Alex Kukulina

Age: 16

Place of writing: Kratovo village (40km from Moscow)

Two weeks before the quarantine in Russia even started my parents drove me out of the city to our country house. I felt like a mime pretending to be in a glass box: I technically had no restrictions. Transportation was working, I had enough money and time to go wherever I wanted and do whatever I wanted, yet still I could not manage to step out of the house. I could see everything happening around me and the danger that breaking the quarantine could put me into. And then it struck me. The virus was not even the biggest danger.

During the quarantine the Russian government created new laws that gave them the powers even the absolute monarchy could not. All around the world peaceful protests were violently broken up. People were doing terrible things. They were hurting each other even more than that virus everybody is so scared of, and I was locked in my imaginary bubble, all safe and sound, keeping myself from feeling or noticing all the ugliness going on around me. “As long as I do not get out of the house, I am safe. My world is inside the house and it will not be connected to the messed up world outside, if I do not let it,” – I thought.

But then I needed to write for the Times Shifting project. I did not have the benefit of ignoring the outside world anymore. I could not stay disconnected in order to write about it. First, I was devastated about the requirement to write about what I feel, see and understand. I consciously decided to stay in denial as long as possible, because it made me feel safe. When writing for the project, I slowly started to bring my walls down and analyse what was going on around me. The Times Shifting project kept me from separating myself from everything going on around me during the first wave.

* * *

Fill in the blanks

[a grammar exercise]

I feel [blank].

I am watching TV. I see dying people, I see sick people.

I feel [blank].

I see shampoo commercials and new game show releases.

I feel [blank].

I see doctors struggling to keep up their service.

I feel [blank].


I sense [blank].

I see a burning fire.

I sense [blank].

See a wonderful apple pie my mother just made.

I sense [blank].

I see an opened bottle of vodka on the table.

I sense [blank].

I see my nails bit to blood.

I sense [blank].


I see [blank].

* * *

A Sensational Article

Assignment: article on the oppositional youth groups in early 21st century Russia.

Subject: a certain group of young people, whose methods and protests have proven to be the most effective among many others, and afterwards led to the change of the regime.

All written documents describing the organization and their doings were destroyed by the then government. Russia was a very secretive country with closed borders until the recent years when the revolution happened.

The journalist puts in a request for the personal files of these young people, however, this request is ignored, so he must find another way around.

The journalist struggles to find any information on the group. He then comes across a living relative of one of the members, who is now near to death but has kindly agreed to talk to the reporter.

During the talk the journalist discovers that the person sitting in front of him was a COVIDoomer (COVID-gen: a person born right after the quarantine). All information about the group was kept secret from this person, because for some time before the takedown of the regime their family was too ashamed of their relatives and fed the country by feet (the borders were not yet opened) with the entire family of another group member before the revolution, leaving the narrator alone in Russia. The relative suggests the journalist visits their families’ storage unit, which could be accessed with his reporter’s ID.

In the storage unit the journalist finds flash drives with recordings. Flash drives cannot be used in future computers. The journalist visits an archive, which still has a room with old PCs for viewing flash drive and CD recorded materials. The reporter finds out that the contents of the flash drives are Zoom conferences recordings and saved blog posts and message boards all from the time of quarantine.

He watches all the records and reads all the posts. He feels sympathy for the young group members and goes on with his research, learning many details about the personal lives of the young people. He watches these recordings like a TV show, getting carried away with the plot — the stories of life and doings of the young protesters, which he is only able to learn from what they say to each other and/or post online. He gets that this is not the truest information he could get, yet it is the only source he has.

He then realizes that everything these young people say to each other is actually what they feel and experience. He sees how amazingly close and honest the kids are with each other, how their interaction, even through Zoom, resembles the interaction they used to have in real life and how their interaction is different from what we have today.

He writes a groundbreaking piece, where he concludes that all organization’s accomplishments could only be achieved with love and trust they had for each other, which, according to his words, cannot be reached in today’s world. He writes about the ways of interaction that have existed in the past and how they have helped personal relationships. However, he notes, these changes were not made by the young people themselves. The piece is sensational.

The personal files of the members are finally sent to him on an e-mail like platform. He starts reading the interrogation files, after which his narrative suddenly stops.

We find out that during the interrogations every kid betrayed his friends without a hint of hesitation.

They were all executed.


All writing, all images © The Imagining History Programme UK

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