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Emigration

"They claimed I sold out to Ukraine": Moscow doctor who refused to contribute to pay for a caretaker for a wounded soldier leaves for Turkey after threats to her family

06.10.2023

Moscow-based doctor Ekaterina Mikryukova refused to contribute to pay for a caretaker for a Russian soldier wounded in Ukraine and faced a powerful wave of cyberbullying on social media.

After the harassment and threats from Russian users, the young woman had to leave Russia. She told her story to Media Loft correspondent Katya Kobenok about the conversations in her home chat and the flood of threats on social media.

In July, Mikryukova saw an ad in her home chat seeking a caretaker for a wounded soldier.

The message urged people to "reduce their consumption of whiskey and prosecco on Fridays" (spelling preserved) and contribute to a caretaker for a soldier who "left half of his head on that land." In the note, the initiative's authors stated that the soldier would be better off with a caretaker with large breasts to make the soldier's eyes happy."

In response to this proposal, Ekaterina wrote: "It's his choice... He could have chosen not to fight and stay healthy." After that, the young woman and her entire family started receiving thousands of messages with insults and threats.

"I joined this chat because I often give away my things. I'm one of those people who don't throw anything away... I once gave away adult diapers through this chat. I had some left from my grandmother," Ekaterina says.

In the chat, they had long been organising collections for "fighters" who returned from the war in Ukraine. However, it was the wording about restrictions and "with large breasts" for the potential caretaker that particularly angered Mikryukova.

"I don't drink, but the way this message was presented... Why should I restrict myself for the sake of a Z-soldier? Contributions are voluntary. And of course, the sexist comment, 'preferably with large breasts.' That's too much. So, I wrote what I thought," says the young woman.

But Ekaterina had no idea how much outrage her comment would cause. The chat was flooded with insults and threats.

Stunned by the wave of negativity, she responded to the offenders, "Be careful; I am still a doctor." But that only further infuriated the commentators.

"It was sarcasm that they didn't understand. People really took my words as a threat. Of course, no doctor would ever say something like that seriously," Ekaterina says.

"They could have found plenty on Instagram and written something like 'What kind of doctor is this? She has semi-nude photos, and it's just disgraceful.' Threats followed that I had sold out to Ukraine, that I couldn't call myself a doctor anymore."

Indeed, all the threats remained online, and no one physically threatened the young woman, even though her address was known.

“They wrote to the sisters: ‘your sister is a whore’”

The offenders did not calm down. They began writing threats to Catherine's family, in particular her father and sisters.

"They wrote messages to my father, they wrote comments about my mother, although she is no longer alive. They even wrote to my sisters, 'your sister is a whore,'" Ekaterina recalls.

In the beginning, messages on social media and phone calls hardly stopped for a moment, the young woman remembers.

She was blocked from her home chat. However, she later entered and read it from another account. The other tenants wondered how she got into their home chat, as they all come from "intelligent officer families."

"As if an officer's family implies that these are intelligent, smart people. It's not true. Most military personnel are completely messed up. My grandmother worked for them as the chief manager for a long time. They just drink  non-stop, like there's no tomorrow. So, I don't understand how you can value the status of an officer's family now?" Ekaterina says.

After the scandal, money for a caretaker for the soldier was collected quickly. One woman even wrote to Ekaterina that she was willing to help this soldier for free.

"I sent her a link to this chat. I hope she found what she needed there. I don't know the further actions in this chat. But I think, at this rate, they'll build a palace for him soon," Ekaterina smiles.

"One thing is certain - we attacked"

Meanwhile, the residents of the building learned where Mikryukova worked and began writing complaints to the "Gemotest" network of laboratories.

"The boss was called by the "Gemotest" security service. Where exactly, I don’t know. They simply received a lot of complaints about having such an employee with such views," Ekaterina recalls.

Although human rights activists claimed that the case amounted to a maximum of administrative penalties, the young woman was not sure:

"In our country, they can blame you for anything. There will be some linguistic expert and they will conclude that I really incited something there. And that's it."

Initially, Ekaterina planned to take a short vacation and then return to work, but after some time, she received an official notice of dismissal. The young woman believes that her boss did this under public pressure or some other external influence.

As a result, Mikryukova was forced to leave for Turkey. She already had friends there who had previously emigrated from Russia due to their anti-war views. Ekaterina had always been against Russia's invasion of Ukraine:

"I don't have the expertise to judge geopolitics. But one thing is certain - we attacked. We are the aggressor in this war, and it shouldn't be that way. If someone attacked us and threatened our security, then I would support our country defending its independence."

"Will there be an understanding of what Russians were actually fighting for?"

Since the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, over five thousand people in Russia have become disabled due to war-related injuries.

"Experience from past wars shows that the following years will be tragic. Of course, there's a good chance that many will indeed be provided with prosthetics. But the issue is not just that; it's also that some people may not want to rehabilitate themselves or adapt to prosthetics because it's quite a challenging process. Rehabilitation is a long journey, and it often comes with many difficulties," Ekaterina explains.

Now, returning "warriors" who have become disabled realise that they are not needed in a country that made them kill their neighbours.

"Will they understand what they were actually fighting for? Was there any meaning in it? And if they realise they made a mistake, will they have the strength to work through this trauma? In reality, the situation is quite grim. There will simply be more embittered people who will criticise everything and everyone, believing that they are owed something because they went through a war."

Now Ekaterina has returned to Russia. On her Instagram page, which is still public, people write words of support. Many thank her for her stance and say that she did the right thing. Some people from Ukraine also write, saying they are "pleasantly surprised that not all Russians are like that."

By: Katya Kobenok

Photo materials from Instagram of Ekaterina Mikryukova

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