Russian student in Prague on the anguish of witnessing his country’s aggression in Ukraine

Emotion is rising in the Czech Republic over the Ukrainian crisis. For many people, the invasion of Ukraine is reminiscent of the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and many feel the need to take an active stand there, whether by taking to the streets in solidarity with the Ukrainian people or by offering to accommodate the Ukrainian war. refugees.

There are also knee-jerk reactions like that of a professor at the University of Economics in Prague who responded to news of the Russian invasion by posting a statement on his social account to say he was no longer willing to teach, test or cooperate in any way with Russian students and called on others to follow his example. Following criticism that he applied the principle of collective guilt, he deleted the post.

Illustration photo: René Volfík, Czech Radio

However, the mood is tense among Russian students in the country, many of whom fear that the actions of the Putin regime will inevitably worsen the already poor image of Russians in this country, even if they can be very critical of the regard to Putin’s policies.

Martina Kroa spoke with Georgij, a Russian student at the University of Economics in Prague, about the impact of the invasion of Ukraine on his life, his relationships with family members back home – and even the likelihood that he will one day return to Russia.

Russia invaded Ukraine in the early hours of today, Thursday, February 24.

What are your feelings and thoughts regarding the invasion of Ukraine? How do you feel about all of this?

“Honestly, I don’t have much to say at the moment. I just feel very anxious, stressed and exhausted. It has to be one of the worst days of my entire life.

Could you also tell us how the people around you (in your dorm, etc.) are coping with the situation?

“Honestly, I don’t remember crying so much before. Besides seeing so many people crying around me, on the streets and in my own dorm. So, I just tried my best to support my Ukrainian friends, but at the end of the day we were all crying together.In fact, most of my Russian friends in Moscow have already left Russia and they will soon have to apply for asylum.

How do you and those around you view Russian President Vladimir Putin and his actions?

“To me, this person’s invasion of Ukraine shows very clearly that this person is completely out of control, completely out of touch with reality. So I don’t understand any of them: President as well as all the members of the government who respect rules which are in fact already more than sixty years old. Let’s admit that the world has completely changed since then. That’s why I can’t identify with any of them.

And how do you feel as an individual in this situation?

“In my opinion, the invasion of Ukraine was one of the things that I was sure would never happen to any of us. Over the past few years, I have never supported any actions taken by the government of my country of origin, by the government made up of people that I did not choose at all. Moreover, I did not choose or have the opportunity to change these things. So, now it’s more about me and other Russians being utterly helpless.Nevertheless, if there are any demonstrations or protests in Prague today or tonight, I will definitely join them.

And what about your family in Moscow?

Mariupol, Ukraine |  Photo: Evgeniy Maloletka, ČTK/AP

“We have a kind of different perception of what is happening between Russia and Ukraine in recent years. For example, my grandmother is Ukrainian and has lived in Moscow almost all her life. But still, she believes every word what the Russian propaganda says. That’s why we don’t get along so well.

Your grandmother lived in Ukraine and you have family there. Do you have any information on the situation in Ukraine?

“Unfortunately we lost contact with all of our relatives a few years ago and now all I know is information from the families of my Ukrainian friends who are now trying to escape somewhere to the west.”

And how does all of this affect you personally?

“Actually, it’s been affecting me for a few years. Russia had strained relations with the European Union, the United States, Canada, and basically the whole world. First of all, it affects the exchange rates which determine the final cost of living for me when living in Europe. Of course, it’s also about the SWIFT payment system and my ability to pay here by card. And finally, the whole economic situation is hitting my family hard and all the other Russian families who are just trying to afford something to eat.

So how do you see your future? Do you see yourself coming back to Russia soon?

“If you had asked me a few days before today, I would have answered clearly, but now I am not sure of anything. And I fear that the perception of Russians here in the Czech Republic will get even worse. So, for now, I’m just trying to believe that everything will be back to normal one day.

As a young man, are you afraid of being recruited into the Russian army?

“As long as I live here in Europe, I won’t be afraid of being recruited, but rather of not being able to return home to see my family. Because of the invasion and all possible bans on citizens leaving Russia.

Berta D. Wells