Yulia Khakimova: ‘People from Ukraine are coming to Kazan without money and agreements’

Refugees have to be sent home from Tatarstan and to other regions at the expense of philanthropists

Refugees who arrived here with the start of the special military operation in Ukraine began to leave Kazan. Some of those who arrived both in an organised manner — as part of the evacuation, and “independently” — in the hope of finding a better life and a stable high income in Tatarstan, but who did not succeed in this, tend to return to their native places or find another place in Russia, or reunite with relatives in other regions. Read more about the disappointments, reckless decisions and the principles on which refugee assistance is based by the volunteers of Dusha Rossii movement — in the material of Realnoe Vremya.

Reckless families with many children

Dusha Rossii volunteer movement, which for several years has been engaged in charitable assistance to lonely old people and families in difficult situations, rescuing disabled people from beggarly “slavery”, since February 2022 began to work in one more direction — to help Ukrainian refugees both settle in Kazan and leave it. If there are no questions with the help with settling in, then the desire to go back causes at least bewilderment among the volunteers — they are convinced that visitors act, to put it mildly, illogically.

“All refugees have different reasons to come to our city and leave it," Yulia Khakimova, the head of the movement, told Realnoe Vremya. “But often in Kazan, people who acted just recklessly find themselves in a desperate situation. Recently, a family with five children turned out to be at one of the Kazan railway stations, without a penny of money, without food and water. They were evacuated from Mariupol and were well settled in a temporary accommodation facility in Rostov Oblast, but the head of the family, along with his eldest teenage son, was looking for a job and found an online job advertisement in Kazan with accommodation. The man called the employer, who promised good earnings — from 3 thousand rubles a day. And the couple, together with five children, went here — without funds, without an address, with the last money… As a result, the whole family — husband, wife and five children — the eldest son, who is almost 18 years old, girls 16 and 10 years old and boys 11-12 years old — ended up at the train station. No one met them, they were sitting, waiting, but no one never came.

After learning about this, the volunteers got involved — they went to feed the family, helped them organise at least some kind of overnight stay, and then bought them tickets to a temporary accommodation point.

“The headquarters of the republic, which coordinates the activities for the temporary accommodation of forcibly displaced persons, helped organisationally, and we collected money and sent this family where they asked," says Khakimova. “I don't remember exactly where.”

A new risk is to get into a workhouse

“We often encounter dishonesty of the owners of the so-called workhouses, who promise accommodation, but in order to breed refugees who have already lost everything and went to Kazan with the last money, this is super-dishonesty," Yulia Khakimova is indignant. “But after all, parents with many children behaved extremely irresponsibly and stupidly! How could they not to think about the consequences, not to check the company that invited them, at least to look for reviews about it on the Internet? I do not know for sure, but I assume that the job was offered by some kind of “workhouses” (a branch of the illegal industry, the organisers of which promise help and earnings, and having got an employee, they keep him forcibly, forcing him to actually work for food — editor's note), but this is only my guess, since the organisation that the head of the family called me simply does not exist in Kazan.

According to Khakimova, volunteers are increasingly encountering visitors who responded to the offer of a job with accommodation and ended up in a workhouse:

“There a person finds himself without documents, without means of livelihood and without the opportunity to leave, and if he runs away in a few days, then he has nothing to return home for. Therefore, I appeal to everyone who is looking for a job: please, before leaving for another city, be sure to check the information, specify what kind of company it is, ask the employer to send the contract — take all measures so that you do not end up in a deplorable situation later.”

“Because it's nice there”

As it turned out, the story of the large family who came to Kazan with the last money is not the height of recklessness. The head of the volunteer movement has recently had to sort out a very romantic story:

“One strange woman from Ukraine, about 30 years old, managed to travel around half of Russia until she 'ended' in Kazan without a penny of money. She from the Volyn region, on her own initiative, went to the evacuation to the Russian North, to a young man whom she met on a social network. Something didn't work out for them there, and she flew to Sochi. According to her, because she “has never been to the sea”. And she flew from Sochi to Kazan, “because they say it's a beautiful city and it's good here”. She looked at Kazan, she didn't like the city — she came to the airport. She was sitting there on a bench and crying because she didn't have any money.

