March 4, 2022
SINGAPORE – Since the start of the Russian offensive on Ukraine on Feb 24, Singapore resident Vasilisa, 30, has been calling her mother in Belarus three times a day.
Ms Vasilisa, who wanted to be known by only her first name, works as a chief technology officer at a company here and worries for her 53-year-old mother, who lives in a town on the Ukraine-Belarus border close to the radioactive Chernobyl nuclear zone. A spike in radiation levels was reported there after Russian forces captured it last week.
Ms Vasilisa, a Belarusian who came to Singapore in 2014, is one of many eastern European expatriates here who have been trying over the last week to remotely help relatives and friends affected by the conflict.
“Nobody wants war. Everyone I have spoken to has said they are against it, and it has been a stressful period for all of us,” she said.
“While it is natural to worry about family, I am most worried about the Ukrainians, who are suffering at this time, and have tried to donate to relief efforts that help them.
“With the travel restrictions in place, I am unable to bring my mother to Singapore and I am hoping she will move to the northern part of the country for her safety.”
The expats who spoke to The Straits Times said they were uncertain how the war and sanctions could affect business, travel and foreign remittance.
Lithuanian national Tatiana Korsunova Sivaraja, 31, who completed her education at Moscow State University, said the war had disrupted the lives of her friends and relatives in Russia, Ukraine and Lithuania.
Ms Tatiana, a business owner, came to Singapore seven years ago.
“People from both sides are dying and this is like asking brothers to kill each other. Expats are struggling because they cannot support their families any more because of banned transactions,” she said.
Ms Tatiana’s brother, Mr Dmitry Korsunov, 35, lives in Russia with his wife, who is Ukrainian.
On Thursday (March 3), her brother told Ms Tatiana his company was relocating from Russia due to the conflict.
She said: “Small businesses connected to Russia will suffer (due to sanctions). But we all understand that sanctions are probably the only way to stop (Russian President Vladimir) Putin from (continuing with) this war. All we can do now is give financial help to Ukraine and stay calm.”
Russian couple Vadim Zoubovski, 51, and Alena Zubovska, 43, both Singapore permanent residents, run two restaurants, in Maxwell Chambers and City Gate.
They said they received hateful messages on their restaurant’s social media page as a result of the conflict.
Mr Zoubovski, who was born in Ukraine but currently holds a Russian passport, said the restaurants will be donating 10 per cent of their sales proceeds from deliveries to humanitarian efforts in Ukraine.
He said: “We started Dumplings.ru with the intention to share the love that we have for our family dishes with everyone here. We do hope that people can be kinder in their words and refrain from leaving further hate speech in this humble space that we have created.”
Mr Zoubovski said that the couple is planning to go ahead with the opening of a new outlet at Lau Pa Sat and hoped that negative sentiments towards the Russian community would not hurt business.
Additional reporting by Lok Bing Hong
Follow The Straits Times’ live coverage on the Ukraine crisis here.