This was supposed to be a post on the art of sarcasm, but after reading this morning's news about Putin approving the use of the military force in Ukraine I simply can't not write about it, and I can't write about anything else. As I'm writing this, I'm shaking. I've been posting my thoughts on Twitter about the book I'm working on right now, IRKADURA, fueled by my experiences growing up in Soviet Union, and how it relates to what's happening in the glorious country of my origin this very moment and somebody said to me, speak up, people look up to those who are from Russia to understand this better, and also to writers because we have a voice and we know how to use it. And you're right. I need to speak up more. I'm learning this. It is my responsibility as a writer, to get out there in public, to strip naked and to show the whole world what I feel, and it's fucking scary, because I know I will be pelted with stones to death. But so be it. This is my faith. I chose it, I stand by it. I will speak.
Growing up in Soviet Union (I was born in 1976) has been a strange experience for me because of the circumstances surrounding my childhood. I was abused, neglected, and at the same time introduced to the finest art of Russia, poetry, literature, paintings, through my father who is a writer and through my mother who is a fashion designer and made dresses for me that won me the envy and the hate of other girls in school because their parents simply couldn't buy stuff like that in stores. Beautiful things didn't exist. Everything was hopeless, dreary, dismal, soul-drenching, and that's what everybody got, from shoes to TV's to cars to fucking uncomfortable ugly cotton bras that I still hate to this day. In a way because I grew up like grass, hanging out with boys riding bikes in the streets, and because my parents divorced when I was 4 and in my mom's household nobody cared what I did or where I was or what syphoned into my head, and in my father's house I was only present for occasional weekends, and none of the people surrounding me were extremely religious or socialist or communist but rather taught me to love books, I somehow have avoided the brain washing that my peers didn't and never bought into the whole communism idea, the little Oktobrists, the pioneers, the Komsomol, the Communist Party, although I believe my father was a member of the party.
Anyway. Growing up on the street without a clear perspective on politics I got a chance to form my own, not riddled with propaganda, which was in itself a miracle. And maybe that's why I started questioning it when I was young, just some girl who liked to read fantasy books. I didn't get the lie of the whole equality since the creme of the crop of Soviet elite got to go to stores others couldn't, go abroad, spend their vacations in special resorts. It all was a big lie to me. Of course, on top of it, I was suffering from the tyranny of my father. I ran away from home at 17 (I used to tell people I was 16, but upon examining my diaries this month I realized I was 17), got pregnant, married, had a baby, and then our marriage fell apart. I loved my ex-husband but he was a child. I was a child too, but growing up amidst violence made me a bitter adult in some way, so I remember distinctly how I left him and thought, walking down the street, how I'm sick of men in general. How I detest the idea of a guy being a president, or the tsar, how I loved reading stories about queens and how I would love to see a woman as the president. I was very angry back then, to the point of thinking, FUCK THIS ALL, I will become a lesbian. I want to love women, I want to be loved by women, and I don't care for these dicks that... But, I need to back up. This is a bit of a lengthy intro on the subject I wanted to cover originally, since you have to see my background to understand my position on the current events.
I always asked questions. I got kicked in the head for asking questions, but since I grew up beaten, I developed this stubbornness and still asked questions. I was surrounded by the culture of looking up to the ONE. In my family it was my domineering father and the women serving him, which I rebelled. In my country it was a president after a president who was regarded as the sun and the moon and the fucking starts in the sky, the divine deity that ruled and had absolute power and was looked upon as the savior and the solver of all our problems. I hated this idea. So I dug deeper, in college, in history class. We had this awesome teacher and he gave us lectures on geography and how it affects nations, countries, people. I was intrigued. I read about harsh winters and the court of Sophia Paleologue traveling to Russia for her to marry tsar Ivan III and the traveling writer noting the state of the country. I can't recall the original text and who wrote it, but it struck me with this image he described. He said it was impossible to do business with Russians, they woke up late, they were late to meetings because all roads were a mess, they took off for tea at 3pm, then they napped and were gone for the rest of the day. He wrote of the filth, the torpor, the lack of education in common men, and the barbarian culture. He attributed it to the cold solemn landscape Russia occupied. It got me thinking back then and I dug deeper. I became interested in the whole religious thing and how come Jesus is also a guy and where this whole institution of marriage and abuse of women came from and how come before that women were often revered as vessels that were able to give life and now they aren't. Now they are often victims of vicious attacks, starting fro online bullying and ending in horrendous rape and murder cases that are still prevalent in every corner of the world. That bothered me back then, it flat out infuriates me now, as I was a victim myself and I was determined back to find out why we still do it.
