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When did a part of me die?

Was it when I saw my land lying at Russia’s feet,

Spread-eagled, humiliated, defeated, deprived of its language, history, and identity,

Sucking on the Kremlin’s blood-smeared oil pipe

Like a junkie giving head to a drug dealer just to get high once again, even if for the last time?

Was it when I tried to ignore the state propaganda tearing the opposition leaders apart, Orwell-style, rolling their eyes in ecstasy, spraying venomous spit, drawing parallels between peaceful protesters and the Nazis,

Totally aware of their own ridiculousness?

Perhaps it happened when I saw the angels smile serenely

As we marched along the main avenue, flags unfurling above our heads, stun grenades bursting in the crispy October air, storks crying the tears of blood,

A stillborn nation on a promenade.

Or when I heard thousands of people howling,

Jailed, beaten to death, raped with batons, canned in tiny cells, suffocating, calling their mothers, chanting verses in my beautiful, almost forgotten mother tongue,

Praying for liberation that never came.

Perhaps a part of me died when I watched the free media being declared illegal, uprooted, silenced once and for all; was it when I felt the emptiness unfolding its wings for the first time?

Or when I saw our brightest people fleeing the country, posting photos of their new life on Instagram, half-apologetically, half-defiantly, wondering what else they could’ve done to demolish the prison but secretly enjoying the newly found peace.

Did it happen while I was arguing with my senile grandmother, a woman who witnessed Stalin’s terror, the short spell of Khrushchev’s Thaw, two decades of Brezhnev’s Stagnation, the turbulent Perestroika, the hungry 90s — and welcomed the return to the soothing comfort of autocracy?

Nothing, she said, nothing is going to change — and my heart tanked.

How many parts have I lost already?

If I ever see the light at the end of the tunnel, will I still be able to appreciate it?

Will I enjoy the familiar sights of the city which I tenderly love and wholeheartedly despise?

Will the cappuccino I’ll buy at the coffee shop in my neighborhood taste just as good as it used to?

How can I ever stop checking news websites through VPN every half hour, dreading what I might see there?

Would I ever stop freezing at the sight of a policeman passing by?

And the people — those who worshipped the murderers or turned a blind eye on their misdeeds, fearing for their own safety — how could we possibly coexist when the walls collapse?

There is no limit to what a person can endure when their will is unbroken.

There is no path too dangerous when a fire flickers in your heart, guiding your way to freedom and burning your enemies alive.

But with so many parts of me dead, gone, swallowed by the great big nothingness, will I keep the fire ablaze long enough to not feel indifferent when the moment of truth finally comes?

Content marketer. Tech blogger. Passionate reader. Yoga amateur. Cat dad.

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Andrei Klubnikin

Andrei Klubnikin

Content marketer. Tech blogger. Passionate reader. Yoga amateur. Cat dad.

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