Pain and anger: An interview with journalist Vladislav Davidzon in Ukraine

Kyiv, Ukraine - Vladislav Davidzon has been places and seen things. The Russian-American writer and journalist is well-traveled to say the least, but being caught in the middle of the biggest military aggression Europe has seen since WWII is something else entirely. Exhausted after a day of moving, reporting, and giving interviews, he spoke to TAG24 NEWS in the early hours of Friday.

Vladislav Davidzon has been "moving around from town to town" since the war started.
Vladislav Davidzon has been "moving around from town to town" since the war started.  © Vladislav Davidzon

As the war in Ukraine rages on, Kyiv has become one of the main battlegrounds. A capital city with a total metropolitan area with well over three million people is now under siege, and its population is either sheltering in subway stations or taking up arms to repel the Russian attacks.

Davidzon had been reporting extensively on the mood in Kyiv in the run-up to the invasion, first capturing the almost forced disbelief in a full-scale war, then a growing sense of panic as the terrible reality set in.

Now he's "moving around from town to town, from place to place, looking at things, talking to people." Kyiv was no longer safe for him – and not just because of the obvious dangers of a battleground.

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"I don’t want to be encircled by the Russian army. When they pick up an American journalist, they’ll let him go, but it’s going to be really bad if they pick me up," he told TAG24.

Davidzon may have a US passport, but he also has a Russian one. Given the Kremlin's treatment of citizens who don't toe the government line, it should be pretty clear why that's a big problem for him.

Either way, that particular passport may not be long for this world. As Russia's offensive began, Davidzon tweeted: "My Ukrainian wife just asked me to rip up or burn my Russian passport when I get back home to her. And I am going to do it."

Pain and anger

People take shelter in a subway station in Kyiv.
People take shelter in a subway station in Kyiv.  © IMAGO / Xinhua

Davidzon's ties to Ukraine extend beyond family. His book, From Odessa with Love, is the fruit of over a decade of reporting from the country.

That country is now irrevocably touched by the horror of war.

"I've listened to some really horrible conversations in bars, in hotels," he said.

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A person whose couch he crashed on just a month ago? "She's sleeping in the Metro station on the ground. With her kids, at night, in the cold, in an underground full of rats..."

Stories like these have been flooding social media over the past few days, as subway stations became bunkers, community centers, even maternity wards.

"Everyone's nervous. It's Just a really nasty time, really unpleasant and really unhappy," Davidzon sighed.

Another overriding emotion is anger – at Vladimir Putin, at Russia, and yes, at Russians too.

"My wife is yelling at her Russian girlfriends. This is a good way to make [Ukrainians] hate Russia, which they do now," he told TAG24. "It’s all been going on for a very long time and now it’s being supercharged."

There's no telling how this will all end. The Ukrainian resistance has exceeded all expectations so far – including Putin's, clearly. But Davidzon is as realistic as anyone else would be when facing one of the world's most powerful military machines.

"One way or another, it’s going to be really painful."

Cover photo: Collage: IMAGO / ZUMA Press & Vladislav Davidzon

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