Ours in Italy: shutdown of factories, lorry drivers’ rallies and apologies for Dostoyevsky

How the attitude to Russians has changed abroad

Amid a large-scale anti-Russian campaign of the West, cases of discrimination against our compatriots have been registered in some countries. Realnoe Vremya has talked with some Tatarstan people abroad to learn how the attitude to them and other “Russians” has changed in the last few weeks. Former Naberezhnye Chelny citizen Lyutsia Nazipova living with her family in Italy has answered our questions.

“Italians’ opinions are divided”

Lyutsia Nazipova moved from Tatarstan to Italy a few years ago. Now she has a husband, house and business in the small town of Bracciano. She noted anxiety was whipped up in the mass media before the special operation in Ukraine began.

“Scaremongering with Russian tanks began in all the Italian mass media beforehand, then, of course, after seeing the military actions the indignation reached the peak. Therefore sanctions were easily imposed. Concerts, lectures were cancelled, artists were fired too. But Italians love to argue on politics, this is why they can also hear an alternative opinion. If the majority was indignant about Russia’s actions first, now the emotions are changing,” Lyutsia is convinced.

According to Nazipova and her Russian friends’ observations from Italy, the moods in the street and on social media are alarming. The Italians have started to look at the situation with greater attention after prices soared. The dependence on Russian energy is huge, while the unstable situation facilitates a rise in the fuel price. Prices for almost all products went up after fuel:

“Energy prices have more than doubled in price, which has influenced everything. Petrol is now €2,5 per litre, it was €1,3. Both gas and electricity have become more expensive too. Factories, production have started to shut down. Lorry drivers are holding rallies. Italians’ opinions are divided, more than half already claim they don’t want to get involved in others’ war.”

“Much is told about Donbas”

According to the observations of Lyutsia Nazipova and her acquaintances living in Italy, the locals are interested in politics and don’t blindly trust the mass media:

“Many Italians have delved into history, they don’t approve of NATO’s eastward expansion and regularly remind each other and the government about other wars the state backed. Much is told about Donbas. Cargo workers’ rally at the airport of Pisa is illustrative where workers discovered weapons instead of food when loading humanitarian relief for Ukraine and refused to load them onto the plane. Of course, the Russophobic mass media often publish fake news Italians themselves debunk in comments, which means they are staying tuned for the events.”

Ukrainian refugees in Italy are sympathised, however, the Italians haven’t forgotten the experience of the last decades when the country hosted migrants from North Africa and the Middle East. The refugees didn’t always accept the help with gratitude, says the former Chelny citizen.

“The Italians are peaceful, sympathetic, emotional. They sincerely sympathise with the Ukrainians who have lost their home and family, they are ready to help but they are cautious about them when they see their aggression and expansion in their country, they won’t tolerate enmity in their own country.

“Putin, get out of Ukraine, come to us!”

Lutsia Nazipova emphasises that, in general, Italians treat the residents of Russia very benevolently. There is no question of any harassment or insults of Russians.

“Many people consider that it is necessary to build friendly trade relations with Russia, Russian tourists are welcome in restaurants, museums and boutiques. Intimidated by Russian aggression, they are discussing the creation of a non-aggression treaty with Russia. Yes, it's true, they are intimidated by us. But some joke in the spirit of Italian irony: “Putin, get out of Ukraine, come to us!”

Nevertheless, the general escalation of the situation by the media has unexpectedly affected Russian culture. However, according to Nazipova, the Italians have already corrected many mistakes:

“At the very beginning, lectures on Dostoevsky were cancelled, Netrebko was dismissed from the opera house, this was the first shock. But things are changing. Russians are supported on social networks, not against Ukrainians, but not against Russians either. Italians are very compassionate. In Naples, a new fresco depicting Dostoevsky, created by Italian artist Jorit Agoch, appeared on the wall of the Technical School. The graffiti reads: “Only with culture can we understand the causes of wars and build peace.”

Despite the initial refusal to study the work of the Russian and world classics of literature, it has now been decided that lectures on Dostoevsky will still be delivered throughout Italy. The monument to the writer in Florence, by the way, will also be preserved.

“Two Ukrainian women roughed a Russian girl up and broke glasses”

Lilia Gataullina moved to Rome to her fiance a year ago. According to her, Italians are very responsive, and recent events have not affected this in any way.

“The attitude of Italians to Russians has not changed. Personally, I notice only empathy, everyone asks how I am, how my family in Russia is, whether I need something. In general, it has always been so. In Italy, they love good people, regardless of their nationality. My fiance is Italian, and he is very supportive and reassuring. The first week was a shock for me, I cried a lot because of the situation in the world and the abundance of fakes (then I found chats where they are debunked, and it became much easier).”

But yet, the young woman had some difficulties due to that Lilia is from Russia. As she told Realnoe Vremya, despite having all the documents, she was refused to open a bank account.

“They didn't open a bank account for me because I'm Russian. Although I have all the documents in order. I could argue, since it was illegal, but for me, it is not a problem, since there is an account in another bank. We just wanted to open a joint account with my groom. In other respects: in hospitals, in the administration, in the registry office — they communicate nicely everywhere and help a lot.”

Basically, aggression against Russians, according to Lilia, comes from Ukrainians living in Italy. However, the laws of the country do not allow harassment on the basis of nationality, so over time there have been fewer cases of discrimination.

“At first, there were a lot of negative stories. Ukrainians called the owner of a Russian restaurant and threatened. Two Ukrainian women roughed a Russian girl up and broke glasses at a place. An 11-year-old girl was bullied at school. There was a lot of negativity on Facebook. But then they were told that in Italy it was from 4 to 10 years in prison for bullying and attacks on a national basis, followed by deportation — after which, according to Lilia, such cases came to naught.”

At the same time, there is actually a one-sided news presentation in Italy. The Western media does not voice the reasons for Russia's actions. According to Lilia, the official media have not been talking about the situation in Donbas in recent years:

“In Italy, unfortunately, the news is presented one-sidedly, without mentioning Donetsk and Lugansk. But I found an Italian journalist who talks about them on Telegram.”

Emil Ziyangirov

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