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'They Are All My Children': Russian Mother And Daughter Overcome Fear To Protest The War

Yekaterina Korneicheva holds a one-person protest against the Ukraine war, in the Russian city of Perm on November 28
Yekaterina Korneicheva holds a one-person protest against the Ukraine war, in the Russian city of Perm on November 28

When Yekaterina Korneicheva’s daughter was detained in the Russian city of Perm on December 9 for holding an anti-war sign, Korneicheva was not far away.

“We were always together,” she told RFE/RL’s Idel.Realities. “I saw how the police approached her. I photographed the license plate of their car so that later I could figure out where they took her. The officer did not speak to me. He showed his document to my daughter and asked for her passport. Then he told her she was violating the law and asked her to get into the car.”

Korneicheva knew the drill well. The 49-year-old art teacher was detained herself for holding a one-person anti-war protest outside the regional legislature on November 28. She was later fined 30,000 rubles ($425) for her act of conscience.

Since Russia’s massive invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the government has used hastily passed laws on “discrediting the armed forces,” as well as older legislation on so-called “foreign agents” and “extremism,” to crack down on any dissent against the war. Although most Russians appear to support President Vladimir Putin’s policies, thousands across the country have been detained for expressing anti-war views. Many of them have been fined, while some -- including, this month, opposition politician Ilya Yashin -- have been sentenced to long prison terms.

“I told the judge that I do not want my children to die,” Korneicheva said. “I meant, of course, my students, since I am a teacher…. That is why I stood outside the legislature with a sign telling lawmakers to ‘Stop The War.’”

SEE ALSO: Saying No To War: 40 Stories Of Russians Who Oppose The Russian Invasion Of Ukraine

Korneicheva left her job at the Perm Petroleum College two years ago because, as she put it, “of management objections to her social media posts.” She has been unemployed and battling health issues since then, living together with her daughter, Alisa Korneicheva.

“Now I understand that the kids I taught are being sent [to the war],” Yekaterina said. “They are dying there. I love my children. I put part of my soul into each one of them. For me, this is tragic…. They are all my children.”

Shortly after her mother’s detention, Alisa was also compelled to protest the war, which both women had opposed since the beginning.

“I tried to talk her out of it,” Yekaterina recalled. “After my experience, I told her not to go…. But my daughter responded: ‘You know, Mama, you aren’t the only one with a conscience. I am your daughter, and I am also against the war.’”

“I’m proud of my daughter,” Yekaterina added.

'Lesson Of Conscience'

Alisa, who works as a clerk in a toy store, said she was inspired by her mother. While the parents of her friends stayed home, her mother overcame her fear and protested.

“It was a lesson of conscience,” Alisa said. “I decided that I also could not remain silent.”

On December 9, Alisa stood in front of a local department store with a sign reading “No War.” Her protest lasted half an hour.

Alisa Korneicheva during her protest in Perm against the Ukraine war on December 9.
Alisa Korneicheva during her protest in Perm against the Ukraine war on December 9.

Although both women wanted to speak out against the war from the beginning, they hesitated.

“It was really, really scary,” Yekaterina said. “You know what kind of country we live in. Any action can provoke aggression from the authorities….”

Locals reacted variously to Alisa’s protest, the pair said. One woman accused her of being paid to speak out. Another brought her a cup of hot tea and hamburger.

“One young man approached her and said that he and his family oppose protests,” Yekaterina recalled. “‘We are all going to die anyway,’ he said. A young man about 19 years old! And he says: ‘We are all going to die anyway’! How can you react to that?”

Life has gotten harder for the family since the war began, the women said. Prices for food, energy, and communal services have gone up. But they are quick to keep things in perspective.

“Yes, you can say that we are worse off,” Alisa said. “But over there, cities are being destroyed and that is an incomparable tragedy. It has made my mother sick. She is so distraught.”

Yekaterina said they will not be putting up a New Year’s tree this year.

“We don’t feel like celebrating under these circumstances,” she said. “We still have the tiny hope that things will get better. But it is very small, practically invisible. But it is still there.”

RFE/RL feature writer Robert Coalson contributed to this report.

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