The Informational Front

The Informational Front

Jul 20, 2022

You can often hear me complain that I feel alone in all this like the world has abandoned us, and we're all alone against this huge monster. I often hear "it's just bots/trolls/zombies", but let's talk a little about the informational space I have to live in, so you can walk a little bit in my shoes. Because this is an informational war too, my blog is an attempt to fight this war. I often talk about things that are hard to talk about, I often cry writing these posts, I often need time to gather my strength to write something, I often get angry and then scared that people will judge me for being entitled/rude/selfish, but I promised to be honest with my feelings here because what have I got to lose really? Some strangers on the internet won't like me? There are millions of people wishing me death already, so let me introduce you to some of them, let me show you the type of messages I see in my informational space. Let me tell you how I'm treated online by the big corporations because this is what I do here: try to explain my experiences to you.

I've gathered some of these messages. Some have been found by others, some are conversations that I personally participated in. The translations are made by yours truly (sorry for the typos, I was very upset while translating all this).

So in chapter one, we'll start with leaders of opinions so to say. I won't lower myself to barking up the official propaganda, but these are some Telegram channels (they work like sort of mini-blogs in a messenger called Telegram, it's very popular in Ukraine and russia) where people post their opinions and other people read them. This is Anatlolyi Dremov, by now he has 9000 followers. As you can see by the time he posted the following he had below 6k followers, but apparently, his opinions were popular enough to attract more people. Looks like there were some who found these opinions too harsh because recently he posted this:

Another mistake of a human being finds our grief and rage uncomfortable. Notice the pinned message, too.

But these are just vultures, they're not even that worthy of attention. Whenever I see these posts it's mostly just someone bashing them, but even in this form, they do come up in my informational space and they enrage me.

In chapter two we will turn to the "poor regular russians" who "can't do anything", who are just oh so scared to speak their mind. These are the things I find in comments on social media which I often scroll during air raids to get myself a little distracted from the fact that I might die right now. Imagine hearing explosions all around you while reading these about the tragedy in Kremenchuk: And these are the comment I got after posting these screenshots. Notice the blue and yellow hearts and the #notowar hashtag. How nice, how touching, how supportive! What a good, decent russian!

The following are after the terrorist act in Vinnytsa. This last one is just for fun for my dear American readers. Did you know about this? Also, how dare you!

I guess whenever you read something like this you imagine a crazy person with greasy hair and vomit on their shirts. So some people decided to put faces to the words so they can't hide behind Internet anonymity. I remember the stories about how after WWII Germans were taken to those horrible camps, they were shown all these horrors their country had done, and how by the end of the trip they were crying and saying "We are so sorry, we did not know!" The russians know, they see it all live, they hear us talking, we are talking directly to them. We have a lot of bloggers who spend their days going to russian video chat rooms and they ask questions, they talk, they try to reason, or they scream and argue, they try every approach on Earth - trust me, THE RUSSIANS KNOW!

And the last chapter is a few of my personal conversations. I particularly liked this lady. She kept calling me "hun", was arrogant, passive-aggressive, and by the end called me hysterical and said this:

Can you tell me how it works? How can you be "hurt in front of a nation"(no idea what it means, that's exactly what she said though, my guess is she is just incapable of saying "I'm sorry"), but "not give a fuck" about a representative of that nation suffering from the exact reasons you are so "hurt" about? She deleted that tweet now and blocked me.

This last part is honestly very hard to share. Those who've read my blog from the beginning may remember I used to have an art mentor from russia. I considered him a friend, and he hurt me badly with what he said, and I'm sharing it now. It's not only painful because of what he said and because this is a story of how I felt the most betrayed and stabbed in the back ever, but also because I am disgusted with myself that I've called him a friend at all and talked to him even before that. He openly told me he had voted for putin "because his family lived well under his rule and you should do what's good for your family and disregard the others" and I still continued to be his friend. He denied Holodomor, the Holodomor that killed my great-grandfather, and I still did not cut my contact with him. I used to be the person who would try so, so hard to understand others and focus on the good in people, and try to put our differences aside. That was disgusting of me, I am very ashamed of myself.

