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‘I’ll be depressed, and I’ll cut costs’ Meduza readers on how Western sanctions — and Russia’s response measures — have changed their lives
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine resulted in harsh sanctions from the West. The ruble exchange rate crashed, several Russian banks have been cut off from SWIFT, and the Central Bank’s foreign exchange reserves are blocked. We asked Meduza readers what effect sanctions — and Moscow’s response measures — have already had on their lives, and what they plan to do going forward. Here’s what they told us.
Please note. This article was originally published in Russian on March 1, 2022. The following accounts have been abridged for length and clarity.
After the war started I decided to leave a leadership position at a company operating under sanctions. I lost a pretty good source of income.
It’s scary. There’s now a rift in the family — my wife doesn’t want to leave Russia. Unlike me. We have no idea how to fund our four children’s educations.
Migration is still on the table. If that doesn’t pan out, I’ll retrain to serve the population and do something that’s not related to the military-industrial complex.
Because I had invested in Russian stocks I lost my entire savings. Until recently, I didn’t want to leave Russia, but now it seems like there’s no other choice unless you want to live in isolation like North Korea.
I’m a video game developer, I make games for PC and distribute them via Steam. The platform transfers money to a checking account only via SWIFT. It looks like this is the end of domestic game development. I have to open an account at a bank where SWIFT still works. Otherwise I won’t be able to make money from the games I’m selling.
I work at a small company — an alcohol importer. Because of the ruble’s instability all deliveries have stopped starting today. Management is silent. I’m going to do the same thing I did before. Work hard, be honest with myself, love my loved ones, and take care of them.
My Apple Pay wasn’t accepted at a café, the price of olive oil in the shop where I’m used to buying it is up 20 percent, the vacation to Budapest that I planned for May isn’t happening. I’ll be depressed, get a “Mir” card, and cut costs.
I live in Germany but my pets are still in Russia. I was supposed to get them in May, but now that the “sky is closed” they’ll be forced to stay in Russia and I won’t be able to get them. Or it will cost me a fortune. We just have to wait for the end of this bacchanalia.
My work is connected with international cultural projects. Now it’s completely stopped. It’s possible that our organization will simply close: foreign participants aren’t prepared to come to the Russian Federation. I’m thinking about leaving the country.
Simferopol (Russian-occupied Crimea)
My salary depends directly on real estate in Russia. If prices and mortgage rates are going to rise a lot, my employers may not be able to pay me. I’m planning to leave the country. To be a refugee.
I haven’t been affected so much by the sanctions as by the blocking and restriction of foreign services. I’m a student and since this morning I can’t access Google Slides and a lot of other necessary things. War should not affect science.
I’ll use a VPN and alternative services even though it’s inconvenient.
My mental health is trashed and I’m rewarded with panic and permanent fear for tomorrow. I’m planning to flee to China.
My favorite brand of oatmeal is 1.5 times more expensive…oatmeal! A Russian product! I couldn’t believe my eyes. And don’t even bother talking about updating your computer — I managed to buy just an SSD drive on Sunday and by the next day it was twice as expensive. I’ve also stopped buying games on Steam and in general digital content from foreign websites. After all it might be taken away at any moment.
I’ll work more and buy cheaper oatmeal.
From St. Petersburg, now in the EU
At the moment I’m in an EU country, my boyfriend lives here. Now I don’t know how I’ll be able to return home, and when I do return, if and when I’ll be able to see him again. And it’s now really difficult to be in Europe with a salary in rubles. I’m thinking about whether it’s worth it to go home at all.
Anxiety medications are twice as expensive (and they’re Russian-made). Even dealing with your emotions has become complicated. I’m trying not to worry too much.
I work in sportswear. I bring over goods from Europe. As soon as the military build-up began on the border of Ukraine our European partners cut all lines of credit and tightened the terms of cooperation. Now, under the conditions of sanctions and a sharply rising exchange rate, the cost of my products has been forced up 20–30 percent. It will take a couple of months to recover.
So far, I’m just trying to plug the holes that have popped up. I have no idea how I can get goods from abroad now. We no longer even dream of releasing any new collections. If only we survive this horror.
