“Hello dear soldier who has gone to the front. (…) I don’t know who will receive this mail: I am addressing all the warriors of the Russian army who are taking part in the special operation. I can only guess how scared you are and how hard it is right now. It is hard to realize that it is you alone who must liberate the world from fascism. You are brave, you are strong, the peaceful life of the Slavic peoples depends on you. Take care and be careful. I wish you to stay alive and to return to your families. Remember: Russia always wins, Russians always win. We are invincible. Thank you for your commitment to the country. Hi soldier, good luck. »
Evgenia V. is a Russian high school student from “tenth”, the class of 16-year-old students. On her white sheet, in neat calligraphy, she decorated her signature with a red star, that of the Soviet army during the Second World War. She also drew a “Z”, this letter of the Latin alphabet inscribed since the invasion of Ukraine on Russian armored vehicles, and which in Russia has become a sign of support for the military operation decided by the Kremlin. Evgenia painted this “Z” in the colors of the Saint-Georges ribbon (three black stripes, two orange stripes), a symbol of the victory of the Red Army over Nazi Germany which has become that of the patriotism advocated by Vladimir Putin.
When we found it on December 9, Evgenia’s letter lay with over a hundred others amid empty vodka bottles, toothpaste tubes and soggy pillows in a former Ukrainian police station in the entrance to Izioum, a small town located 175 kilometers from the Russian border. The building was occupied between March and August by Russian forces, before being bombed by the Ukrainians, who eventually recaptured the city on September 11. Protected from rain and snow by an intact piece of roof, these couriers abandoned in the rout remained scattered without too much damage. blue skies “without planes”pink hearts, tanks or khaki rifles… The drawings made strange spots of bright colors in the greyness of the rubble and winter.
“Dear Soldier”… “Hello Warriors”… “Hello Unknown Soldier”… “Dear Heroes”… “Hello Guardian of Peaceful Lives”… “Dear protector of our homeland”… All these letters, or almost, begin like this. Often written from a classroom, under the supervision of teachers, they were taken to the front lines by military convoys and mobilizations. Most of those found in Izioum come from Voronezh, in western Russia, but also from the Smolensk region, even from Saint Petersburg or from a “Moscow nativity scene”. Some passed through camps military, such as « army recruiting center 102 Slavy Avenue [“avenue de la gloire”] » from Belgorod, 30 kilometers from the Ukrainian border.
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Letters from Russian children: “Dear soldier, we are with you”