This is the first time I opened our chat so I could screenshot these messages, and I am so mad at myself for allowing such a person into my life at all.

This first conversation happened around 11 pm on February 24. I texted first because I was hurt that he was the only person in my life who never even asked if I was still alive that day. In a few days, I sent him the video of a building in Kyiv being hit by a rocket. I asked him "Will you still tell me civilians aren't getting hurt?" I thought that he has to see it by now, right? It's impossible not to see it, right? WRONG!

My mom has a very similar story of her own. Her cousin, the one that used to come from russia to vacation in our house in Odesa, live with us, eat our food, sweam in our sea... This woman would tell her in 2014 that we're hanging russians on light posts on the main street in Kyiv, and that she, from Siberia, knows better than my mom what is happening here. Like, lady, you've been here. You haven't heard a single bad word even when you were sitting there at my dinner table across from me and making fun of Ukrainian words on a cookie package. That's like one of my core memories: you sitting there and giggling over the word "sugar". I should have thrown you out the house back then, but I was 14 and I didn't. My mom cried so much over the things that you've told her since Feb 24th. You asked her to pray for russian soldiers, you disgusting piece of shit, before you cut contact with her.

So, you may tell me: Natalie, half of these are trolls and bots or just sick people, you shouldn't let them get to you. And yes. I shouldn't. But try seeing this all day every day wherever you go on the Internet. And I am just talking about Ukrainian/Russian-speaking space. I am not even including all the English speakers who tell me I should understand that my life is a necessary sacrifice so that Germany doesn't freeze this winter, and then I spend an hour trying to explain to that person that he just told me that I should die so that he doesn't get cold, and that MY life is the price HE is willing to pay for it. That's not all of it, obviously, I get a lot of support in the English-speaking community, too, but still. that example above is a conversation I literally had yesterday. But when we're talking about ru/UA-speaking space all I see is Ukrainians sharing their pain - and this. And this is also when I am TRYING really HARD to clean my space. I tend to unfollow/block russian-speaking accounts without even trying to figure out if it's a russian-speaking Ukrainian or just a rusian. I see russian speech - I get triggered, I don't need that in my life. And still, I see these messages, I see these posts. And since the "good russians" are so afraid to talk - I don't see them. I don't hear their voices, therefore it's hard for me to imagine that they actually exist. Being quietly against the war somewhere in your cozy little home does nothing for me, sorry.

And while all of this is happening, the Internet itself is treating Ukrainians HORRIBLY! You know that I've been suspended on reddit for a week. A person said that I was not Ukrainian and this blog of mine was a scam. I took a picture of my face with UA passport, and then I contacted him to try and discuss why he thought that I was a scammer. I thought that he might have misread my nic-name because I have a 0 (zero) there instead of the letter O for example. Apparently, this is harassment. That same week I was also blocked on Twitter, and I want you to understand that I was blocked within seconds of posting this, so it was done automatically. Countless times my and my friends' stories and posts were taken down on Instagram and/or marked as "unacceptable" content. TikTok deletes posts too, but it's being moderated from russia, so not really surprising.

So I want to urge you: use your own voices, show us your support. I know a lot of you help Ukraine in your own home, you donate, you volunteer, you dedicate time to be informed: after all, you've read this hell of a long post. I love hearing about UA flags all over your cities, I am glad we are in your thoughts and hearts. But we need to see this in here for our own sanity. Every time I receive a message or a comment with words of support it's like a warm hug that snatches me out of that hell pit. I feel like I'm waking up from a nightmare. "Oh, yeah, right. The world is not what I see on the Internet. I've just been overwhelmed by targeted attacks." So I would like to encourage you to reach out to Ukrainians with words of support, to post online, to participate in the conversations. You are not taking a platform away from us, you are supporting our voices, you make us feel that we are not alone. No matter how many times you tell us this - we always need to hear it.

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