How the conflict in Ukraine is causing family rifts in Russia

Uliana is discussing the war with her father while appearing shocked

As her brother's casket is lowered into the ground, Uliana is in tears.

The actress, 37, is present at Vanya's funeral, a Russian soldier who died in action in Ukraine. Vanya, 23, is described by Uliana as having died a hero. "What does it mean to be like a hero? It's ridiculous, I thought. I don't want a brother who is a fallen hero. ".

Although also grieving, her father Boris is happy that his son Vanya gave his life defending his nation.

According to him, the conflict is an effort to overthrow "a government that preaches fascism.". This assertion is similar to those made by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who claims that he is assisting in the de-Nazification of Ukraine and that its government has committed genocide, a claim for which there is no supporting documentation.

Uliana says of her father and her, "We didn't talk about the war before this happened with Vanya. But after his passing, we got into some nasty arguments over it. ".

Uliana at her brother Vanya's funeral
Uliana at the wake for her brother Vanya.

A new BBC Storyville film features a father and daughter discussing the war, a discussion that is currently taking place in many Russian families. .

Given the existence of laws that make it illegal to criticize the military or to refer to the military action as a war rather than a "special military operation," it is difficult to gauge how the country as a whole feels about Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

However, a survey conducted in November 2022 and released by an independent Russian research organization suggests that it is dividing generations; 75% of respondents aged 40 and over and 62 % of respondents aged 18 to 24 said they supported the war, respectively.

This, according to Russian documentarian Anastasia Popova, matched her own perception as she traveled the nation for the documentary.

"I saw many different types of family splits. Their parents, who came of age in the Soviet Union and grew up watching [state-run] TV day and night, supported the war, while the majority of their children were opposed to it. I experience the same rift in my family, she continues, claiming her father is in favor of the military operation.

Continually consuming the official Russian government narrative means relying on state TV for news. Uliana and people in her age group are more likely to obtain their news from other sources, like social media and YouTube.

Uliana says, "'Sorry' can't even begin to describe the grief I feel inside.

The war, according to her, changed people.

"I observe passengers on the Moscow metro. They read the news before turning away. They are no longer making eye contact with one another. " .

Popova emphasizes that, regardless of demographics, war support is higher outside of major cities. This, she claims, became apparent as she documented Vanya's funeral in their hometown of Arkhangelskoe, 97 kilometers (60 miles) outside of Moscow.

Uliana also mentions this feeling of recognition.

Vanya died like a hero, a real patriot who defended his motherland, and as I was watching those people, it struck me that they really believed what they were saying, she says.

"I am aware that there is a problem. I never imagined in my life that my brother would be brought to me in a zinc coffin; who are we supposed to save there; what are our boys dying for. ".

Vanya was the lone son and the youngest of four children.

Uliana explains, "He was a golden boy.

He had a diverse upbringing, according to Boris. I invested everything I could possibly think of—art school, music school, sports—into him. ".

After moving away from home, Vanya enrolled in a Moscow literary program to study creative writing. She also participated in experimental plays, including ones at the Bolshoi Theatre.

This, according to Boris, caused heartbreak for Vanya because he fell in love with a woman who was opposed to marriage.

This is the theater industry. with its own worldview. own moral and ethical standards. They have open relationships between men and women in place of family values, claims Boris.

Before enlisting in the army, Vanya was actively involved in the Moscow arts community.

Vanya appeared to be very happy in the theater, according to Uliana, but his father claims that it caused his son to go through a crisis.

He expressed his dissatisfaction with their worldview, saying that they always had negative things to say about Russia, that they treated Russians like nobody else, and that the entire history of Russia was made up. He is aware that he is not that way. We discussed it. What ought he to do?

So, according to Boris, he and Vanya decided he should enlist in the military.

"In order to pursue a career in the arts. Life experience is necessary, says Boris. We decided he should emulate the great authors, so where can you find it? The army is that. ".

Conscripted into the army, Vanya later accepted a military contract because she was looking for new challenges. He was a marine stationed in the Crimean city of Sevastopol when Russia began its major assault on Ukrainian cities in February of last year. Before being transported to Mariupol, a port city in Ukraine, he was instructed to give his family one last call to say goodbye.

Uliana recalls that they spoke for over an hour. "He was crying, I could tell. "Vanya, show me what you have there," I commanded. He displayed a machine gun for me. like when he was a kid and showed me his toys. ".

A portion of Vanya's video message is played for him by Boris. Vanya says, "Our cause is right. "Hello to all of you. When I get there, I'll write. kisses and hugs. ".

Boris explains, "Those were his final words.".

Inside Russia: Traitors and Heroes, Storyville.

Two Russian filmmakers have been documenting the effects of the invasion of Ukraine in their nation despite the significant risks. Thousands have escaped. Those who persisted had to decide whether to oppose the war, support it, or remain silent.

On BBC iPlayer right now (UK Only).

On March 15, he was fatally shot close to the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol.

Uliana and Boris's opposing perspectives on the war became abundantly clear after his death.

Uliana is too young, according to Boris, to remember the "brotherhood" of the Soviet Union republics. Its collapse, he claims, "broke the psyche of many generations to come, instilling in them the notion that the Russians were their enemy.".

His words echo those of President Putin, who referred to the fall of the Soviet Union as the "greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the [20th] Century.". Just before the Soviet Union fell in 1991, Ukraine proclaimed its independence.

The Russian president also accuses NATO and the West of starting the conflict with the intention of weakening and ultimately destroying his country. Boris also adheres to this story.

"No to war" only has one meaning in today's world, Boris explains to Uliana. Death to the Russians is what it means. The Russian world, the Russian soul, and our culture are all at stake in this conflict. ".

Even though Uliana occasionally changes her mind, it is obvious that she does not share this opinion.

Popova captures a scene in which Uliana is on vacation in Georgia, one of the few nations that Russians are still permitted to visit due to sanctions, and she and her friends are having dinner while talking about the war. Uliana starts to doubt the information.

"I'd like to think that my brother's death was not in vain. You want to defend the defeat. It hurts so much. You need something to hold onto, Uliana says.

In the family home, a small shrine has been built in Vanya's honor. It contains dirt gathered from Mariupol, where he passed away. Father and daughter have occasionally stood in front of it together.

Uliana claims that despite their differences, she still wants to stay close to her father.

"I can't fight my own father in a war. Because of our differences, I can't say, "I hate you.". All I can reply is, "Dad, I disagree.". I can only say that.

. '"

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