АвторAuthor: Oleksandr Nikitin | Translation: Valentyna Mykhailova
12 October 2022
Anton Rakin was born in Moscow, but in 2016 he married a Ukrainian woman and moved to Kyiv. At the beginning of the war, after moving to Lutsk with his pregnant wife, Anton became a father. The man condemns Russian aggression, wants Ukraine to win, and associates his future with our country. But, his story illustrates the problem that people with Russian and Belarusian citizenship are facing now in Ukraine. The State Migration Service has stopped accepting documents for the extension of residence permits and obtaining Ukrainian citizenship. So, tens of thousands of people are now hostages of this situation, because at any moment the migration service can force them to leave Ukraine. Anton shared his story with the War Monologues project.
My name is Anton Rakin, I come from Moscow. I finished my studies there, then worked in a bank on the first line of support (it’s something like a call center – ed.). At the same time I met my future wife Anastasia. I visited her, we participated in the Revolution of Dignity in 2014 and went to the Independence Square in Kyiv together. Over time, I got tired of flying back and forth. I proposed and we decided that we would continue to live in Kyiv. I moved somewhere around 2016. Later, I started looking for a job here. At first, it did not work out and for some time I worked as a taxi driver. Then I studied to be a tester and was already looking for a job in this specialty. After I found it, my wife and I started thinking about having children.
Before the start of the war, of course, there was some strange premonition, especially it was all escalated by the news. But until the end I could not believe that it was possible. When the war started, I was stressed. At first I did not understand how this could happen. All this was reflected in my physical condition: I did not want to eat, I had bad sleep and emotional tension. On the first day of the war I felt anxious, it was not clear what to do next and how to behave. In addition, my wife was pregnant, the birth was approaching. We had to think about the possible evacuation from Kyiv. It was impossible to think about the future, because you could not even understand what would happen tomorrow.
Of course, my family and friends called me from Russia. They were in the same shock as me. My mom and dad also wanted me to go somewhere from Kyiv towards Europe, because it was not clear what would happen next. My parents do not support Russia’s actions in Ukraine, but they cannot do anything about it. My wife and I decided that we would leave Kyiv, I think on March 5. It was already in our plans. I understood that I have a passport of a Russian citizen and I did not know how they would react to it at the checkpoints, how they would treat me, what situations could arise. I have been following on YouTube the videos of the blogger Ruslan Zaplatin, who runs a travel channel “Russian in Ukraine”. He has a similar story, he also moved from Russia to Ukraine a few years ago. Now he also had to leave Kyiv because they have a small child. I decided to write to him and ask about the situation at the checkpoints. He replied that, in general, everything is fine. So, we decided that we would leave on March 7. We packed our bags in advance and left at 7 am, right after the curfew ended. We said goodbye to my mother-in-law, got in the car and set off.
There was the first checkpoint on the Kyiv ring road. There they checked my documents for the first time and, of course, paid attention to my citizenship. They asked where we were going and we said that we were going to Lutsk. The soldiers did not say anything else and just wished us a good trip. Then everything seemed to be fine on the road. We were driving through Bila Tserkva, but decided to bypass it, because I saw on the news that there were some attacks near the city. We took a detour along some back road, but there was also a checkpoint there. They also paid attention to my citizenship, checked my ID, but apparently they saw my pregnant wife and let us through. Further, the road, in general, was calm. We took a short road, not through Vinnytsia and Khmelnytskyi, but a parallel one. My wife insisted on this, believing that despite the risk of childbirth, we would be able to get there in time. But, just in case, we drove so that in case of an emergency we could get to the nearest city. We arrived safely to Rivne, refueled there, had a snack and went to Lutsk.
There was also a checkpoint on the border of the Rivne and Volyn regions. They already inspected me there – searched me, checked the trunk, looked at my phone, but also let me through.
Then there was a checkpoint at the entrance to Lutsk, but they also saw my pregnant wife and let us through. We arrived in Lutsk in the evening, very tired. Friends helped us to find an apartment where we stayed. The next day we bought a baby stroller, because we did not take the one we had already bought. In the evening my wife went into labor, half an hour before the curfew. We arrived at the maternity hospital, they admitted us, I was also admitted. My wife gave birth to a daughter, everything went well, but the next day there were rocket attacks near the maternity hospital. I even saw these flashes from the window. We were all moved to the basement, then we went down there during every air raid. All this time I was with my wife. Now we continue to stay in Lutsk and we are very grateful to the people who took us here. For now, we cannot risk the life of a small child, because there were several arrivals in Kyiv near our home.
