Since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian armed forces on February 24, Russians living in France have faced insults or threats. Some of them testify to BFMTV.com.
During an evening with friends, Elena (the first name has changed) suddenly feels uneasy. The words “Ukraine” and “Russia” arise during a conversation. Track comments the student would have done without. “I’m willing to do anything to kill a Russian,” says a guest, who does not know the young woman’s origin. With BFMTV.com, she is confident that this is not the first time she has faced this kind of moral violence since the beginning of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.
“As Russians, we get messages asking us what we think about this conflict or pointing the finger at us, as if we are responsible for what is happening, and that touches us too,” she says.
A few days earlier, Raphaël, his little brother, in the CM2 class, was the target of this kind of threat. “Two boys in his class called him ‘dirty Russian’ and threatened to hit him on the toilet during recess,” she recalls. “Fortunately nothing more happened. But it is sad to hear such threats,” says the young woman.
“You should just leave France”
In Lyon, Paris or Lille, Russian restaurateurs receive horrifying words in their letterboxes. In a letter with the sober title “Departure” as the subject, a crow invites them to leave France.
“Vladimir urgently needs your culinary talents to bolster the morale of his Russian troops who have invaded Ukraine. All you need to do is leave France as soon as possible, you will deal a double blow (…) because your presence is absolutely no longer desirable in France,” writes the anonymous author.
A “shocking” discovery, says Andrei Petrossian, owner of the restaurant “La Volga” in Lyon, contacted by BFMTV.com. “It’s no fun, we usually never receive them,” he says, adding that he tries to keep these events at bay. Especially since his wife is Ukrainian, as are some of his friends who have stayed in their country of origin.
“Everything that happens there is very serious. My Ukrainian friends, whom I spoke to on the phone yesterday, did not sleep all night because of the sound of the sirens,” complains Andrei.
“I fear for my family”
The same feeling with Stella Melkonyan, whose Russian supermarket in Rennes was vandalized on the night of 3 to 4 March. “It’s scary, both for my family and for me. It’s the first time it’s happened since the store opened ten years ago,” reports the respected retailer in her neighborhood. She too has relatives in Ukraine, in the city of Mariupol, and does not want to be associated with the clashes that take place there.
“It’s an anti-Russian act, and it’s not normal,” she says.
Like the restaurateur, Stella Melkonyan filed a complaint at a police station in Rennes, expecting no real repercussions.
Amalgamation between “peoples” and “armed forces”
Varied threats and insults all the more “absurd” because many Russians, such as two traffickers, have ties to Ukraine, and vice versa, Gueorgui Chepelev points out to BFMTV.com. The president of the Coordinating Council of the Forum of Russians in France explains that this unfavorable climate even leads to certain associations closing their doors and canceling their events “for fear of aggression”.
These fears have been aroused in particular following several acts of vandalism against Russian-language institutions in France since the start of the war on 24 February. Last major incident to date, a flaming projectile beam aimed at the Russian House of Science and Culture on the night of Sunday to Monday, after which a complaint was filed, the branch reports to BFMTV.com.
But, says Gueorgui Chepelev, “Russian speakers in France are overwhelmingly against” the events in Ukraine. “We are completely stunned by what is happening. This is an unprecedented situation and everyone is concerned,” he said.
According to him, these acts of malice arise mainly from an amalgam between “peoples” and “armed and political forces”.
“We are fighting against the vision of two opposing peoples. This is not true on the ground, and it is even less true here,” he concludes.