Let me tell you a story about the bravest woman I've ever known.
I met Anna around 4 years ago in Kotor, Montenegro, she was on holiday with one of her sisters, Masha, and I was a volunteer and party entertainer in the hostel they stayed at. I can't say our first encounter was "extremely nice", and I'm sure she would agree on that, but despite all odds we became friends to the point of spending Xmas and New Year's Eve together in that same hostel.
Anna was born in Moscow, Russia in 1995 to Aleksandr and Yulia,
the oldest of their three daughters. She grew up in Novogireevo where she went to school, took gymnastics lessons and further explored her passions until she found the one she loved the most: art.
Growing up she developed an interest in photography and painting, taking her to attend the RANEPA (Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration) where she obtained a Bachelor's degree in Graphic Design and a Master’s degree in Management and Media Advertising.
Anna and her family have been opposing Putin's regime since the beginning. They've supported new presidential candidates like Alexei Navalny, a man that was poisoned and arrested when he returned to Russia to fight for what's right. They've voted against Putin's regime in every single election, attended most of the protests in Moscow, openly criticized changes to Russian law and the direction the country is taking, and most recently, protested against the war in Ukraine. She told me some of the measures Putin is taking to keep citizens from expressing their opinions: arresting protesters on the street (approx. 2000+ arrests), censoring the word "war" from any social media, blacklisting any support for Ukraine as "treason", and controling the media into a "propaganda machine".
A rumor in Russia states that people known to oppose Putin are in a "special" government list. Those in said list are in grave danger since any that have publicly posted in social media sites in support of Ukraine are being arrested by the FSB, Anna and her family are on that list. In fact police were searching for Anna last year, even calling her to come down to the police station for "questioning".
Because of this she is now forced to leave Russia and her family for her own safety, gathering only what's necessary to get away before it's too late.
Sanctions have made it difficult for her to find a way out, nevertheless she is trying and as of now (things might change, I hope not) she has found one. I can't be at peace until she leaves Russia, every single day is just another opportunity for her to be taken away, something I know I won't be able to bear, every single minute I'm scared I will never see her again. If this is hell for me I can't begin to imagine how it is for her.
We stay in contact as much as possible and I asked her not to attend any protest, to stay put until we found a way to get her out. She refused, instead Anna took pictures and videos of the horrendous acts the Russian government is imposing on the Russian people, she has seen and felt the consequences of one man's lunacy and is paying a high price only for being born in that land; unfair but still she carries on despite all the danger.
And now she's leaving her country for good, her family might not see her again in a long time, her friends will remember her only with pictures, her future was taken away and now she has to forge a new path for herself, in the midst of all this she keeps going and I couldn't be more amazed and proud.
I've lived countless injustices in my life (sadly) it tires your soul and makes you fall. Some of us have never truly recovered from this, some of us found it impossible to stand up again, not Anna.
I can tell you Anna loves sweets, specially chocolate, she always wants to have desserts before her meal which is not recommendable. Her favorite animal is the orca (killer whale) but she has a soft spot for cats, bunnies, puppies and all fluffy creatures, recently she became an avid fan of the Teporingo, a tailless bunny that you can only find in Mexico.
She enjoys photography, often carrying a camara around just in case she finds something beautiful. Favourite color? Purple, she wears it all the time specially her purple Dumbo shirt (Dumbo happens to be her favorite Disney film). She gets anxious easily, moves her left leg a lot when that happens, tends to overthink stuff but always ends up with a solution to whatever is bothering her at the moment (unless that's me, you can't solve me). She's compassionate, introverted, loving, and caring putting the needs of others before hers.
I admire her and if I ever grow up I want to be like her, Anna is my hero. They say John Wick is a man of focus, commitment and sheer will, well he's nothing compared to Anna. I'm not a praying man but this time I will, just to see her again. Please let me see her again. Stop the war.