‘We’re on the Titanic, and it’s just hit the iceberg’ Meduza’s Russian readers explain why they’re not leaving the country.
Over the last few weeks, thousands of people have fled Russia, hoping to avoid the domestic political, social, and economic consequences of war. But those people are in the minority — not everyone can leave home and move to a new country with such little notice, no matter how much they might want to. Some people have remained in Russia for family reasons, others can’t afford to leave, while others have made conscious decisions not to leave on principle. We asked our readers to tell us why they decided to stay in Russia (or why they didn’t have a choice), and we’re publishing their answers below.
My family and I thought about emigrating, but there’s nowhere to go. What’s the point of going somewhere we can’t stay? It would only make it harder to come back. And I’m not ready to live as an illegal immigrant somewhere. Yet.
If it were possible to go through an official process and live somewhere legally, I would leave. It seems to me that this country has some dark times ahead. The grateful population will be hopefully counting the remaining heartbeats of its great leader.
Works for an IT company, Perm region
I can’t leave because of my elderly parents and my partner, who works in the civil service. We decided the EU will probably also have a crisis soon, and it will be easier to survive in Russia. It’s also unsafe to live outside of Russia right now because of all the Russophobia. Not to mention it’s expensive. The cost of living shot up when the migration started.
Works in PR and marketing, Angarsk
I thought about leaving — and I’m still thinking about it. I’m 30 years old. I’m from a small town in Siberia. And it was only recently that I began to live, and not just survive. I started to eat good food, buy nice things, travel with my husband. And now my country is pushing me back, back to poverty, back to the time in my life when traveling abroad seemed like a fantasy.
I don’t want to have anything to do with this aggressor country. It doesn’t fit with my worldview. We’re going to stay because we’re the guardians of a child, and we don’t currently have the right to take her out of the country. Plus, we haven’t had time to save up enough for the move. But we’ll start studying a foreign language and laying the groundwork.
I’ve thought and thought, and I’m going to keep thinking — either until I leave, or for the rest of my life.
There were several reasons I had to stay — first of all, I’m the oldest son and my brother works abroad. My parents can’t leave, at least not anytime soon. It was only logical for the younger son to stay in a wealthier country to work, and for the older son to stay with our parents in the totalitarian country for now. The other reason is my girlfriend — hopefully, my future wife. I don’t see a way to move away and leave her here, and there are no guarantees when you’re abroad (or when you’re here). If it weren’t for these two factors, I would leave, even without my things and with an uncertain future. I think I’d be able to make it abroad as an experienced programmer, but I can’t give that same guarantee to my loved ones. They might need me here more.
I don’t see us being able to have a comfortable life in Russia — even an less-comfortable life abroad seems more promising. Plus, every day the war goes on, I feel indirectly responsible for what’s happening, and perhaps I am — every citizen is a tiny built responsible, but responsible nonetheless, for what his country does. But going to a protest and risking a jail sentence, which would make me unable to help my loved ones or leave the country, would be too dangerous.
I thought about leaving when I was still a student (my sexuality was a factor), but I didn’t have the courage. And now the chance is gone. My mom had a stroke, I have a little puppy on my hands, and I’m broke. Not to mention my profession, which wouldn’t interest anyone abroad.
I think there’s a lot of poverty in this country’s future. High inflation, unemployment, and business closures will lead us straight there. Everyone who was poor like me might very well die of hunger.
Works in a modern art gallery, Moscow
I want to leave, but my husband doesn’t. He doesn’t think we’ll be able to find work abroad without knowing the language or any special skills. There’s also the question of my parents and my old, 92-year-old grandmother, who I have to care for. I’m very scared, but I can’t leave my family. I think things are about to get very bad: tyrannical law enforcement, poverty, banditry, and perhaps a civil war.
We have a small cottage in a village, and if everything falls apart, we’ll have to move there. I’ve basically been deprived of any opportunity for self-actualization or enjoyment in my professional life. Nobody needs art when there’s a war going on — or in the aftermath.
Works in the service industry, Krasnodar
I regularly consider leaving. I’m trying as hard as I can to find a way to bring my parents with me. But I’ll almost certainly end up staying here in order to be close to my loved ones. I won’t allow myself to leave them behind.
Sometimes I recall the stories my dad has told me about how hard it was in the 1990s. Right now, I foresee a future several times worse than those days. A lot of people will be jobless. Hunger will become a serious issue. Crime will soar. We’re on the Titanic, and it’s just hit the iceberg.
Sells products in a market, Moscow
I had a burning desire to go to Georgia or to some other CIS country. But I’m 22 — that stupid age where I have some savings but they’re not enough to drop everything and move indefinitely to a country where I won’t be able to work.
I’m also scared to leave my grandma and dad, who live in the Samara region. I need to go and help my grandma stock up on the essentials ahead of time — I’m worried her pension won’t be enough in the future, or that there will be product shortages. And I also just don’t want to leave. This is my country — I’m confident we can change something. Especially right now, when the regime in Russia is especially vulnerable. If we can survive this crisis, we can build a new Russia. I’m trying to hope for the best and do whatever I can.
Works in a university, Yelets
I’ve thought about leaving. I don’t know how to morally keep living. And I’m still thinking about it, but… I have a daughter here — she lives with my ex-wife. And my mother’s grave is here.
Works in an auto shop, Vladivostok
I don’t want to leave because I’m hoping for an economic recovery, reforms, and a change in government. In my view, leaving the country right now would be to betray it. The only way we’ll be able to overcome these criminals in power is by uniting. The entire opposition needs to direct all our strength in one direction, with the same demands. We’re too divided. We can’t let them divide and conquer us.
I made the decision to stay five years ago, and I haven’t changed my mind. I had thoughts about leaving when my friends started talking about emigrating immediately after February 24. I panicked and joined a bunch of immigration groups online. I even had a ticket to Istanbul for the beginning of March — I’d bought it long before this all happened, and it seemed like a lucky coincidence, but I didn’t end up getting on the flight. I’ve already lived abroad a lot in my life — I’ve had enough of that experience to understand how much I value my home and my country. I really love Russia and the people here. This is where I learned what friendship and love are, where I became who I am, when I acquired my most important values and my life’s meaning, and that’s why I’ll stay. I think freedom is worth fighting for. I often joke with my therapist that in the end, the three people left in this country will be me, Navalny, and Putin.
Abridged translation by Sam Breazeale