Evgeniia is from Russia but has been living in Nice since 2015. She moved to the country to be with her French husband but also to leave a country that she felt disconnected from due to the government there, which she opposes.
She says that she is shocked and appalled by Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine and that “violence is never the answer”.
She also tells how difficult it is for her to read anti-Russian comments on social media as it makes her feel unwelcome in France.
We speak to her about her thoughts on the war and what it is like being a Russian living in France right now.
Evgeniia asked that we only give her first name to protect her identity and those of her friends and family.
What are your thoughts on the war in Ukraine?
My thoughts are very simple. I find the situation horrible. I find it heinous. I think that it should never happen in the 21st century, in any century.
Violence is never the answer.
If someone asks me if I am for or against the war, then I can say that I am profoundly against it.
I know that there are many people in France right now who are unhappy with Russia. Do you feel that in your everyday life?
If I consider those in my entourage, my husband, my friends, my husband’s friends and family, or the people I see regularly, I do not feel that they have anything against me.
I think they see the situation clearly for how it is.
On the other hand, if I go on social media and read comments on articles about the war, there are a lot of unhappy people who post hate against Russians in general.
I don’t know if these people mean that they feel all Russians are not welcome in France, or if they are targeting some Russians who come to the country just for holidays.
I don’t know but I feel that I am being targeted and it hurts.
Do you feel personally attacked?
I prefer to analyse what I read.
Even if I know in my mind and my consciousness that it is not me specifically who these people are targeting, when I see them refer to ‘the Russians’ it affects me.
I can say that I am not ashamed to be Russian, because it is not the government that designates the nationality, the culture, or the history of this country.
But I am also an intelligent person who understands that what is happening is just heinous.
Are you hesitant about speaking Russian in public?
I was already, even before the war. I came to France to be with the man I love, my husband, but also because I did not agree with what the Russian government had been doing for several years.
So, for me speaking Russian here was already a bit complicated because I am not in Russia, the official language of France is French and so I speak French.
But particularly now, if I have to speak Russian I will speak it. The language belongs to the people, not to the Russian government.
That includes people who are not Russian but whose mother tongue is Russian, such as some Ukrainians, etc.
Have you discussed the war with your friends and family in France?
We try not to discuss it too much.
They are worried about me because my parents and my family are in Russia but as I said, everyone around me are intelligent people who say the same thing, that they are not against the Russian people, but think that the behaviour of the Russian government is not acceptable.
If you ask the people close to me what they think about Russian people, then they will say, ‘my friend is Russian and she is a good person’.
It’s like that that we create impressions. I am the only Russian that they know so they get the impression other Russians are like me.
If there is a person who does not know any Russians and they read articles in the media, it is obvious they are going to think that Russians are bad people.
What does your family in Russia think about the situation?
They think the same as me. The fact I’m in France makes them worry about how the people here may react to me, considering my nationality.
Are you affected by any of the economic or business-related sanctions that France has imposed on Russia? For example, the fact that flights between the two countries have been suspended?
Of course, I cannot now go to see my family and they cannot come to see me.
We just got out of Covid and I have not seen them since 2020, and so it is another problem.
Economically, I am not impacted as I have my financial life here in France.
Have you participated in any demonstrations in solidarity with Ukraine, or donated any money to their cause?
No, and I will explain why.
Protesting for me reminds me of when I was younger when I would protest in Russia, and we would be surrounded by police and it was really scary. So I do not do it anymore. Not for myself, but because of the problems it could cause my family if I get in trouble.
In terms of aid…I help people who I know.
I have friends in Ukraine and if they ask for help I will give it to them.
But I prefer not to give money to charities because I don’t know where my money will go, or who will receive it. I want to make sure my money goes to the right people.