Someone is sure that he is leaving the country forever - for ideological reasons.
The world, which yesterday was open and understandable, today has become unpredictable. The one who boasted that he was not interested in politics is now a hostage to this very politics.
What awaits Russians abroad and will it be possible to escape from fate? Personal experience: we tell the story of some "left".
We left Russia on the tenth day [of the special operation]. The day before departure, Finland, like almost all European countries, closed the sky, and our Finnish airline apologized many times for the cancellation of the scheduled flight and the inability to offer an alternative. Money for unused tickets was promised to be returned, and indeed, the transaction was made by the air carrier. But the Russian receiving bank cannot accept the returned payment due to disabled SWIFT. Cash hung somewhere between Russia and Europe, in the abyss of digital tunnels.
Prices for tickets still available through Arab hubs have grown by leaps and bounds. In 15 minutes, they doubled - from 40 thousand rubles to 96 thousand rubles. At that time, for some reason, obviously impossible flights through Europe were also being sold - with 3-4 transfers.
Motherland saw off almost as usual, except for the interrogation of customs officers about the size of the exported cash. However, they took their word for it.
Several fellow travelers brought cats and dogs with them. The planes taking off were 100% full.
We spent two months away from Russia. But running away from [special operation], hiding from it is now impossible in any corner of the planet.
Of course, we are not ashamed of the fact that we are Russians. But now, every time you need to say it out loud, you feel your national identity in a completely different way.
We returned to Russia at the end of April - two months after February 24th. During this time at the connecting airport in Qatar, as if nothing had changed.
There are dozens of TV screens in the common waiting areas of the huge port. All of them broadcast burning ruins on Ukraine around the clock, in the foreground - weeping old women, children dragging their small suitcases with teddy bears protruding from there through humanitarian corridors. These frames are diluted with pictures from the stands - they are Russian officials and diplomats in jackets. The subtitles decipher the pictures from the fields in an "unfriendly" tone for Russia.
Standing under the same screens in huge queues for boarding, you stretch out the burgundy passport "Russian Federation" to foreign officers as if with inner apprehension, and to your own horror, the country of departure - you pronounce your native country as quietly as possible.
To the usual question "Where are you from?" If you want to get to know each other and talk, you try not to answer or answer after a long pause. Partly for security reasons.
Almost all Russians flew on the connecting flight to Qatar in early March. Lots of youth. The atmosphere was heavy. Neighbors in the armchair - a young couple, silently, with tense faces, watched the broadcast of political scientist Ekaterina Shulman * (included in the register of media that act as a foreign agent in Russia) downloaded in advance on a laptop. In some places, the recording was rewinded and reviewed again.
Neighbors on the chair from the other side - also a young couple decided to fly "to sit out difficult times" in Sri Lanka. The guy, a sales manager, assured me that there would be no problems with income for some kind of solid time reserve, you can work remotely. His girlfriend, a school teacher, had to quit her job to fly together. "Let it be. We will think in the course of events, ”summed up the young man. As soon as he started talking about politics, the girl hit him in the side with her elbow, trying to stop conversations with strangers that were dangerous, from her point of view.
However, talking about politics was inevitable. They sounded from every snatch of Russian speech along the entire route - on the plane and transfer zones, in all lounges, buffets and on all platforms.
The first thing we saw when we crossed the threshold of the hotel in the Southeast Asian town we were going to check into was a huge screen in the living room. All channels broadcast exactly the same footage from Ukraine. These events were the main ones here, thousands of kilometers from home. Frames of destroyed houses were not diluted even with local news, and the running line gave more and more new details by every hour.
After a minute of the standard paper check-in procedure, the owner of the hotel, a young ethnic Chinese with Canadian citizenship, with genuine interest, wanted to know what our attitude to [special operation], how long all this would be, and what people in Russia thought. The conversation was long, and the one who sheltered us seemed to be quite knowledgeable.
For the next two months, screens with reports from the cities of Ukraine, contrastingly interrupted by speeches and briefings by Russian officials and the military, did not stop for a day. The picture came from everywhere - in supermarkets and gyms, hairdressers and bars, in transport and banks.
