Author’s name has been changed to protect anonymity and for safety.
On February 23 at 8 p.m., I scroll through the news in Meduza (the Russian oppositional newspaper almost banned in Russia). Things have become worse. I have friends in Ukraine. A lot of my Russian friends have friends and relatives there. I’m scared. I text my family, “How far will it go? What do you think?”
My dad responds, “I don’t know, darling. It looks like the war will start before we wake up tomorrow. It’s not our war.”
It’s not our war indeed. It’s the war of a president who we did not choose.
It’s 10 p.m., my friend and I are at a small party—more like a gathering. I scroll through the news feed again. My friend tells me to stop because I’m only making myself more anxious. I look at the news one last time. I see that the war has started. My parents will know in a few hours when they wake up.
It’s 5 p.m. on February 24, people are protesting in Russia and getting arrested for it. I’m a part of the protest in Toronto. No one is arrested. People are cursing Putin and I do so too. It’s freezing and I barely feel my hands. I take some pictures to send to my family. Ukrainians, Russians, Belarusians, and Canadians are all there to say “NO” to war and chaos. They hold big banners, flags, and scream whatever they want, as much as they want.
I remember how I went to a protest in Russia a year ago. No screaming, no posters, there were not even any Russian flags. Silent people were beaten and arrested all around us. My friend, Liza, and I were lucky that night. We showed up late because I had a U of T lecture in the evening, and most of the terror happened before we reached the city center.
I remember how scared I was that night. Then, a few hundred meters from us, armoured police grabbed terrified people from the crowd and threw them into paddy wagons.
Now I’m scared again, even though no one is going to arrest me.