How the war separated Russian and Ukrainian families

4 mins read
How the war separated Russian and Ukrainian families

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine enters its fourth week, the information war between Russian and Ukrainian citizens is escalating.

Russia’s attacks are not limited to the demolition of buildings and city centres in Ukraine, Sharkus’l Avsat reported, quoting The Guardian. The war is also seriously testing centuries of family relations on both sides of the border.

While people in Ukraine see with their own eyes what is happening to their country, their relatives in Russia often do not listen to them and rely on information from Russian official sources.

Alexander Serdyuk (34), who moved to Ukraine from Russia 10 years ago, therefore stopped seeing his mother.

Serdyuk nervously watches the war unsymatically near his home in Lviv, while his mother, who lives in Russia, 2,400 kilometers from him, argues that there is no war.

How the war separated Russian and Ukrainian families

Serdyuk said his mother did not believe him. We used to talk to each other a lot, but now it doesn’t mean anything.”

It’s the same for Natasha Henov (35), an English teacher from Kharkov.

Henov fled with his children and his wife as Russian attacks approached their village.

When he called his cousin, who lives near Moscow, the conversation between them was as sad as the war itself.

Henov described the dialogue between him and his cousin with the following statements:

“He thinks we’re lying. He says the U.S. did all this. I said, ‘So if it’s about the U.S., why are the Russians hitting us?’ He claimed the Ukrainians were too cruel to the people in Donbas. He said the Ukrainian soldiers should surrender. He even invited me to Russia. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. I am here desperately fighting for ukraine’s independence and he invites me to Russia.”

Ukrainians fleeing to shelters send videos and messages about their situation to relatives in Russia, with many saying it is ‘fake news’.

Natalia Ivanivna, whose Russian parents, grandparents, wanted to notify relatives when she was forced to flee her home in Kharkov earlier this month.

Ivanivna explained:

“Fifteen minutes after the bombardment began, I texted them and wrote that we were under attack. The first question they asked me was, “What are you doing here?” Who’s attacking? Our army or yours?”

Ivanivna said it was ‘fear’ as much as ignorance that shaped her worldview across the border;

“I think my family is as afraid of the Putin regime as it is of the Stalin regime. Now they’re just not answering that. I have no anger towards them. I just feel sorry for them.”

Russian television is so persuasive that even those who sometimes live in eastern Ukraine do not believe what is happening in the country.

Maria Krivoshieva, who fled Kharkov with her two children, had to leave behind her grandmother, who was too old to travel.

Krivoshieva explained her experiences as follows:

“My grandmother only watched Russian tv. I noticed you were very calm when the war started. He told me not to worry, that Putin said ‘everything is fine’.”

When Russian forces began bombing Kharkov, her grandmother’s attitude changed, Krivoshieva said. Russian television showed the footage, which had been recorded earlier, and told people that everything was normal in Kharkov. “I can’t believe I’ve been brainwashed all these years,” my grandmother said.

According to a 2011 survey, about half of Ukrainians (more than 20 million people) have families in Russia.

Orysia Lutsevych, a research fellow at Chatham House, said family relations between the two countries have been strong for centuries, from the early days of the empire in the 17th century to the late Soviet period and the age of independence.


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