We were on holiday. We hardly ever go to the same place more than once, but this was our third stay at Hotel Viewpoint in Patara on the Turquoise coast in Southern Turkey.
So one day we went to Kas, a town about an hour away, on one of the small buses (Dolmus) that you find all over Turkey. On the way back we got into conversation with three young Russians.
They were sitting just behind us and after a few minutes listening to them speaking to each other in Russian, I turned round and we began chatting to them.
How do you see this ending – all that’s happening in Ukraine ? I asked. They had no answer. It’s impossible to say
They told us some of their story. For fear of being drafted into the armed forces, along with many others, especially young people, They left Russia in June, leaving their families behind. They are now living in Kas. They were taking a trip to Patara, where we are staying, to see the spectacular sunset from the top of the sand dunes that look over the 18km long Patara beach.
They were all in their mid twenties, and had left Russia concerned about the direction the war was taking. They talked about before the war, back in the Autumn of last year, when they were hearing rumours of Putin’s plan. They couldn’t believe that he would carry out the threat of ‘The Special Operation.’
I asked if they had managed to get jobs since their move to Turkey? They are able to work remotely, but are working for a Russian company so weren’t sure how long that would last.
They were totally against the war and were concerned about how we in the West viewed Russians. People are not allowed to express their opposition, even by calling what’s going on ‘a war .’ Harsh prison sentences are promised for those who step out of line. Their hopes that Russia would be a democratic country have disappeared, at least for the time being, as they live under this dictatorship.
Did we in the UK have the impression that most Russians were in favour of the war ? They were sure that there was a rising tide of anti- war opinion in Russia, especially among younger people. But will that change anything? The people now leaving Russia are the ones Russia needs, but for many, leaving seems the only option.
Years ago, in a previous life, when I was a teacher, our year 8, (12 year old) students had the opportunity to take Russian as a second modern foreign language. There was a good uptake, maybe partly because there was an exchange programme each year that gave students the chance to experience something of life in Russia. They invariably returned with generous gifts from their hosts, and stories of Russian warmth and hospitality.
This is the real Russia, it seems to me, not the crazed land hungry President Putin and his cabal.
I explained to our new friends that we are Christians, and are dismayed by the way that the Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church is such a supporter of Putin. This seems to go against all that we hold dear about our faith. They weren’t surprised, however and explained that the Russian Orthodox Church as just another expression of the State. “It’s political”, they said.
The conversation really made an impact on us, and we told them that we will be praying for them and will￼ share their story.
Grace and Peace to the peoples of Ukraine and Russia.