Comment: Russophobia survives in the Czech Republic like a festering sore

“Russians are not allowed” is a sticker that someone stuck on the gates of the playground in Jinonice, Prague. The photo was sent to me by the famous S., who has been living, studying and working in the Czech Republic for ten years. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, she has received dozens of hate messages daily via Instagram, accusing her of all crimes against humanity because she is Russian. Concretely, my acquaintance S. is not Russian. She is from her father in Uzbekistan, she has Ukrainian, Jewish and also Russian blood in her veins. But she spent her childhood in Moscow, and Russian is her mother tongue, like many other ethnicities.

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S. and I know that difficult times are ahead for us if we want to stay in the Czech Republic. We don’t have Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine and unleash it here a conflict Europe has not seen since World War II, nothing in common. Nevertheless, it affects us on an extremely personal and traumatic level. And even though it will be for each other for a different reason, we both now feel covered by an ugly playground sticker.

I try to be invisible again

I was born and spent the early years in Odessa, Ukraine. I come from a Jewish family, which is considered a nationality and not a religion, both in Ukraine and in Russia. My father is from Prague and at the age of less than six we moved here. What I experienced here as a child in the early 1990s was and is the subject of many of my psychotherapies. The trauma of the victims of the Holocaust mixed with a very bitter personal experience.

“I’ve had a few sessions since this morning and it’s like a photocopier. Each of his initial symptoms worsened.” my psychoanalyst told me. Today is Monday, war broke out in Ukraine on Thursday. I’m afraid my cousins ​​in Ukraine will go to the frontthat the army will destroy the beautiful city where I was born and the Jewish cemetery where so many generations of my ancestors rest. And as Putin threatens the world with nuclear catastrophe, I crawl through the streets with my young children, trying to be invisible again.

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My daughter is exactly the age I was then. It cost me a lot of strength to speak Russian to him in public, in the language my mother speaks to me. In Pushkin’s language and my children’s lullabies. But now I’m afraid that people will react aggressively towards us, spit on us (as in my early Czech years) or tell me, like my mother then, that I am a Russian bitch. “It’s interesting, sir. Where I’m from, they still told me I was a Jewish bitch, “ my mother said to a neighbor who verbally attacked us in the hallway.

Looking back, I admire her availability and consistency. She was new to the Czech Republic, without her family of origin, and had just celebrated her twenty-fifth birthday. But we weren’t talking about trauma at home. “Being a victim is nothing to us.” my mother kept saying when I was crying that my classmate was the only one who didn’t want to invite me to a birthday party, because I am “Rusanda”.

And even now, I’m not allowed to cry. Innocent people die a few hundred kilometers from us and entire cities are destroyed. Yet, since the start of the invasion, my husband and I had only talked about moving to Berlin. Part of my family lives there and I tell myself that I will be able to breathe freely in the cosmopolitan city for a while. That I won’t have blood in my veins every time I want to call the kids to the playground.

You must understand these people

General Russophobiawhich has not disappeared anywhere in the Czech Republic since the 1990s and is still part of the good manners of certain intellectual circles, today takes a monstrous turn. “You have to understand these people, Russia is their aggressor,” my Czech husband tries to explain to me. I have a very unpleasant deja vu. “You have to understand those people when the tanks marched here in 1968.” my mother’s parents called my mother.

And she understood and remained silent, ranked at the top of the cultural elite of the local society and forced me to find five other people in my life for a hostile person who I love and who treats us well. “It’s full of great people” she repeated when I asked her at the age of ten to move to London, for example, because I was bullied by a primary school teacher because of a Russian-speaking mother.

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And now these people are helping Ukrainian refugees, giving them their homes, their wallets and their hearts. It’s brilliant and incredibly paradoxical. As a “crook”, as the Ukrainians were derogatory, they suddenly also became a symbol of the Czech resistance against the once hated occupier.

“When I was ten years old, my classmate’s father yelled at me that I was Russian, that I had no right to eat Czech bread”, remembers my acquaintance M. She comes from kyiv and, like me, is not only pleasantly surprised by the wave of solidarity with the refugees, but looks to the future with the same fears. We both fear that in a few weeks the enthusiasm for helping will naturally fadewhich is understandable, and social unrest may arise.

Hate like a festering sore

On social networks, I came across the claim that all Russians are responsible for this war, because they should have voted differently. When I write these words, residents of Moscow, St. Petersburg and other cities take part in public demonstrations. They are brutally beaten and arrested along with their children. They are threatened with 15 years in prison and taken to the front.

“I think we talk about it a lot,“A well-known journalist who invites me as a guest on his radio show rejects the topic of Russophobia. I have to talk about the Jewish community in Ukraine, which was completely destroyed neither by Hitler nor by Stalin – Putin Now Its members are fleeing to Israel, where they have the opportunity to start over.

I close my eyes and see the beach again, I make cupcakes with my cousin, my grandmother cheers happily with our neighbor Raisa Mojsejevna. This world no longer exists today, but I sincerely hope that the war will end and that Ukrainians and Jews will rebuild their country and their community. I hope that the subject of Russophobia, which permeates Czech society like a festering sore, will now be opened up and cleaned up.

You can think what you want of my call, but I ask you one thing. If you hate war and see the suffering it brings to everyone, don’t hate anyone. It’s naive, simple, but not easy. I have to believe we can do it, otherwise nothing makes sense.

More articles on the war in Ukraine can be found in the April issue of My Psychology, which will be published March 23. You can buy the current issue, devoted to building mental resilience, in our online newsletter You order today, you have it in your mailbox tomorrow. And delivery is free!

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