As I am a citizen of Russia by passport, I had to face some problems that all Russians living in Ukraine have now. On the first day of the war my bank account was blocked. It has not been opened yet. There were funds on it that we were saving for the birth of a child. Because of this, I was also very stressed. Also, of course, I was afraid of checkpoints, because it was not clear how I would be treated. I also did not know how people would treat me because of my Russian passport. Therefore, I still have reluctance to tell everyone that I have such citizenship. Of course, I am ashamed of what the Russian leadership is doing in Ukraine. Now I do not want to go to Russia at all after what happened on February 24. I have parents there, but now we can meet only in some other country. I am morally unable to go to Russia because of what is happening there now. I constantly make posts in social networks and protest against what Russia is doing now.
Now there is a global problem for Russian citizens in Ukraine, which is that the migration service does not accept documents. It seems that in May the head of the State Migration Service spoke and said that they are waiting for an opportunity to make a decision. On the other hand, I understand that because of the war many people are not up to it now. That is, they have not been able to solve anything for six months. And my residence permit has just expired, and the documents are not accepted yet. And there is no official decree or law to extend the validity of the residence permit for the period of martial law. Documents for the extension of residence permits are not accepted now. I subscribe to communities where many people have a similar problem. In some cities they come to the migration service, they are told that they have overstayed their residence permit and are given a stamp to leave Ukraine. And there are a lot of such cases. So because of this I also do not understand what to do next.
Therefore, the only way for me to stay in Ukraine is to extend my residence permit. I also thought about getting a long residence permit, which is given for 10 years, but there is also a slightly more complicated procedure. I would really like to get Ukrainian citizenship, but it is a very complicated process. First you need to renounce Russian citizenship, and it is very difficult, as far as I understood. People who are now in the process of acquiring citizenship write that you need to wait for a decision for 2-3 years. And now it has become even more complicated. And now it has become even more complicated. That is, if you apply for citizenship now, the documents are no longer accepted. If you go to apply now, it is possible only if you have someone from blood relatives in Ukraine. You have to wait for a year and only then get this long residence permit. But, again, no one accepts it now. I read that people send a request, where they ask to accept their documents, but the State Migration Service answers them with a big letter, where at the end it is written: “Wait and follow the news on Facebook”.
Of course, I want Ukraine to win this war. At my work sometimes they collect donations, I try to participate in all of them. I believe that everything will end well and we will all live together in a free Ukraine. I know that there are tens of thousands of people in Ukraine who have the same problem as me – they cannot get registered. This problem is important not just because it somehow affects my moral well-being or creates some inconvenience. This problem is important because it is faced by many people who live in Ukraine not for a year or two, but for 10-15 years.
“These people have families here and mentally they are already citizens of Ukraine. We have become hostages of this situation, because they can put a stamp anywhere and say that you have to leave the country.”
And there is nothing you can do about it. In this case, even my wife with a small child, who are citizens of Ukraine, will also have to leave the country for some reason. Therefore, this is a global problem, because of which many people are now in limbo. And there is no solution to it. We are promised that this problem will somehow be solved, they say to wait for the adoption of some law or decision, but in fact, people with Russian passports can be stopped somewhere, sent to the migration service and stamped to leave Ukraine. Therefore, many people who sincerely love Ukraine are hostages of this situation. My wife and I love Ukraine, we want to live here and help its future development.
Чому важливо поширити цю історію?
Якщо українці не розповідатимуть свій погляд на війну в Україні, світ поступово забуватиме про нас. Натомість цим обов’язково скористаються росіяни. Тому не даймо їм жодного шансу.
Why is it important to share this story?
If Ukrainians do not share their views on the war in Ukraine, the world will gradually forget about us. Instead, the Russians will definitely take advantage of this. So let's not give them a chance.
АвторAuthor: Oleksandr Nikitin | Translation: Valentyna Mykhailova