I was going to Russia – Shaming people or culture won’t help

I was supposed to go to Russia this month.

Yes, it was the plan, but I had to trash that plan.

I have never visited Russia even though my home county, Finland, shares 1300 kilometre-long border with the eastern giant. For a long time, I have wanted to go to the Arctic Ocean, visit the vast National Parks, and wander through Siberia like I mentioned when I wrote about Lost Pianos of Siberia.

This month I was going to go for a short visit to St Petersburg because my cousin was doing a study-exchange there. What a perfect reason to visit the city full of history and culture, the Venice of the North.

A few weeks ago I was learning the Cyrillic alphabets because I wanted to understand our neighbour better. Now it seems to be wrong to play Russian music in public or to sell food with Russian flag on it in Lidl. Suddenly we should be deleting Russia from our life as governments impose sanctions. Surely we can’t ban the whole culture just because the current government is waging war.

Now the trains from St Petersburgh to Helsinki are fully booked and hardly anyone is going to the other direction. Finland has given an official advice for citizens not to travel to Russia and advised people in Russia to return home.

Also my cousin had to return home. What she witnessed over there within the past few weeks was very sad. Because of the war, ordinary people are facing difficulties, grocery stores are closing, and people left unemployed. Some people can leave, others can’t. If you don’t have a passport, or you depend on free medication, you have very little choice.

Criticising the government is dangerous and people are afraid they’ll be imprisoned if they say or write anything incorrect. Some of those who have decided to leave are worried that they will not be welcome in Finland or other countries and they’ll face prejudice.

Of course, it is not the same as having your home bombed to pieces and having to flee gunfire with your children, but it makes one wonder who is benefitting from the war. 

I hope that the people fleeing the war in both countries find places to stay. 

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