We are going to the Crimea. There is only one child for the whole soft fifty-seat bus – mine. I tell myself that it probably just happened so this time, but the audience looks overwhelmingly concerned. There is no trace of the former sloth-like pace, when the vacationers were wearing shorts and flip flops – sure signs of an impending vacation. However, over the six years of the "republic", people less and less recall what it was like before: you got on the Luhansk-Simferopol train in the evening, and in the evening of the next day, you are already swimming in the sea. There were dissatisfied even in this situation – it was a long ride, or it was hot, or there were no tickets. Most travelers travel alone and with carry-on luggage this summer – it is clear that not for vacation, but rather for work.
Already near Rostov, observing the endless traffic jam, my child comments without addressing anyone: "They are being evacuated". Such transport chaos is familiar for the residents of the metropolis, but for us, everything is a wonder – glossy petrol stationыs with tea for 80 rubles per glass and donuts defined in the standard GOST at a high price, illumination, advertising, new cars and toll roads against the background of some quite poor houses on the outskirts of endless Russia.
Aha moment comes already in the Crimea – obvious for all these six years, but firmly ignored by us. We became a colony of Russia. The suppliers of cheap labor of all ranks and categories. The next step on the ladder of migrant workers after the Tajiks, suitable only for cleaning floors and doing the most basic work. And if we count in terms of wages for such unskilled work, they go at first and we – people of Slavic appearance – after.
Advertisements are full of notes: "I will hire a worker of Slavic appearance". That is, a potential employer turns out to be a racist – he wants it both cheap and cheerful. And for such people with a complaint against Asian appearance, there are we – thousands of those who desperately need money, who are ready to work a lot, illegally and without complaint. Who competes with Tajiks at the construction sites and in numerous private hotels and cafes.
Already in Crimea, the owner of a private boarding house recklessly loudly says to the maid in the presence of me: "Yes, I promised you 30 000 rubles, but I will pay 20 000. But you should be happy about that. You did not work well, thanks for paying that sum. You would never see such money in your Horlivka".
The owner of such a business understands the psychology of newcomers from the "republics" full well – we have nowhere to go. With a salary of 7 000 rubles a month, the promised 30 000 rubles seem cosmic. Cooks and maids go to him for the whole season to equalize their financial situation, dress themselves and dress the child for school after the returning to the "republics".
And this phrase: "You would never see such money" contains so much disdain, so much arrogance towards us. The maid is silent – she cannot stand up for herself. And what can she do – she worked illegally, without a contract, you need a proof to go to the police, you need a temper and, most importantly, you need to live somewhere and pay money for it. Having played it all over in her mind and having cried, she decides to leave. The owner does not argue. It only plays into his hands – everyone in the team has a lesson, and he will find someone else instead of the one who left, also from the "republicans", for whom the minimum for the Crimea 30 000 rubles a month in the holiday season will seem manna from heaven.
It is no secret that many "republicans" travel to Russian resorts to earn money. Young people often travel just to recoup the investments for bed and food and to see the sea on weekends. Locals do not want to work for that kind of money, but ours are ready for anything. These are Russians who are spoiled by salaries, and our students with a scholarship of 1800 rubles a month are hired in the Crimea as animators, beach photographers, amusement keepers and waiters. They still have ambitions – to make a living easy and on the fly. But their mothers, and often grandmothers, go not for the sea, but for the sake of earning money – cooks, maids, dishwashers. They often take unpaid leave for the sake of this work and sell their wages to the colleagues in order to keep their jobs. This is shameful work for the Crimea, but for the "republic", everything that is paid for is held in high esteem.
By the way, any trip outside the "republic" is akin to tourism for many. Someone is staring around, others are running to the markets, looking for a cheap product. There are also those who just want to be among people in order to remember how it can be, as it was with us once. But such impressions are stressful literally for everyone who has left. The stress of the fact that the life goes on everywhere, except for the "republics" themselves.
Life did not stop in its usual sense, it boils and gushes. People spend money, make plans and build houses, relax. They complain about quarantine and lack of money, but they go to Crimea for a month. There is no war for them, no our problems. They listen to us somehow reluctantly, rather out of politeness. This is a usual polite talk about nothing between random fellow travelers. "Have you come from far away?" "From Luhansk". "Luhansk… Luhansk… Is this Ukraine? Near Kyiv?" - "This is the LNR". A polite silence. They are silent like that when someone confesses that he/she has a defect hidden under the clothes. It seems to be a pity for him/her, but, thank God, this is not with me. After a pause, rather to maintain the conversation, they ask: "What is the situation in you city? Are they shooting?" No matter how you answer, there will be something sympathetic about the fact that those who shoot are parasites, it is a pity for people who are not able to live in peace and some other conclusion about who is to blame for all this outrage. Such a polite talk about nothing.
The time has passed when they still wanted to listen to us and sympathized with us. Some even try to provoke the conversation, breathe past emotions into the interlocutors. But the time has passed, there are other things to worry about. If we wanted to, we would leave and start a new life somewhere. And the place itself, it is also not about that, not about the war. And the owner of our boarding house, who recruited all the "republicans" into the staff, does not hide his disgust: "This sh*t walks and gives a tongue. What he can? Who is he to argue with me?".
And I understand that he will say the same about me when I leave and about all our people. But at first, many buy into the fact that we are all brothers and should help each other. The naive faith that someone cares, that someone understands us. That we are "brothers"…
Olha Kucher, Luhansk, for OstroV