— What period of immigration was the most difficult for you?
— I cannot say exactly... it was difficult in the beginning, definitely. I came with the feeling that I am the Prince Charming, going to crush everyone in this village. I had ambitions, energy. All problems seemed solvable. Life challenges were compensated by the attitude. Now we just live our normal life here. If we speak about difficulties in my life, they are banal life difficulties not related to immigration.
The most difficult thing is to lose connections, society, communication, and I think the younger you are, the more difficult it is. When you are 50, you can easily not see anyone at all, you live on your own, and you are OK. It is hard for young people.
— Did you want to go back?
— Sometimes I brought up returning to Petrozavodsk: we had an apartment there, it was possible to get a good job. But the wife refused to come back. I think all of my friends who had the opportunity to leave have left. Even somewhere to the middle of nowhere, they come to Petrozavodsk to see their parents once in three years.
— Do the children identify themselves as Finns or Russians?
— Russians. The younger daughter does not question her mentality, has no problems with the language — she was born here. But her friends... They play together without any problems, but not with her. She feels so... standalone. On the other hand, it tempers her. She used to return from a walk in tears at first, now she understands and does not cry.
— Do you ever feel any rejection from Finns towards Russians?
— I have never faced people shouting «Hey, you, Russian», it never happened to me. Sometimes you are not treated even poorly, they simply do not communicate with you. I am talking to Finns like Moe talks to Curly. It seems to me that I speak Finnish fluently, but I then I see that they do not get my phrase, not at all. And when it happens, I feel uncomfortable and try to avoid such situations. Maybe that is why I do not initiate contact with Finns myself. While Finns are talking, I listen, I understand. As soon as I start talking, I fail it somehow.
— If you were offered moving to another country, would you agree? Or have you become attached to Finland, to Joensuu?
— Life has taught me that it is pointless to plan out your whole life, you need to be ready for changes. Now we are having a mortgage here, have bought a big house, taken strong roots, which are difficult to cut off. But it is possible. The house can be sold, the work can be changed. I came from Toulouse so impressed that I said: the climate there is absolutely crazy! 20 degrees above zero in January. No need to pay for central heating. Here we are running around, lose heat, new windows cost 20 thousand euros, crazy money. There you do not even need a door — the weather is so hot: no winter clothes required. You live in Paradise. Let's go to France! Let's learn the French language. Let's go there.
I have been thinking about it for days.
— And then went back to reality?
— You must live where you are safe and comfortable. A person in the modern global world can and has the right to live wherever he wants and likes to live, wherever he is able to live. You don't have to get attached to some place, or country, and hold out. You don't have to be a patriot. I work in a Greek restaurant: we have two Russians, two Iraqis, the owners are Greeks, the dishwasher is Greek, the waiter is half Finn, half Canadian. For example, Russian Olga does not speak Finnish, but she speaks English and Greek, I speak Finnish and English, the Iraqis speak only English. And we talk to each other in some kind of mixture based on English, simultaneously. And that does not stop us from working together. It seems to me that the immigration now, the concept itself, is not the same as it was a few years ago. The world has become so small, the borders are erased — people from different countries communicate.