Now, cue war. I studied in school about various wars Russia was involved in. I was afraid of American spies throwing poisoned candy out in the streets for Russian children to pick up and eat. Yes, it was fed to me, this propaganda, this thinking, and again, I rebelled against it. I started thinking of war as miscommunication. People simply didn't take time to talk. It was easier and faster to shoot each other. I was a teenager growing up amidst the chaos of constitutional crisis in Russia, starting from the disbandment of Soviet Union and going into the firing at the White House and the like. I was also there when the Berlin wall fell (lived in Germany for 4 years, from when I was 11 to 15) and it left a lasting impression on me. Borders. Fences we erect, and I wanted to rebel against it. In the end, I fled Russia in my twenties, because I realized two facts. One, that being a woman, I had close to zero chance of making something out of myself unless I slept with the right guy or was born into the right family. I wasn't born into the right family and I was done with men taking advantage of me. Being a survivor of sexual abuse I haven't grown skin thick enough to be able to withstand attacks. I needed to heal. And two, because an opportunity arose (my ex-husband got a job in US) and I wanted to find a new home. Russia didn't feel like home to me. It forced ideology down my throat, and I was sick of this weakness I saw in other people, this wish to grab on to something, anything, anyone, who would carry them out of the chaos. The old women charging water with healing energy by placing it in front of TV while self-declared psychics claimed to have the power to do so, off the fucking TV screen! The old men bitter at the country and their lives drinking themselves to death. If you look at the death toll from vodka in Russia, your hair will stand up. I was tired of listening to people wanting for Stalin to come back and fix everything with his iron hand. The delirious son of a cobbler who wiped out close to 20 million people in Russia during his 30 year reign? Yeah, nice one. I wanted to vomit on portraits of Lenin in every cabinet of every official and I shuddered when friends told me that this became a new trend in Russia, putting up Putin's portraits in cabinets. Same shit. I was wondering, where did the love go?
And this is how I feel about Ukraine and Russia right now. Where did the love go? When did we squander it and became so scared of each other that we started building borders and then defending them, because, OMG, what if they invade us and kill us off? Hey, we better do it first, so eat that, motherfuckers. We do it in relationships too. Think of your marriage, or the last time you had a girlfriend or a boyfriend. Think of that moment you attacked first, out of fear of being attacked? Albeit, it was with words, but you still did it, right? It comes from fear. It is rooted deeply in us by evolution, it's one of those primal things that we will have forever, as the need to love and be loved. It's the constant conflict between these forces that causes us grief. When we were stupid, too stupid to think or talk, before our brains developed and we learned how to express ourselves, before that it was simple. Run away from a tiger and procreate if the food was good. And if we were threatened, we fought each other, and sometimes we killed each other while we fought, and we moved on, hunting, gathering, drifting, fucking. Then we learned how to think. We learned how to plan ahead. We got smart. And we created the concept of insurance. Hey, if I strike that guy down BEFORE he threatens me with that club, I win. Our brains grew, we started to walk upright, and we got more and more sophisticated at torturing each other. Out of fear. Our brains acquired the ability for us to imagine things. Think of a squirrel. Does the squirrel worry about tomorrow? Nope. It's happy. It buries acorns due to instinct. Not us, though. Oh, no. It's the weakest of us who hold on to this fear the hardest. We eventually learned that violence makes us miserable and that giving love is what makes us happy. I mean, we are still learning it, but at least we are on our way. The greatest cruelty always comes from those are the biggest cowards. This is who Putin is to me right now. A big coward. He is a product of the country that raised cowards that knew how to bite, to survive. This is why writers have been prosecuted in Soviet Russia, because they weren't cowards. They dared to walk out into the street and shout what they thought. And they were squished, they were made to shut up. By other cowards.
Don't rock the boat, my family told me, when after years and years of therapy I finally recalled that I was violated by my father, as part of his discipline idea to beat the desire to become a prostitute like my mother out of me (he thought being a whore is in some women's genes, just like many Russians still think that being gay is some kind of a incurable genetical mutation). Forget it, they told me, stop asking questions. But I won't, I won't stop, and I will speak. You can't shut me up. Even if you shoot me, you can't shut me up. My words will live on, my books will live on. I refuse to be a coward, and I refuse to sit silent watching others submit to cowardice. I will keep giving love, until I can, until those who were scarred so much that they forgot how to love can heal. I wish I could hug Putin and hold him, to make him feel again. I believe he was a bright-eyed boy one day, curious, just smiling at the sun and being happy because he caught his first fish and was bursting to share the news with his friends, or mom, or dad. He was a loving boy. Somewhere along his life he forgot about it. And I'm crying because of it, because there are masses and masses of people who forgot too, who elected him, who placed their faith in him. But there isn' the ONE who will save them. They need to save themselves. This constant seeking of someone else to fix the world for you comes from the place of weakness. One needs to love oneself first, to be able to love others, and this is where the strength comes from. These are the people who need someone to love them, so they can believe they are lovable and begin loving themselves, and can give love to others. Love, instead of hate. There isn't enough love in this world, and we need to change it. Tell someone today that you love them, someone you haven't talked to in a while, make their day. Make art, make love, not war.