As Russia’s war with Ukraine nears its two-month mark, residents of Russian descent across the U.S. have had to grapple with their home country becoming an international pariah and a target for severe economic sanctions.
With images of extensive destruction and evidence of Russia’s seemingly indiscriminate targeting of civilians, many Russians who now live in Sammamish have expressed dismay and discontent at the war that President Vladimir Putin is waging.
Katy Galpert, 44, was born and raised in Perm, Russia, a city in the country’s interior near the Ural Mountains. Galpert moved to Israel for a couple of years and relocated to Sammamish in 2011.
“Of course I do not support Putin’s actions on invading Ukraine. My heart is with the Ukrainian people,” said Galpert.
Her parents, who still live in Russia, have felt the impact of sanctions.
“Both of my parents have asthma and have to use medicine. The supply of this medicine is stopped in Russia due to the sanctions,” she said, adding that sanctions have disrupted the lives of many Russians “who didn’t do anything wrong except being born in Russia.”
Galpert was dismayed at the level of repression that Putin implemented within Russia to stifle dissent, especially after he shut down independent television and radio stations that opposed his war effort in early March.
According to Galpert, all the current news channels within the country “are Putin-run channels which report biased and fake news to support Putin’s actions.”
She was planning to visit her parents in Russia after two years of COVID-related separation and air travel restrictions. However, a strong recommendation by the U.S. government not to travel to Russia due to the risk of violence against American citizens has left Galpert uncertain on whether she should go.
“I don’t know when I could see them again. I feel really hopeless,” said Galpert.
Anna Kapustin, 42, grew up in Saint Petersburg, Russia, and moved to the United States in 2000. Her parents, extended family, and siblings still live in Saint Petersburg.
Kapustin says she is “deeply disgusted by what the president of my homeland is doing” because this war is completely unjustified as “Ukraine did not pose any actual danger to Russia’s safety.”
Even though all of Kapustin’s family in Russia is against the war, they are not able to voice their opinion through protests or social media posts.
“They will be arrested for the rest of their life,” said Kapustin.
Kapustin is worried about her brother, who is in his late 40s. He could be forced by the Russian government to join the military as part of conscription, even though he is against the war.
The financial impact on Kapustin’s family has also been severe. Her husband runs a business that has a lot of ties with Russia.
“The business is now struggling and he works for 20 hours a day trying to figure out solutions,” said Kapustin.
Both women expressed concern about being associated with Russia through their heritage.
“We are just Russian speaking people and we do not support the war,” Galpert said.