CHRONICLE – The face exudes, through our Zoom screens, a strange mixture of confidence and calm indignation. Resilience and refusal of resignation, too.
Anastasia became a Montrealer as a child, at the same time as her mother, a journalist, moved her family home there. Having visited his native Ukraine many times since, many of his very close relatives still reside there.
– We knew the attack was possible, if not probable. But I imagine that even at the last moment, we still hope to avoid the disaster?
– Yes and no. Because for 10 years, it's been the same tunes, the same Russian inclinations. The same film, what. Still, the power of the attack, the force of the bombs, its savagery towards civilians, they remain surreal. Like several other things, by the way.
– For example?
– Including the fact that they also attacked the west of the country; that frankly, we would not have believed, given the previous experience. Ditto too, on the surreal side, as for the pre-attack discussions, with my family.
The throat knots a bit, disturbing the imperturbable. But Anastasia continues:
– We discussed evacuation plans for a long time. To have sufficient fuel rations. Dry food. They were sent substantial amounts, before a potential bank freeze.
– And there are, now, all these images. Those of orphans in basements, or rather service cellars. Those… those sewer backups, you know?
Words fail me, to tell the truth.
– Since February 24, the beginning of the invasion, the longest days of my life have been piling up…
She changes his mind soon.
– No, I don't know anymore. Rather the impression of finding myself in the middle of a temporal vacuum, in fact.
– How are your days going?
– In the morning, we go around the family. Just to know if… if… everyone is alive.
– Then we watch the more general news, learn what happened during the night.
– And Putin?
She hesitates, before deciding, peremptorily.
– Everything has been said about him. Nothing to add.
– I understand.
– Except maybe this… There is a disconnect between him and reality. The information he received on the state of the forces involved was obviously incorrect. He thought he could collect the country in just a few days, and his stalemate is quite spectacular. Several Russian-speakers in our regions also refuse their “liberation” by Moscow…
– A flawed plan, then?
– Yes, and the threat to him may come from interior. The economic measures are, first of all, hard on the population.
Since the start of the interview, something has been bothering me. The question that cannot, but must, be asked. Because neuralgic and awful in itself. I dare. Backwards. Lip service.
– Is there not a paradox, in relation to the surprising Ukrainian resistance?
– That is to say?
– In the sense that we are obviously amazed by the way the Ukrainian military and civilians are fighting; every little victory on video is mind-blowing… But isn't there a real risk that, rather than losing face, Putin will go for it, let's say… the big game?
– C is fear, yes, absolutely. And Ukraine would lose. Europe too. The whole world, too.
– But what is happening now is already, of course, a tragedy for our people. For our reconstruction. For those good, valuable people who died in battle.
– A loss of hope in humanity and humanism, too?
– No. Because we can win.
– What if… victory was on the Russian side?
– I can't imagine defeat. Out of respect for Ukraine. For those who fight there with tremendous courage. We can't lose, no.
– I see, yes.
– And you know what? After several days, even weeks, of trying to encourage my loved ones, there comes a time when we don't really know what to say to them.
– I can imagine.
– But , shortly before the invasion, I thought of this, even if I found the formula a bit derisory: the people are behind you. The international community is behind you. Everyone is behind you.
The voice breaks. A few seconds pass. Eternity.
– They answered me: “Yes. We know.”