Emigration from Russia after the Russian invasion of Ukraine is the largest wave of emigration from the country since the collapse of the USSR. According to various estimates, from 600000 to 800000 people left Russia. Officially, the state does not recognize the seriousness of this situation. Pro-Putin politicians at various levels publicly name those who left “traitors”; say that “no one misses them here and no one is waiting for them”; threaten that “on their return, Magadan awaits them all (a reference to the history of the Gulag)”. The full-scale war in Ukraine has been going on.
On February 24, 2022, I went out to protests and was detained for seven days. Once free, I texted two of my closest friends. It turned out that they were already outside of Russia. Later I left too.
The daily feeling that I was in a place where I was not particularly expected turned out to be quite painful. News reports and media articles comparing Putin’s regime to Hitler’s Germany add to this pain. Ask myself every day: how did we allow this to happen? When I read, for example, the post-exile works of Thomas Mann, I recognize in them my time and my country too.
My work, as an artist and photographer, was inextricably linked with Russia. I traveled around it, trying to talk about issues of the country’s structure. After leaving, I was unable to reinvent my own practice for a long time, since I no longer had access to the material with which I was working. I’m sure many creative people have faced the same thing. In the end, I decided that if I couldn’t photograph Russia from the inside, then I should try to do it from the outside.
I’m going to visit countries that border Russia and which are relatively safe to enter and leave. There are thirteen countries, in each of them I must get as close as possible to the border line in order to be able to see an object located on the territory of Russia (coast, rock, mountain, tree, building). I will be several steps away from the country in which I was born and from where I had to leave. Am I still feeling nostalgic? Or do I see only something hostile and threatening in front of me?
Heimweh (deu.) — homesickness