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How daily life in Russia has changed since the country invaded Ukraine


What do Russians know about their government's war with Ukraine? What do they think about it? And how are they affected by it? Those simple questions are difficult to answer. Russia has limited communications and punished those who speak frankly. But a woman in Moscow has agreed to talk with us about her experience. Her first name is Anastasia. We're not using her last name because she's concerned about potential consequences of speaking out. She has a friend who learned the risks firsthand.

ANASTASIA: One of my friends, she'd just throw something in social media. And she has her, like, image in that media. And then she was found by that image in metro because there are cameras there. So basically, they found her, and she got arrested for a few days.

SHAPIRO: And was she ultimately released or charged with a crime? What happened?

ANASTASIA: Oh, she was charged with some sum of money, but it was not a pleasant experience at all, and...

SHAPIRO: Of course. How has your daily life changed since the war began?

ANASTASIA: There are so many feelings every day. You feel angry. You feel frustrated. You can't work or you can't focus on anything. Especially in the very beginning, it was just frustration and not knowing what has just happened and what will be next. And apart from that, I mean, my routine didn't change much, but I have some issues with my work, with my flat, big stuff in my life that was a fundamental one.

SHAPIRO: What has the war meant for your job? I understand you work for an international company.

ANASTASIA: Yeah. And we produce some, like, essential goods, I would say. But currently it's just all under question because our company have recently announced that they want to sell their business in Russia.

SHAPIRO: Wow. What would that mean for you?

ANASTASIA: We still have, like, our salaries until the end of the year. So, I mean, by the end of the year it will somehow change. And probably like the new owner or good, like - I forget the word - like...

SHAPIRO: Like lay people off, you mean?

ANASTASIA: Yes. Yes. That - exactly.

SHAPIRO: Would you ever consider leaving Russia?

ANASTASIA: Yes. I mean, I thought about it before. But when it started, it was like my first thought that I need to leave right now. And I was pretty worried that the borders will be closed, and I still worry about it.

SHAPIRO: And was your thought I need to leave because of financial consequences of sanctions or the risk of being locked up if you criticize the war or just a moral position? Like, where did that come from?

ANASTASIA: I mean, it was all this sorts because honestly, in the past two days, it was mostly because of my moral position, I guess, because of you feel like trapped in Russia. You see all these policemen. You see all these new laws and how they try to tell you how to live, how to breathe, what to say. They closed all, like, media. They closed Instagram, Facebook. And you just started to feel like you are removed from all the world.

SHAPIRO: You remind me of some analysis I saw early in the war that said Vladimir Putin is destroying two countries, Ukraine and Russia. Does it feel that extreme?

ANASTASIA: In my opinion, no one can get anything from the war because it's like just - what can you get as a person from it? You can only get hurt and get worse because of it. So, yes, our ordinary life is changed dramatically. And also the perspective living in Russia, even like from an ordinary person standpoint, is not a good one because, yeah, all this economical consequences. They will be drastic. I am sure about it.

SHAPIRO: Is there anything you would like Americans to know about what it's like to be in Russia right now?

ANASTASIA: It's really essential to understand that a lot of people that do not support our government, they also feel trapped from both sides, I guess, because here you just in a constant fear, because if you say something or do something, you can be harassed or, like, your family could be hurt. So it's really sad. And Ukrainian people is - they are a lot of our friends or relatives somehow. So it's not like they're total strangers. And there are so much hate, and it's dreadful.

SHAPIRO: Anastasia, thank you for speaking with us about your experience.

ANASTASIA: You're welcome.

SHAPIRO: She lives and works in Moscow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.
Elena Burnett
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Courtney Dorning has been a Senior Editor for NPR's All Things Considered since November 2018. In that role, she's the lead editor for the daily show. Dorning is responsible for newsmaker interviews, lead news segments and the small, quirky features that are a hallmark of the network's flagship afternoon magazine program.