Family Reunion in Yerevan: Overcoming Political Differences and War for Russians

The family reunited in Yerevan

NOS News

  • Paul Alexander

    foreign editor

  • Paul Alexander

    foreign editor

“I don’t understand what’s going on in my mother anymore,” says Russian Yulia Nesterova (44) from Amsterdam. She is with her Dutch husband and their two daughters visiting her brother Igor (38), who fled with his wife and son to the Armenian capital Yerevan last August. Her mother Ira (65) came over from Moscow.

They can travel to the former Soviet state in the Caucasus without a visa from both Russia and Europe. That makes Yerevan an ideal location for many a family reunion of Russians who have been driven apart by the war.

For example, a grandfather who fled to Switzerland and his daughter from Saint Petersburg meet here at a granddaughter’s. And a young woman from Moscow meets her friend who has flown in from Cyprus at her friend’s house.

Families are not only separated geographically. Their ideas are also sometimes diametrically opposed to each other politically. “When we call each other, my mother uses extreme war language one day and I immediately hang up,” says Yulia. “A day later she pretends it didn’t happen on the phone. She is an intelligent woman who has seen a lot of the world. But now she shuts herself off from outside information. It has also become more difficult for her to access.”

Don’t spoil friendship

Yet life has lost meaning for her over the past year now that her children are far away and she is left alone in Moscow. She seeks solace in friends. “They all have their children at a distance, because they serve at the front or have also left Russia.”

Ira tells how the ‘special military operation’ also divides her circle of friends into two camps. “Particularly in the beginning, emotions could run high. At a certain point we decided that we had known each other too long for the differences of opinion to spoil the friendship. We all decided not to talk about it anymore.”

She is now using the same tactics in Yerevan. They walk through local markets, make trips to the Caucasian plateaus around the capital and toast each other in countless restaurants. As soon as the conversation comes close to the war, Ira lets out a deep sigh under the words: “Let’s not talk about it”.

Yulia and her mother on a trip

In this way, the warm reunion is at the same time an exercise in keeping the peace. It helps that the local population is sympathetic to the Russians – unlike, for example, other former Soviet republics such as Georgia and the Baltic countries, where large numbers of Russian refugees have settled.

Boost local economy

About 90 percent of the 40,000 Russians in Yerevan work in the IT sector – including brother Igor who is a data analyst for an American dental company. Life is also affordable: wages are often three to four times higher than local rates. It drives up prices, but at the same time it provides an impulse for the local economy.

Russian and international IT companies have opened offices in Yerevan over the past year. And countless new restaurants, hip clubs and bars are appearing in the streets, where Russians read poems, hold anti-war rallies or organize exhibitions under titles such as Return home.

Yet poor and remote Armenia offers little prospects for the future. Most Russians soon travel on to Georgia or Europe. Igor also sees his stay in Yerevan as temporary. “Maybe in two years the misery will be over and we can go back to Moscow,” he says without much hope.


The immediate reason for the reunion is his birthday. During a festive lunch, his wife addresses him. “We’ve had a tough year. We’ve had to rearrange our lives. It’s unclear what the future holds. But I know I can lean on you.”

Then inevitably comes the farewell. Yulia doesn’t want emotional states. She tells her mother, “It’ll be fine. We’ll see each other soon.” But Ira looks shaken. She has to go back to the country where she and her friends cut off their children’s lives.

2023-06-04 07:57:06
#Russians #family #reunions #Armenia #warm #reunion #exercise #keeping #peace

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