Humans logo

In 2016, an uncle told me: “I want Russia to start a war”

Seven years later — his dream finally comes true — probably not the way he expected

By Tony, The CuratorPublished 15 days ago 9 min read
Like

Coming to Bournemouth

Seven years ago —just around the time the UK voted for Brexit— I was spending a whole summer and a tiny portion of autumn in Bournemouth. As one of the warmest places in the UK, this coastal resort town is always set for some hot action (a.k.a. no free vacancies) when the great holiday season arrives. In 2016, I was there and ready for that action.

Spending summer time in Bournemouth was like having a sneak peek into future post-uni adult life — in the ways I did and did not expect. Days were often sunny, warm and filled with fun introverted activity. My mornings usually began with thirty-minute runs by the seaside to fill my nostrils with salty marine air and feel how chronic sinusitis surrenders under healing pressure. On weekends, I would go to a nearby park and either read a book or catch some pokemon in Pokemon GO — which was a new game at that time. Does anyone still catch pokemon today?

The most fun, of course, I had on weekdays. By fun, I mean going to my first full-time job. I had it because I wanted to earn and save money to cover some of the expenses for the third and last year at uni. Unexpectedly, I landed a job at a Google call centre. They hired me only because I told them I was taking a gap year at uni — which was technically a lie — but who really cares when he desperately NEEDS MONEY? I

What was it like to work at a Google call centre?

Not as fancy as it sounds.

I would come to the office at around 9 am, buy a cappuccino at the canteen downstairs, go up to the third floor, say hiiii, put a headset on and answer many many calls throughout the day. Sometimes I had to listen to homophobic jokes made by my Russian team lead and addressed at my Estonian colleague sitting right by my side. Sometimes I would say something sort of stop and then I had to listen to him saying oh maybe you’re gay, too? I was gay, but I wasn’t in agreement with that biological fact, yet. Unfortunately, I would say no.

Putting homophobic slurs aside, the job was surprisingly fun. My colleagues were fun most of the time, too. Customers were not as fun as they were really angry. Who calls customer service to say thank you for your great job? No one. The default emotion of every call was anger and frustration. I didn’t mind that. I like talking to angry and frustrating people, and giving them instructions like put password protection in place to stop your children from spending all your money on mobile games or no I can’t refund all of those purchases, sorry. Sometimes conversations would get too heated. My colleague once had a pissed-off customer on the call who couldn’t find a dragon he just bought. He did look everywhere — even in the garden. There was nothing she could do to help him. He had to contact the game developed. They would probably tell him that they couldn’t help, too.

Fun weekdays of a customer service agent.

Getting to know Victoria’s parents

I said I came to Bournemouth to earn and save money. To save money in the UK is possible but only you don’t need to pay rent. Which was my case. I was staying at my brother’s fiance’s parents’ flat. They had a spare room. I didn’t pay anything the first month and I paid a small fee afterwards. The flat was small but pretty and very clean and very central. It was incredible and I was very happy they suggested I could stay there.

Victoria’s parents were accommodating and didn’t make me feel awkward, most of the time. I even spend some lovely evenings with her mother — tyotya Alla. We would drink wine and she would tell me about her complicated upbringing in one of Russia’s republics (I don’t remember which one), in a large family with many children (I don’t remember how many). She was great.

I did spend quite some time with Victoria’s father as well. I called him dyadya (uncle) Vova. He was nice most of the time. We would go to supermarkets on weekends to buy food for the week. We would go for walks around the town. Sometimes we would watch TV together. It was all fine.

Except for one thing.

Victoria’s father was a proud Russian man.

Apparently — when a proud Russian man and I meet — a conflict is bound to happen.

A proud Russian man

The first time dyadya Vova and I clashed was on one of our first walks. We went to look at the sea and breath some fresh sea air albeit mixed with some fresh smell of tobacco — he was quite a smoker. Dyadya Vova must have been asking me about my studies at Lancaster University and I must have been saying something genuinely enthusiastic. I did enjoy my time there.

In my retelling, I must have naturally mentioned something about how much I enjoyed hanging out with Ukrainians more than with Russians. I won’t be getting into details, but my general perception throughout the years of my studies didn’t change. Despite both camps being outrageously rich, as a rule with a few exceptions, I found Ukrainians to be friendly, funny and down-to-earth, and Russians to have tendencies for being arrogant rich kids exhibiting a high degree of megalomania. Boys, especially Russian boys. I guess it’s those same boys who later become proud Russian men.

