July 09, 2023

Strangers on a Train

Strangers on a Train
Tea time on a Russian train. Alexey Sizov

This post was published on the Facebook and Telegram accounts of a Russian journalist this week. We have translated and published it here because it offers a telling view into Russian viewpoints. It is published anonymously to protect the author.

Today I was on a train out of Tula, and in my cabin sat a young girl, 20, a marketer, with plumped up lips. An athletic young fellow of 30 years with a burning gaze. And a tired woman of 60, who said that she had lost her husband and just put up for sale her house with orchard because she has no more strength to work there. The girl had a bunch of relatives in Ukraine. The woman, in Germany. She is going to meet them in Kaliningrad.

And, after I spoke about Yasnaya Polyana, we gradually got around to talking about Putin. The girl suddenly began to swear at the American president – calling him a "madman."

I said to her: whoever he may be, he won in a fair and competitive election. And our Putin has never participated in such a thing. And he wants to be president for life.

She replied earnestly: Even if V.V. didn't want to stand for election, I'd write in his name on the ballot!

Me: Well, of course, you are of the Putin Generation. It's sad, that you have never seen an alternative. Those in power must be replaceable.

Her: If not for V.V., Russia would not have spent so much on defense.

Me: What's good about that? Why not hospitals or roads?

It turned out that the girl and the woman were certain that the entire world is a threat to us, that the 45+ countries surrounding us are against us. And that we must defend ourselves until we have no strength left.

Me: Why are they suddenly against us, if we used to live peacefully with one another? What happened?

Our talk turned to the war. The girl has many relatives in Ukraine, but she considers them fools, since they stayed there instead of moving to Russia. And as to Ukrainian refugees, the girl and woman said plenty of stupid things (how they are not loved in the same Germany, where they went).

Me: And if our rocket falls on your cousin in Kiev, what would you say?

Her: Well, it happened.

Me: What if a rocket falls on you?

She: Well, anything is possible. But the main thing is to defend our land!

(That is, the lives of her loved ones and herself are not important to her.)

"And this one here will protect us from missiles! " (She points at the guy.) It turned out that the guy traveling with us is a contract soldier recently returned from Ukraine and will return there again.

“Why do you need this?”

“Ukrainians are f***s, they are not people.”

(The woman assured me that only Americans are fighting there.)

“Can't you find another job?”

“I found this job and I like it.”

(Killing is a real job? ).

The girl spoke about a friend who said that, if her husband hadn't gone to war, she would leave him, because he would not be a real man.

The lady supported her, saying that if her husband were alive, he would be the first to volunteer.

Me: What for? Why kill Ukrainians? What is the point?

They couldn't explain, I had to.

Me: And how is it that before, Ukrainians and we lived together peacefully, were part of one country? Were then f***s then?

The guy didn’t know what to say. It turned out that, for him, it is all a computer game, and also about the money.

The girl has relatives in France as well, but she has never been abroad. To be more precise, she had been in Estonia and Lithuania. "But they hate us a lot, I won't go there again," she said.

(I told her about 1940, why would they love the USSR and Russia after that? But the girl is not very empathetic.) The girl assured me that she does not watch TV, although their conversations are just a living example of Kiselevshchina. [Mimicking the talking points of TV host Dmitry Kiselev.]

Then they suggested we change the subject, since everyone has their opinion, and they started to play cards, and I had a meeting in Zoom. But when the train came to Moscow, and they were continuing on, they asked what my profession was. I said that I write about science and that what’s going on in the sciences is crazy, that our most talented people are leaving. And about what's going on in journalism. The recent case with [the journalist Elena] Milashina (who was beaten up by thugs in Chechnya, her head was shaved, and green dye was thrown on her) interested them and they were sympathetic. But when they learned that had to do with Kadyrov and Co., they immediately said: "Well, this is Chechnya, they have their own laws! "

Me: This is Russia, in Russia laws should work everywhere. Do you know who supports Kadyrov and his impunity? Who's on top?

Her: Putin. Well, that's good then!

(Everything that the President of the Russian Federation does makes the girl feel good.)

I think we as a country are hopeless. If even our youth are such as this. This isn't even Fascism, it's some kind of insensitivity. The story of the dead twins in Kramatorsk did not evoke from the two women a single drop(!) of sympathy. They are willing to sacrifice themselves for a hypothetical hyper defense...


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