Quieter Than Water, Lower Than Grass: Growing Up Afraid in Russia, my Essay in Narrative Magazine

I’m deeply grateful to my friends at Narrative Magazine for publishing a personal essay that was born as a reaction to the news of Russia’s new round of war in Ukraine. As so many people around the world, I watch the developing news with horror and with absolute certainty that Putin must be stopped.

On February 24, 2022, the day Putin ordered Russian forces to launch a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, I turned forty-three years old. As Ukrainians began to mount a fierce response to the aggressor, watching the bombs fall from afar, I was astonished and awed by their courage and determination to stop Putin’s army. I was also from-the-bottom-of-my-heart grateful. Like many of my peers who grew up in Russia, I have spent most of my life afraid of violence. I have not had the courage to face my fear but instead tried to outrun it.

I was born in 1979, in Leningrad, to a Jewish family. At about eight years old, when I decided I was old enough to pick up the family’s telephone, I took a call for “Nikolai Dmitrievich.”

https://www.narrativemagazine.com/issues/winter-2022/nonfiction/quieter-water-lower-grass-growing-afraid-russia-olga-zilberbourg

Particular thanks to editors Carol Edgarian and Mimi Kusch and to Jack Schiff for working with me on this publication.