I work in international online services and in some places payments from Russia are already disabled, in other places the Russian language is gone. Some of the orders for my services were cancelled as people’s priorities really changed.
I couldn’t do anything for a few days. My savings in stocks and other instruments declined 30 percent over the course of a week. I couldn’t get to Moscow, to my beloved wife, by plane. I’m thinking about the train but it’s a completely different amount of money and it takes more time. But this is all trifles compared to what people are experiencing in the war zone, of course.
I’ll continue to fulfill all my obligations. I’ll maintain my level of consumption, especially services, as best I can. I’ll strengthen my connections with friends and loved ones.
I’m an illustrator and I’ve worked for a long time as a freelancer, taking orders from abroad. The majority of freelancers in the industry do the same. Now practically all of us will almost certainly be left without extra, and for some their main source, of income.
There are few possibilities in this situation, but most likely I’ll look for a workaround.
The most horrible thing for us, as horrible as it all is, are the retaliatory sanctions. My husband and I receive our salaries from Europe and America. It’s not clear when we will receive them next, so now we’ll be forced to sell them to the state, possibly for next to nothing?
Prices in the region have risen pretty sharply. You can’t even dream of buying everyday appliances or consumer electronics. Because of price increases and shortages in stores. Life has become scary, we’ve lost all hope for the future.
We’ll adapt to the new reality and hope that the murder of Ukrainians stops. Glory to Ukraine! No to war!
The most painful thing is the dollar’s exchange rate: now my husband and I make less than a thousand each [per month]. No matter how hard you try, in this country you’ll never outrun inflation and the unbelievable self-confidence of the authorities. This year we wanted to get away to relax for the first time in two years — first the pandemic stopped us, now the war.
We’ve decided to leave. My husband is Jewish through his grandmother, we’ll repatriate to Israel.
I live in Voronezh, so I’m more afraid of retaliatory sanctions than those from the EU and U.S. — in all seriousness, over the past week with almost any purchase, I regret that I didn’t buy it sooner. The ruble’s exchange rate leaves much to be desired. I’m sure this will affect every sphere of the economy and every segment of the population, even if some people are bragging now that the sanctions are nothing to them. It’s still hard for us to imagine the real damage to our lives. We’re still at the very beginning of this “nosedive.”
I’m changing jobs, and I’ll look for extra gigs. I don’t plan to leave the country. I have an internal Shevchukian feeling that “we like her, though she’s no beauty.” [A reference to the Yury Shevchuk song “Rodina”]. I want to watch what happens to the world from my own hometown.
The restaurant where I worked as a cook closed because our main dish was Korean fried chicken. The breading, the marinade, the sauces — everything is from Korea. Even the fryer is from there. With this exchange rate it’s impossible to purchase anything from abroad.
Now I’m looking for work. But by 2024 my wife and I are planning to emigrate to a neighboring country.
We wanted to spread out, get a bigger apartment, we have two kids!
We picked out an apartment and went to sleep expecting a deal, but woke up to a war. The purchase was canceled, we are worried about being left without any livelihood. My husband works at a small bank where work has been stopped for a few days. How you’re supposed to work isn’t clear.
While we watch, we are confused and fearful. We want to flee, but we’re trying not to lose heart and support each other at least within the family.
My son and I are in the oncology ward, soon he’ll have an operation and he needs a joint replacement. The type he needs is only manufactured abroad, each one is made individually to order. What will happen now is unknown. His doctors don’t know whether they’ll be able to place an order, and if they can, whether it will be made and brought here on time, because the operation has to take place within a strictly defined period of time.
I can do absolutely nothing in this situation. The doctors hope that everyone there understands that children with cancer are not to blame for anything.
I take an expensive medication that’s made by Pfizer. Already yesterday I had some difficulty buying a few packets at various pharmacies in the city. It’s not hard to predict what will happen next with prices. I’ll be left without the possibility of getting treatment with quality medications.
My business is paralyzed. Not so much by sanctions as by the incomprehensibility of what’s coming tomorrow. Today I had difficulty paying people’s salaries. And I didn’t pay everyone everything.
All the remains is to wait. There is nothing else to do!
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