My 26-year-old younger brother, a designer and pacifist, could not leave Ukraine because he is of military age. He was not allowed to go abroad with my elder brother’s family. He now lives alone in a house in a village that his relatives gave him, and is waiting for the authorities to come and register him in the military enlistment office. He is asthmatic and was released from military service but the local patriots no longer care about that. They need as much help as they can get.

When I think about how the situation may develop further and what may happen to him in a couple of days, my palms drip with sweat from fear. For four days we have been trying to get him out with the help of an international agency, but nothing works. They say, “Tomorrow, tomorrow...they are stuck at the border.”

It’s the interval of a play based on Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. I go out and check my phone, and burst into tears, thinking about him.

Howl of sirens

My mother stayed in Kyiv. I can’t imagine what it’s like to live under the howl of air sirens and worry about my son and all the Ukrainians at the same time . Things are changing: a few days ago I could tell her that even if Russian tanks occupied Kyiv, it wouldn’t be for long. That the most important thing was that there less blood should be spilt. Now she won’t hear any of it: “What the hell are you talking about? We will win!”

I do not know how today will end. My son and I may be separated from my husband, and for a long time. My passport expires in three months. He is getting a new one issued. My son and I have a ticket for Armenia this afternoon. He has a late-evening flight.

If martial law is declared in Russia and men are banned from leaving, then we will be separated. I will have to decide whether to go to Europe and join my elder brother’s family and start a new life, while waiting for my husband, or return to this country with internal terror, where under a new law, a person can go to prison for three years, for just wearing a t-shirt that says “no war.”

But then I dread the thought of being with my husband just until he is called to shoot at my brother or go to jail for refusing.

I watch the play and look at his face, his eyes. In a couple of weeks, it will be ten years since we got married.

I think I will never forgive these three! Who you ask? This country, the senile old people who have seized power in Russia, and the well-fed political elite.

[Lithuanian theatre director] Rimas Tuminas’s theatrical staging of War and Peace is the best I have ever seen. I get goose bumps from listening to the dialogues of the heroes, since it is so relevant today.

At the very beginning of the play, nervous laughter runs through the hall when the words “Russia is the only country that can liberate Europe” are uttered. And you realise that the audience is anti-war. When the play is over, some are in tears, everyone in the balcony and stalls are standing, clapping and stamping on the floor to increase the noise of the ovation. The actors are bowing and at the same time, ready to cry, since they understand what this is about.

How did it come to be that on my last night in Moscow I watched this performance? I bought this ticket well in advance.

In tears

I’m in tears as I look at the last photos I have taken of my toddler with his nanny and thinking what it must be like for her and her husband to say goodbye to my sunny boy, perhaps for the last time. For almost a year, he was a big part of their lives in a village outside Moscow. When I left the village house, I packed my things and realised that I may not come back. There are so many toys, so many books, plants… The house is ready for a future baby, but I take the photos quickly and irrevocably, and I remember the shots in the film about Chernobyl – when everything is left in the houses – children’s pencils, things...

On my way from watching the play, in the metro, I felt like fear was sticking needles into my shoulders and back as I read about the new bill that allows imprisonment of up to 15 years for someone who writes or posts anything against the war on social media. When I got out at the Arbatskaya station and saw the golden rays of the sun on the Portuguese-style Arseny Morozov House, the Art Cinema, and police cars. I also saw the lean faces of policemen who were just following orders! On duty, ready to grab pacifist.

The banality of evil evokes a great anger in me! What are you doing, arseholes? Get out of our city! Get out! What have you done??? I don’t feel fear, I can barely resist not to show the middle finger.

So I leave Moscow. Of course, maybe I’m exaggerating, and it won’t be so scary, but this is my life at the moment. And this is something I will never, ever forgive...

Translated from the original Russian by a contributor.