After the Russian-Ukrainian war started thousands and even hundreds of thousands of Russians left the country not seeing their future in a state waging an aggressive war. An initiative called “Ark” raising funds on Help Each Other was created to help them to settle. It is estimated by “Ok Russians”, an organization that aims to unite people opposing the war and fighting for freedom, that around 300 thousands of Russians left Russia because of their anti-war stance in the first weeks of the war. However, It’s hard to estimate the exact number as Russians move to many different countries and not every Russian who left the country in these two months did so opposing the war.
Everyone has their own reasons to change their country of residence. Sometimes it’s just opposing the war. Sometimes it’s threats of persecution, while Russia has never been a full-scale democracy, the risks of opposing the state narrative escalated tremendously after the war started. Some leave because they work for an international company that stops business in Russia and relocates the team and some want their children to grow in freedom. You can discover some personal stories in this article about the “Ark” in an independent media outlet Meduza. Whatever the reason behind every such story, they are united by one important circumstance: changing the country of residence wasn’t well-prepared. Some bought tickets right after reading the news about the start of the war, some spent a few days or weeks organizing the relocation. Anyway the decisions were made on the fly.
The biggest influx of Russians who were suddenly forced to leave their homes was in Armenia, Turkey and Georgia, countries not far from Russia that don’t require visas. Thousands of dazed Russians with no clear plan for their future flooded the streets of Yerevan, Istanbul and Tbilisi. The blocking of Russian bank cards abroad added to the confusion, even those who had savings lost the access to the money. That’s when Anastasia Burakova, a lawyer who left Russia in December 2021 because of the threats of persecution decided to step in to help them. She collaborated with many people from her broad network of contacts to create “Ark”, an initiative to help Russians that left Russia because of their views opposing the war and Vladimir Putin’s rule. The Anti-war committee, an organization of prominent Russians opposing the war, supported the initiative. Former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky who spent more than 10 years in prison after Valdimir Putin became president gave money to rent homes to house the migrants. If you need an accomodation in Yerevan or Istanbul, please fill this form.
On the first day after the initiative was publicly announced more than 2500 questions were asked by those seeking help and more than 100 volunteers joined the movement. The spectrum of services provided by the volunteers to new-comers is wide: some help with translation, some give consultation on legal issues such as receiving resident status, some provide psychological support, some assist in finding a job, some are ready to spare a room in their houses. If you want to become a volunteer of “The Ark”, please, fill this form or reach out to the initiative via Telegram. After the first three days an initiative received more than 10000 questions and more than 300 applications for housing. That number exceeded the capacity of apartments and houses rented by the initiative, so they turned to fundraising both in fiat and in crypto.
Despite the raised funds an initiative has to sort out the applications, those who are in need the most receive a priority. Another important step was taken to help those seeking housing, volunteers of the initiative created a Telegram bot that helps to find a roommate to rent an apartment in Turkey, Armenia, Georgia and Serbia together. After the influx of the migrants the price of renting a place in Istanbul, Yerevan and Tbilisi skyrocketed, so even those who have money often needed a roommate. As the bot is named “Colive in peace” the users may not fear they will have to share an apartment with someone supporting a war.
Colive in peace is not the only Telegram bot created by the initiative. If you need immigration consultancy, please message the initiative via a special Telegram bot. If you need psychological counseling, please fill out this form. As not all questions are repetitive there’s a way to message not the bot but the human, to be connected with a volunteer in your country, please, message the initiative here. Another important step to institutionalize the help was taken with creating chats that are divided by countries. There are also other chats divided by professions that are aimed to help to find a new job. The list of chats is available here. The most important news of the initiative are collected in Telegram channel ArkHelps.
Some might say Russians as citizens of a country waging an aggressive war don’t deserve help. But most of the Russians who left the country in the past two months did so exactly because they oppose the war. Donate crypto to the initiative that helps these Russians to settle in their new homes and to ease the burdens of forced migration!