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Saturday, April 1, 2023

“I was told – don’t worry, we’re saving the world”


In September 2022, the White House announced that the United States was ready to consider asylum requests from Russians who do not want to be involved in the Kremlin-led war against Ukraine. In recent months, the number of Russian citizens entering the United States through border crossings with Mexico has more than doubled. Only from October to December almost 12.5 thousand Russians crossed the border. Statistics for the same period a year ago – 5 thousand. Our next document is about a family from St. Petersburg, now living in New York.

We caught up with Tatyana (she asked not to be named) at a rally near UN headquarters in New York in support of Russian political prisoners. She then came with her two daughters – Anya, the middle one, drew a poster and brought her letter addressed to Alexei Navalny:

“Hello Alexei Navalny! My name is Anya, I am 9 years old. I am in New York at the moment because of what is happening in my country. That she attacked Ukraine. I am ashamed of my country that does this.

This is the second meeting with Tatyana, in the apartment of her new acquaintance – the children go to school together. He does not dare to invite himself yet – a temporary refuge.

media Russian service correspondent: “Every time I make such stories, I ask the same question – why did you flee Russia?”

“Let’s start with the fact that I didn’t want to go to America. I had not planned at all that one day I would leave not only the city, but Russia in general. I had to…” (crying)

They’ve been in New York for a little over a month. They started talking about leaving Russia a year ago.

“The main call, of course, is February 24. It’s not like a bell, it was a bell.”

The next call was a sign in the building directly opposite their apartment in St. Petersburg – “PMC Wagner”. Tatyana saw how schoolchildren were brought there, in whole classes – to the lessons of patriotic education. In November, Tatyana left Russia, with three children, through several countries. My husband had to stay in St. Petersburg.

“I first took my son to Istanbul, because I had to leave quickly. I left him for three weeks, and I went to the girls… Everyone understood that I was alone with three children, with some things from my past life in my suitcases… (crying) I didn’t think it would be so hard to talk…”

On New Year’s Eve, they were stuck in Mexico, but even managed to make Olivier, a camping version. Most of his relatives, acquaintances and now former colleagues did not understand the reasons for his departure.

“I told them that we had started hostilities, but they said to me – don’t worry, we are saving the world. All of my husband’s relatives are from Donetsk, and when the Maidan started, I had afraid, I was afraid that something would happen to them. And I suggested that they come to St. Petersburg and wait for this dangerous period. They came to our house, and for about six months they lived with us I remember very well when they arrived, my sister’s first words were – without your Russian “rescuers” none of this would have happened And now the same parents who initially said it was wrong , years later, believe Russia is saving them.

The number of Russians entering the United States through the border with Mexico has more than doubled in recent months. From October to December alone, nearly 12,500 Russian citizens crossed the border. Statistics for the same period a year ago – 5 thousand. In September, the White House announced that the United States was ready to consider asylum applications from Russians who do not want to participate in the war launched by the Kremlin. Tatyana’s son – he is a high school student – has already been registered with the army. Leaving was the only way to save him from mobilization. Like his mother, he also went to protests. And he was also caught on a pencil – both in school and in the military registration and enlistment office.

“I went to protests while Navalny was still speaking. Then I thought it was dangerous. But I now understand that then we could walk, shout what we want, talk. Everything was so harmless. When we went out to protest against the war, it was very scary. They caught everyone. There were also 80 year old grandmothers – no one cared who they were. They could hit with a club. They beat without thinking where this club will fly … I roared, shouted. We were dragged with a friend. We were taken in a paddy wagon. But I was lucky – A guy grabbed my shoulder from behind … turns around – what are you doing here? Cursing… And he’s wearing a helmet. I don’t understand who it is, I’m crying. He takes me, takes me aside. I understand who it is. It turned out to be an acquaintance who works in riot police, or whatever they call them there. He says – get out of here, and my friend and I run away. Well, after that he was fired.

media Russian Service Correspondent: “What is your profession? Did you have a good job?”

Tatyana: “I have two higher education – in my first education I am an engineer, in my second education I am an economist of the financial crisis. I was in a very good position. All was. Excellent education, children in good schools. Middle girl in art school as second education. We were expecting one day to enter an art university. The plans were grand grand. And so it was not at all possible for me to part with Peter.

At the school in New York, the children are only a week old. The only ones in their classes to speak Russian. But it does not interfere with communication.

Anya, Tatyana’s daughter “Well, if I don’t understand something, they show it to me, and immediately I – OK. And we play.”

media Russian Service Correspondent: “I remember your letter that you wrote to Navalny. Why did you even decide to write it?

“I decided to write him a letter of support so that he doesn’t forget that there are people who are for him,” says Anya.

Tatyana resumes: “In our school (in St. Petersburg), where the girls studied, I was there like a white crow. Everyone there supports Putin’s regime, everyone supports all Z actions. The letters are written on the front. They write that we are saving, thank you guys, well done. I called the teacher, I wrote, I asked that my daughter be isolated from this and not receive any military-political things. They give marks for it.”

While the guys are getting used to American school, Tatyana is taking English lessons – she dreams of getting a local driver’s license, work permit and starting her own business as soon as possible. Asylum application projects. Although he understands that the examination of their cases, and therefore the reunion with her husband, will drag on for years.

Whenever possible, they all explore their new city together. They are sincerely surprised at the looseness of the squirrels and the smiles of those around them – the free men of New York are still unusual for them.

Copyright © 2023 The Eastern Herald.

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The Eastern Herald’s Editorial Board validates, writes, and publishes the stories under this byline. That includes editorials, news stories, letters to the editor, and multimedia features on


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