5 Life Lessons I got from 1 year of War

Today, on the 24th of February, is a grievous anniversary. Like many Russians, I decided to leave Russia after the war with Ukraine started. This is always a painful experience as you leave your friends and your cozy home to start a new life with all its challenges.

Though, this year taught me valuable lessons on people and on today’s Russia.

  1. People bear the unacceptable untill it is too late

After several decades of relative freedom, Russians endure year on year a degradation of their civil rights. Little by little, prisons were filled with political opponents. Later on, public acceptance of homosexuality or critic against the Othodox Church were subject to legal prosecution. Today, with the justice, the police and the army serving only the interest of the few in power, Russians are losing the remaining of their human rights.

  1. People always think within their cosmovision (and we should be lenient with them)

More than a half of Russians are supporting the Russian invation of Ukraine. Most of them speak only Russian and do not have access to any alternative source of information. Social media such as Facebook or LinkedIn are banned and it becomes increasingly difficult to access foreign information resources. When you open any russian information portal, you read everyday titles like: “Putin thwarted the evil Nato and Europe plan to attack Russia”, or “Russian soldiers saved villagers from ukrainians nazis”.

  1. It is useless to expect an open debate in time of war

Bipolarisation prevents people from trying to find a solution to their antagonisms. War creates a chaos of misinfirmation and crooked arguments where truth no longer matters. On the contrary, exceptions and isolated cases are used by your opponents to fuel the debate.

When the West argue that Ukraine is the victim because the Russian army bombs Ukrainian cities, the Russian side will reply: ” Where were you in 2014 when Ukrainian troops attacked Donetsk, when all Russian-speaking local inhabitants wanted to be part of Russia because they were forbiden to speak Russian. You are a puppet of the western propaganda”. This is typically a biased argument because, while partly true, it obfuscates the big picture. Few people wanted to be part of Russia and there were only episodic cases of promoting Ukrainian language in Donbass schools.

The war in the Donbass started when Moscow sent mercenaries to create a local militia to break this region away from Ukraine, and only at this point the Ukrainian troops attacked. Before 2014, people just wanted to live their everyday life. No Russian-speaking locals were oppressed. By the way, before this period, Russian was the language spoken by almost all government members, and Russia was the most prominent business partner to Ukraine.

  1. Stupidity has no passport

Apart from brain-washed russian peasants, many educated westerners with full access to global information endorse the Russian side. They chant the grandeur of Russia and the wealth of its oil and gas reserves. They boast how life is pleasant in Moscow. All that despite knowing about the murders, the pilferages, the rapes, the full fledge destruction of peoples homes and the dire consequences on the russian economy. I reckon there must be 20% of fascists in every society and culture.

  1. Build your resilience while you still can

With all that said, you’d better be prepared with an escape plan. For example, If you have this possibility, open a bank account in another country and put some savings there, choose a place to retreat far from your home, obtain a second citizenship. Having some shields and fallbacks can become very handy in times of war.


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  • © Sebastian Zelechowski, Moscow 2011
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