World-Outlook asked me to introduce the statement below by Russia’s freediving champion Olga Davydova opposing Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. The athlete posted the statement on her Facebook page on March 2, 2022. I readily accepted the assignment. Here are my thoughts.
I have traveled to Russia many times, written about my experiences there, and have stayed in touch with many I’ve met. What do I hear from Russian friends? “I’m ashamed to be Russian,” said a friend whose grandparents were driven out of Ukraine decades ago, because they were successful farmers (known there as “kulaks”) and sent to Siberia. Another friend who organized an LGBT meeting place she had to close said: “I have to make plans to leave Russia.” People within Russia who are aware of their government’s assault on Ukraine, who demonstrate or make statements, face a great risk of imprisonment or worse.
These are very crucial times for Russians within and without their country. Those living in the midst of the destruction in Ukraine have expressed wishes for peace but also a desire for Russian soldiers’ weakness, retreat, and even death.
Olga Davydova’s strong statement summarizes the ideas of some of those who are against the Russian government’s aggression in Ukraine. Opponents of the war have faced very serious repression from Russian authorities. I applaud Olga’s bravery and hope millions of Russians will emulate it.
Sonja Franeta is a writer, Russian translator, activist, and retired teacher. She is the author of “My Pink Road to Russia: Tales of Amazons, Peasants and Queers” and “Pink Flamingos: 10 Siberian Interviews,” which are available in English and Russian. She translated Davydova’s statement from the Russian original.
By Olga Davydova
Today I made a very difficult decision for me.
I, the champion and record-holder of Russia in freediving, am one of the top athletes in this sport, a freediving instructor with 9 years of experience, and a yoga teacher.
I am the mother of two children and a citizen of Russia.
I have decided not to represent my country anymore in international competitions, even if it means the end of my sports career.
It may be very soon that no Russian athlete will have the opportunity to participate in international competitions, but I made my choice not because of this inevitability, but because of my own beliefs.
What I am announcing is significant in face of the nightmare that is occurring right now. But it’s important for me to explain my position. (It is completely unclear how I, with my inability to remain silent, could continue to live in a country where the sentence is 15 years in prison for “betraying the homeland.” I just cannot be silent. I still cannot imagine and do not want to think about how people in North Korea may be living.)
I am categorically against Putin’s regime and the war in Ukraine unleashed by the Russian government. And I do not see any possible pretext for other countries getting involved in this bloodshed. I am a citizen of THIS country and therefore, as a Russian, I bear responsibility for what is happening here and now.
I am ethnically Russian, I do not have Ukrainian blood, but I have a lot of friends and relatives in Ukraine, and I have enough information about what is happening there now. No matter who said what in the past: today millions of people are living in hell. And it was Russian tanks that crossed the border of Ukraine.
Since childhood, I grew up with the idea of the victory of the Soviet people during World War II. The fact that we, Russians, are the heirs of a heroic past: a liberator nation that would never allow war. I am one of those who get goosebumps when I hear the anthem of the USSR. As I got older, I learned about the horrors of the GULAG and the millions of denunciations.
I remember the collapse of the USSR and the incitement of nationalist wars throughout the post-Soviet republics. I thought that we Russians should not take the bait of politicians who confront the people. My government has finally taken away these patriotic illusions, thank God. There is only one step from patriotism to nationalism. I’m ashamed of my country. I believe that humanity is higher than the interest of the state.
Categories: World Politics