"My family supports me"
Interview with Maksim Gaidukov, conscientious objector from Russia
20 year-old Maksim Gaidukov traveled to Germany just days after the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine. He is working as a model in Berlin and has been granted temporary residence permit.
When did you come to Germany?
I arrived on March 9, 2022 after a quick decision. I barely had time to pay my family a visit before my departure.
Why did you leave Russia?
I came to that decision after the invasion of Ukraine had been launched. I felt betrayed when I saw what happened there. Russian young men are being sent to Ukraine in order to murder people and to die for that. They are being betrayed and abused. I do not want to be part of this. I must not let it happen that people die by my hand. That is why I had to go, there being no other way out.
Had you had experiences with the military before the invasion?
At the age of 16, everyone attending our school was mustered by the military. At that time, they had occupied Crimea and illegally taken it from Ukraine. And I was prepared for something like that to happen again. Of course, I did not know exactly it was but it was always on my mind. Our government, on the other hand, thought the takeover of Crimea was a success, a good opportunity to gain control of the citizens, to win a war and expand Russian territory.
I went to the muster by the military, there was no other choice, anyway. All of my classmates were very excited and wanted to be as best as they could, however, tried to make myself and my health situation look as bad as possible. I did not lie, yet did everything to receive a very low number of credit points. In the end, they rated me level C or D which meant it was not very likely I would be drafted. At that time, I had not yet made a clear decision on whether to object military service. Yet, I had an unconditional feeling soldiering was not the right thing to do.
Could you have been drafted to the military this year?
On April 04 2022, my parents received a summons. I was summoned to register at the military commissariat for conscription.
How did your family respond to your decision?
My family accepts my decision and supports me. More importantly my grandma’s opinion means a lot to me. The present situation disappoints her very much. She refuses to accept that we inflict such horrible pain on Ukraine. She has her own story in mind. She finds the government does not even think about the consequences of the war for the whole of society. In her view, it is a big step back.
Here in Berlin you met Ukrainians. What do they think about your decision?
They meet me friendly and tell me I did the right thing. Further, they think I am also right in the way I see the war. In my understanding, it is not a war between Russia and Ukraine. It is a war resulting from old and bad traditions, which Russia is just approaching again. It is a fight between the modern world and old traditions that were common in some parts of Russia.
What do you hope for in the future?
I wish Russia will be able to overcome those old and bad traditions and opt for an open society. As for my personal future, I would like to work in the fashion clothing sector. I intend to learn and continue my education here in order to find a creative job later on – and share my knowledge with creative people in Russia.
Interview with Maksim Gaidukov, August 15, 2022