Care and Feeding

My Husband Has Issued a Painful Ultimatum About My Russian Family

This isn’t fair, right?

Money being placed in an envelope.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by LightFieldStudios/iStock/Getty Images Plus. 

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Dear Care and Feeding,

I am Russian. I live and work in the U.S., and I married an American. I like it here, and my family worked really hard to help me come here and succeed when I was younger, and they did this at no small cost to their daily comfort. So I send them money.

Now, Russia is a tightly controlled country with a very specific media environment. Most older people, at least, watch TV, and they truly believe what the TV tells them. So you can imagine that not a one of my relatives right now understands or even wants to contemplate that Russia is doing anything wrong in Ukraine. There is just no way you can convince them of this; you get nowhere telling them that the carnage Russian troops are committing is not something “foreign agents” are making up to try to somehow diminish Russia’s self-image (or something—I’m not sure of all the different ways people justify what’s happening, though I am sure I am guilty of something similar in certain areas of my life, hopefully on a much smaller scale).

The bottom line: I still send my family money. My husband says this is wrong. He points out that we are friends with Ukrainians (there are a lot of Ukrainians who speak Russian in addition to English and Ukrainian, and we have some experiences, at least in this country, in common). My family in Russia needs the money, especially now—they rely on some income from me for their daily life—and none of them is in the army or anything. Out of guilt, I’ve donated to Ukrainian causes, but I stand firm on helping my cousin buy her kid diapers and supplementing my mom’s  pension to cover her health needs. I wouldn’t be here—in the U.S.; on Earth—if it weren’t for them. And if I’d never left Russia, I’d almost certainly be one of them, watching the TV and certain I was getting the “right” information. So I try to split myself in two and support my family while also recognizing that they have major issues. It’s not that uncommon an approach to take, I think, especially here in the U.S., where history and current events almost always seem to demand it. Is this so wrong? Should I do as my husband says and just tell them I can’t send money anymore, at least not until they understand the horrors committed by Putin and the Russian military? (And this will never happen! So much would have to change for it to happen!)

—Family Dispute

Dear Family Dispute,

Your husband is wrong, and you are right. The complicatedness of holding your love for your family in one hand while in the other you hold your despair of their ignorance and inability to grasp the truth—and how can they, when they are being bombarded with untruths?—is indeed a terrible fact of life, and not just for you. In any case, it is not the Russian people whom we should be punishing; it is their corrupt, power-drunk government. Your husband’s failure to understand this is not a good reason for you to withdraw your support of the people you love. Shame on him for making you feel bad about this.

— Michelle