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Foto: Ruben den Harder

One Russian, the other Ukrainian and best friends: 'We both just want peace'

Irene Schoenmacker,
24 februari 2022 - 09:58

Kate (18) is Russian and Lera (17) Ukrainian: both study at the UvA and have been good friends since September. How do they look at the war between Russia and Ukraine? ‘When I first met Kate, I actually didn’t like her at all.’

Kate Krylove (18) is from Russia, Lera Kruk (17) from Ukraine. The two have been doing a pre-bachelor's degree in social sciences at the UvA since September.


How did you look at the news last week?

Kate: ‘It is frightening, very frightening. We don't want war and I didn't see these developments coming either. If there was going to be war at all in the 21st century, it was going to be an information war, I thought.’
Lera: ‘My family and I are very frustrated. The most annoying thing is that I can't go to my family at the moment, to help them, give them a hug.’
Kate: ‘I am ashamed of my government. I usually say that we have Russia on the one hand and president Putin at the other hand, and that those two to me are separate.’

Foto: Ruben den Harder
Kate Krylove

How do you follow the situation?

Lera: ‘There is a lot of fake news, so we do have to choose our sources.’
Kate: ‘In Russia there is a lot of propaganda, the television world broadcasts the government's view. All independent media are now seen as ‘foreign agents’, which is actually a license to persecute. That's why I watch a lot of YouTube videos. On YouTube there are a lot of professionalized media. Many Russians who live in the Donbas region support these journalists financially, because they also like to hear the real news.’
Lera: ‘Fortunately, this is not an issue with us. The population and the government are generally side by side, except for about ten percent of the population. I follow the news mainly through the messaging service Telegram.’
Kate: ‘That's popular in Russia, too.’


You speak Russian among yourselves. What's the deal with that?

Lera: ‘The social media in Ukraine is often in Russian, as are the movies. In our capital Kiev, I believe eighty percent of the inhabitants speak Russian. I think that's a big problem, because we've been in a war for eight years and we speak the language of the aggressor in our country. I think that's terrible.’
Kate: ‘The languages are pretty similar anyway, I understand about eighty percent.’

Foto: Ruben den Harder
Lera Kruk

How did you meet?
Lera: (laughs) ‘When I first met Kate, I actually didn’t like her at all.’
Kate: ‘I was with a Japanese girl from our study and we were on our way home. On the way, we ran into Lera, who was walking on campus with an Ukrainian friend. I said to my fellow student: oh, look, they're Russian too.’
Lera: ‘I said to her, no, we're from Ukraine.’
Kate (laughs again): ‘She said it rather aggressively.’
Lera: ‘Where I'm from it's common that we don't have a very positive attitude towards Russia, given the history. Now I have a lot less of that, but when I met Kate I was cautious.’
Kate: ‘After that we bumped into each other at common parties and became more and more friends.’
Lera: ‘We also realized that the political situation didn't have to get in the way of our friendship.’


Do you share the same views?

Lera: ‘We both want peace.’
Kate: ‘I just don't understand anything about this war. We have such a shared history, Russia and Ukraine, there are many Russians living in Ukraine. How can we explain this? It makes me sad.'
Lera: 'I totally agree with Kate. I just want peace.’

What exactly is going on in Ukraine?

Tensions between Ukraine and Russia have been brewing for years, with Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 being the lowest point. In recent weeks, the conflict flared up even more when Russia stationed tens of thousands of military troops near the Ukraine-Russia border. Ukraine's Luhansk and Donetsk regions, located in the eastern Donbas region, had been in the hands of pro-Russian rebels for years. This week, President Vladimir Putin declared them independent People's Republic and said he wanted to send ‘a peace mission’ to the area. On Thursday morning, Russia attacked Ukraine. Images of tanks crossing the border are shared through the media. Explosions were heard in at least seven cities in Ukraine.

Will the sanctions have any effect on you?

Kate: ‘I'm mainly afraid that the sanctions will affect the exchange rate and that it will become very expensive for me to live in Amsterdam. The British sanctions, which are aimed at Russian banks and billionaires, hit Putin and his friends. The sanctions of the last few years hardly touched our government.’
Lera: ‘For us this plays less naturally, although of course like Kate I am afraid that the war will affect our personal, economic situation. Of course, we have also been in this situation for eight years, we just have to see what comes of it.’


And the future? How do you guys look at that?

Lera: ‘We can only hope that everything will be okay.’
Kate: ‘Yes. That's all we can do, nothing more. I can't say that everything will be okay, because the way the situation is now, unfortunately you just can't put something like that.’