enemy of my friends in a tick".

Voronezh. Photo used with permission of the author

Anna is a political journalist and writer from Voronezh. On February 24, she woke up in another country, but did not emigrate like many of her colleagues. Although the Ministry of Justice has not recognised her as a foreign agent, Anna feels it is only a matter of time. Her friends continue to communicate with her, considering her an enemy of the state. Read Anna's story.

– Most of my life has been under Putin's rule. I was ten years old when he ascended the throne. This word is not coincidental here,  this political figure can hardly see himself someone else than an autocrat, even if he tries to convince his "kingdom" otherwise. At the time, I, still an enchanted child, brought up on the impressions I received from my poor parents, rejoiced at the departure of Boris Yeltsin. The elderly, troubled president looked a much less attractive "czar" than the young and active Putin. The pensions and salaries that became regular, the improved standard of living played a significant role in the growth of this very attractiveness.

It is now that I understand that the president played an insignificant role in these processes in the context of a business that was developing literally against all odds. The slowly unfolding propaganda machine played no less of a role, but back then it was more of a spontaneous one: teachers, as state employees, also felt that their economic situation was improving and praised the "Tsar" to the utmost. Many of them were also fascinated by the times of Imperial Russia. The result is obvious – I liked Putin then, as a very young girl, as much as probably a large part of the country liked him.

The charm went away in 2008, when the "Tsar," like one without quotation marks, handed power over to Medvedev. At that time there was not even an illusion of free choice – Medvedev did not have even a gram of his patron's charisma. He did not look like a good option, and the much more media-driven former president left no doubts at all: there was no change in power. Power was simply postponed in order to bypass the law, to return to the throne on much more favorable terms – now for six years already.

By that time I was no longer a little girl, but was taking my first steps as a student of government at the local university, in realising the importance of freedom of choice and elections. It seemed like it was about to happen, just a little longer, but people could not be so blind, so much not to notice where they were being dragged? Again. Was it imperialism, hated by everyone, in whom flows the blood of peasants and workers. Or into the already hated by the clerisy and business "sovok". But they didn't. A chorus of discordant voices, already including myself, tried to make this point. But Russia, tired of the turmoil, just ditched it. The main thing is that we don't have the war. The main thing is that it's not the nineties.

Freedom of speech was restricted. At first carefully, with laws like "insulting the feelings of believers" or banning the "propaganda" of LGBT to minors.

They persecuted, jailed, even killed oppositionists.

February 24th came to my home, as it came to the home of every Russian. It came by a disaster that was not expected. A war that we Russians had been promised not to happen. The second nineties, with rising prices, falling living standards, fear of tomorrow. Admittedly, I myself ditched all the rumours about military equipment at Ukraine's borders, about troop preparations, and about an impending war that were circulating before that memorable day. 

Well, it is impossible, no one in their right mind would go for such a break in the social contract. There must be no war. After all, "the main thing is to avoid having a war". This contract turned out to be a deception, just as the choice and the elections turned out to be a deception. And I, a citizen of this country, was dragged into it against my will. I have friends in Ukraine. I have friends in Europe and in the United States.

According to my state, I, a person of peace, who for years had communicated with people from other countries on topics far removed from politics, suddenly became a foreign agent. Not yet an official "yellow star," but I am unlikely to escape from it, given my occupation. 

I also became the enemy of my friends in a tick. No, of course, they have not abandoned me, nor have they stopped communicating with me. Contrary to the fantasies that pour out of the screens and flicker in the articles, my friends separate the state and the people. And I don't even need to convince them how much I am against what is happening. They understand it all for themselves.

I am a political journalist and writer who was deprived of my freedom of speech, my freedom of choice, after which the peaceful sky above my head was taken away and the memory of my ancestors who gave their lives in World War II was walked over with dirty boots. I don't know how much longer I will go without a yellow star and I don't know how much longer I will be free. 

One thing I know for sure: this war, no matter what epithet all its participants, willing and unwilling, will award it, has taken lives. It took the future of millions of people, native and "alien".

On February 24, I woke up in another country, while mine had been brazenly and greedily taken away, leaving only blood and ashes in its place.