Her dad is a Russian Air Force pilot, she’s an anti-Putin activist

A Russian woman in Chicago leads a group of fellow exiles against Putin and his war.
Posted at 9:00 PM, Mar 31, 2023

For tourists passing by, the anti-Putin sign Anastasiia Voronova was holding at a recent protest in Chicago's downtown may not have seemed like a huge deal. 

But for Voronova, a Russian immigrant, speaking out against her president and his war in Ukraine is a serious risk, even from the safety of America. 

The 25-year-old, who first came to the U.S. as an exchange student in 2019, says she is constantly harassed by Russian trolls and receives frequent death threats. 

"They say you should be responsible for your words. You'll be physically beaten up and then we'll call police on you," Voronova explained. 

Her anti-war activism has already cost her a lot.

Her ultra-nationalistic family in Moscow — and all of her childhood friends in Russia — no longer speak to her. Her father is a Lieutenant Colonel in the Russian Air Force, and she spent her teenage years at a Moscow boarding school for daughters of military officers. 

"We would have propaganda going on in every class," Voronova said.

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Though she says she started questioning her country’s censorship at an early age, it’s when she first stepped foot in America in 2019 that she says she realized how repressive her country really was. 

"In Russia, the internet is getting blocked, so you can't read all the articles that you see in here in America." 

After being expelled from her Russian university for trying to organize a protest, she transferred from exchange to full-time student at Beloit College in Wisconsin. She stayed in the U.S. to gain work experience after graduating in 2021. Then, just a few months later, Russia invaded Ukraine.  

"I got into a horrible depression. I couldn't believe that my country, my president was doing that. I had to go see a psychiatrist because I couldn't deal with that on my own."

Eventually, Voronova found support within the Russian immigrant community in Chicago and started raising money to help Ukrainians with humanitarian needs, heaters and even commercial drones. 

In a recent interview at her home in the Chicago area, Voronova showed Scripps News’ Ben Schamisso old family photos.

SCRIPPS NEWS' BEN SCHAMISSO: How do you feel seeing a photo of your parents? 

ANASTASIIA VORONOVA: I miss them so much. I do miss them a lot. I love them to stars and beyond.

SCHAMISSO: Are you afraid that your parents could suffer the consequences of your activism?

VORONOVA: Well, they don’t speak to me. So I think that’s what’s protecting them right now.

SCHAMISSO: How risky Is it really for you right now to talk to me?

VORONOVA: This risk I’m taking is nothing compared to what Ukrainians are experiencing. I do feel very, very responsible for what my country is doing. And I feel like every Russian citizen should feel that way.

SCHAMISSO: Even though you’re just one Russian immigrant far away from Russia, you believe you can make a difference?

VORONOVA: The more people have the same opinion, the louder your voice will sound.