“Did it ever occur to her to settle down somewhere and start earning a living?"

“How can you settle down here — she had nowhere to live, there was no money for housing. We managed to send her by plane to Tambov, where she has relatives.”

A ticket to a transfer point

There is another category of refugees who need to leave Kazan. They are from among those who arrived in an organized manner — with “evacuation trains” — and ended up in a strange city far from Russian relatives.

“Recently we have bought tickets and sent a very elderly woman who got to Kazan during the evacuation," says Khakimova. “She was completely alone here. Through the operational headquarters, it was possible to find her also elderly son in another region. There was no direct train to his city, so we paid for tickets for both her and him. We put her on a train in Kazan, and he met her at a transfer point and safely took her to his place.

There also was an orphan teenager among the “organized” refugees, she says. Volunteers found his aunt, helped them reunite.

Khakimova stressed that volunteers help only those who will definitely not be able to get out of a difficult situation by themselves.

“These are not isolated cases when people come like this, spontaneously. They didn't come to work, but simply because they were told that it was good in Kazan. We sent someone back, the operational headquartes was also engaged in some cases. The strangest thing is that adults came without money, without agreements, that is, it is unclear what they were counting on. And among those who came to Kazan in an organized manner, there is also a category of people who want to return home, but they have nothing to buy tickets for. But we do not consider those who are able-bodied — let them earn on the way back. In the end, as a last resort, there is an unofficial “labour exchange” near the Victory Park. If you can't do anything, become a handyman.

Refugees in need of help find volunteers themselves or through social services. Volunteers are approached when they arrive at the temporary stay point in the sanatorium Livadia, for example — they go there to congratulate children on their birthday.

There have become 2,5 times more wards

Now, Yulia Khakimova says, the “load” on volunteers has increased 2-2,5 times compared to what it was before the start of the special operation. And one of the most difficult areas of work, according to her, was sending refugees back to their homeland or to regions where they have relatives.

“Over the past month, we have purchased tickets and sent 15 people from Kazan already," Khakimova said. “Now it's already mixed up in my head who and where. We don't fixate on it — we don't have time. We try to find money for tickets and send people as soon as possible — and that's it, we don't save any contacts or photos. We do not track the fate, we do not get closer to the wards — there is no strength for this, first of all, moral. Every week we spend large sums that are too much for us to send refugees who have fallen into a difficult situation. There is not enough money, only the help of caring people helps.

The interlocutor of the publication stressed: according to all the organisational surveys, the volunteers are assisted by the operational headquarters and social workers, with whom they are constantly in touch.

“We not only send refugees home, we also solve their other problems. Old ladies break their legs — our car volunteers take them to hospitals. Someone is registered by social workers in a boarding school for the elderly — we pay the associated costs. They come to us for groceries, clothes. But our ordinary wards have not gone anywhere — we still help lonely old people with food, support single moms who find themselves in a difficult situation, without housing, dysfunctional families.”

Some rely on themselves, some — on help

“We found an apartment for one evacuated family — our assistants provided them with a two-room apartment completely free of charge," Khakimova listed what volunteers did for those evacuees who behave responsibly.

According to her, most of them are among those who came to Kazan from Ukraine on their own:

“In general, they get settled by themselves, find a job, and they come to us only in the first month for help. And we help with products, household chemicals, bed linen. As in 2015, those who come to Russia on their own usually understand what awaits them, know what they want, strive to settle down, so they have fewer problems. But those who are brought in in an organised manner, it is more difficult for them, they rely not on themselves, but on the fact that the situation will be resolved without any effort on their part.

Inna Serova

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