Dyadya Vova wasn’t pleased with my remarks. He got irritated and said something like actually Ukrainians are the worst. I thought okay maybe I was just having a kind of unique cultural experience. I had, however, visited Russia two times as a teenager. I would classify people I met there as being moderately antagonistic. The museum staff was moderately-antagonistic. Cashiers at supermarkets were moderately-antagonistic. Our guide was moderately-antagonistic. The antagonism was floating in the air.

Yet — since growing up in a small Lithuanian town in which the majority of residents are Russian immigrants — I understood such attitudes towards each other as normal inter-human communication. After living in other environments, I now understand that people can actually be nice.

Anyway, we didn’t have any further discussions on that matter until one specific morning later in my stay. It was early. I was chopping raw courgettes to make my healthy but disgusting salad which I would take to work and consume like it was okay. I was trying to eat healthy at that time, and everything I cooked came out to be disgustingly healthy. While I was busy with my disgusting preparations, dyada Vova said something, completely out of the blue:

oh I wish Russia started a war and showed all of them in the West who’s right.

What?

My mind got cluttered with echoes of that sentence and I couldn’t quite believe my ears.

oh I wish Russia started a war and showed all of them in the West who’s right

oh I wish Russia started a war and showed all of them in the West who’s right.

oh I wish Russia started a war and showed all of them in the West who’s right.

Are you fucking stupid, dyadya Vova? — I didn’t say that even though I wanted to. Instead, I yelled something more censored like are you out of your mind saying things like that? that’s a terrible thing to say. I didn’t expect to hear anything like that. I generally prefer to hear silence in the morning, and dyadya Vova let the thunder out of his proud Russian mouth. It all ended up with tyotya Alla schooling dyadya Vova for saying bad things out loud, like he was a child and not a fully grown man with a voting right.

At that time, I thought it was just a stupid remark only a man who was very unsatisfied with his life could make to make himself feel better. Yet, it did plant a tiny seed of alarm inside my heart. I just heard the disturbing thoughts of a proud Russian man living and working in the UK. I can only wonder what proud Russian people living in Russia say to each other these days.

This argument happened two years after the annexation of Crimea when Russia was still trying to figure out ways to mitigate the toll of Western sanctions. They stole a part of another country and created a proxy war in the eastern region of Ukraine but some why them were really pissed that no one gave them a trophy of respect for that. Dyadya Vova was as pissed as a proud Russian man could get — which at that time meant whining on a British couch in a British kitchen

Dreams come true

Now — seven years later and one year into the war — I’m sitting in a coffee shop in Kyiv. An air raid alert goes off. I’m thinking about dyadya Vova.

I’m thinking about dyadya Vova and how exciting it must have felt for him to wake up on February, 24th and read the news about Russia invading Ukraine. Exactly what he wanted. Finally, those nasty Ukrainians getting what they deserve. They’re just the worst, right?

I’m thinking about dyadya Vova and how unexciting it must have felt a month later when his dream had started to grow into a nightmare — he must have realised that Russia can’t apparently show how right it is. Russia couldn’t prove its cultural greatness after the fallout of the Soviet Union. Now, its military greatness is falling to pieces.

I’m thinking about dydya Voda today — almost a year after the war began— when homes and towns around Ukraine are being destroyed, thousands of Ukrainian civilians are being murdered by the Russian regime and more than 180 000 Russian men are dead.

Dyadya Vova, is this what you dreamed of?

Do you feel accomplished?

Do you still feel like a proud Russian man?

I will probably not get an answer because — despite living in the UK for ten years — dyadya Vova never learned to speak English.

Why would a proud Russian man learn a foreign language, right?

Dyadya Vova is now probably spending his retirement in Lithuania, watching how Russia kills people in Ukraine and silently cheering on his now Lithuanian couch from afar.

I’m going to end this non-fiction tale with one important question — is it really just Vladimir Putin?

featurehumanityfamily
Like

About the Creator

Tony, The Curator

Follow me on Medium: https://medium.com/@tonythecurator

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights

Comments (1)

Sign in to comment
  • Ted Hauser15 days ago

    Well done. Loved it.Both your insights AND writing style...subtle and strong.

Find us on social media

Miscellaneous links

  • Explore
  • Contact
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use
  • Support

© 2023 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.