Employees and service people in another country, tourists from all over the world who came across on the way, after they found out that you were from Russia, certainly wanted to know what you think about all this. This question to you as a representative of the nation was relentlessly addressed. But not one interlocutor expressed contempt, aggression, anger. Rather, the tone was in most cases sympathetic.
There was an epic pause after a ten-minute conversation, quite friendly at first glance, with a large Russian-speaking company. When it's time to exchange the initial so-called. appearances and passwords, it turned out that they were from Kyiv, and you were from Moscow. To our surprise and inner fluttering, there was not the slightest hitch from that side. The conversation just continued in the same tone. For some reason, we believed that we would inevitably have to answer a number of questions, or even save ourselves from physical impact. But no.
One Englishman at the end of a short conversation in the minibus said: “Don't think that the whole world hates Russians. This is not true. Our hatred is targeted, it is not addressed to the Russian people as such.”
The Buddhist monk, who permanently lives in a remote suburban monastery, reacted most passionately to our nationality. As soon as he heard "Russia", his face changed and he demanded to stop [the special operation]. The conversation with him turned out to be long and difficult. However, in the end, he himself had to give advice to us Russians on how to stop constantly worrying, fearing the future, and how to overcome impotence.
There is no way to disconnect from the Ukrainian-Russian agenda. To avoid it, to step aside, to exclude it from life for some time is impossible. Fun, laughter, feasts and idle talk - fall under the ban of the internal censor. For any even the most modest pleasure, a burning feeling of guilt immediately overtakes ...
During our stay abroad, we experienced all the restrictions imposed. Disabling SWIFT (bank cards stopped working one day) and closing Western Union (no one from outside could make more transfers). The ruble, which has fallen in price by half – in the most acute phase, its value on the board of exchange offices was listed as 00.00. Disabling the possibility of booking accommodation and supporting existing bookings on Booking. Curtailment of medical insurance - foreign medical organizations do not take on Russian patients, because services can no longer be paid from Russia. Restriction of traffic to Russian state and near-state Internet resources.
There are practically no bypasses of these prohibitions. Everything is for real. The embassies of foreign countries and hotlines try, of course, not to abandon Ukrainians and Russians, but the help of embassies is rather advisory or emergency - to feed, warm, treat the dying.
After some hitch with the flow of Russian tourists at the very beginning, they nevertheless slowly resumed. Lonely and in pairs, the Russians who arrived in plain text said: we will sit out the general mobilization here.
At the same time, news, chat messages and photographic evidence were coming from the homeland in a swift and endless stream, in express mode. Colleagues and acquaintances who left the country. New rules of work. Childhood friends from your backyard, now writing from war zones. New price tags in stores. Sealed offices. Half empty malls. Announcements with recruiting in the Cheka. New ideological symbols on banners on buildings in Moscow, on the bodies of schoolchildren in the regions, on the house of my aunt ...
We mentally prepared for the way back, for the entrance to our homeland. Then there were already rumors that the border guards biasedly question the returning Russians about the purpose of the trip, profession, look through the phones.
Fears came true in part. Phones were not checked. Questions were asked with an average degree of willingness. But the suitcases at the entrance to the house were shaken as in none of the four boarding and transfer ports before.
To be honest, I don’t remember at all that such inspections were carried out on the last square meters before entering the city. Every second person was asked to open the locks. The question is what exactly interested the scanner, the officers did not give answers. They shook and looked at everything: underwear, shoes, all things bought abroad, every medicine box was opened and the contents were checked against the label.
At the exit, Rospotrebnadzor was also waiting: although the epidemic is considered officially receded, you are required to pass a coronavirus test (if you are not vaccinated with Sputnik-V).
The waiting at the baggage belts was brightened up with video sequences with a victory theme and calls for help to the people of Donbass. The puzzle with the date 1945-2022 on traditional posters by MAY 9, of course, did not add up in the jet lag, yes, in general, even after ... There were not many spectators, however. Russian airports are not crowded today.
The police cars circulating around Sheremetyevo in the same stream as the taxi left no doubt - now you are at home.