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Fleeing war at home, Ukrainians, Russians build friendships in Türkiye

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ISTANBUL, TURKIYE: People walk at the coastline of Kadikoy district early morning in Istanbul, Turkiye on December 07, 2022. (İsa Terli - Anadolu Agency)
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Dec 14, 2022 - 12:08 PM

ISTANBUL (AA) – Kadikoy, one of the most up-and-coming districts in the Turkish metropolis of Istanbul, is full of vibrant streets and many places to relax, including coffee shops, stores and restaurants, making it a famous meeting spot in the Asian quarter.

People speaking different languages is a part of daily life here, reflecting the multicultural and cosmopolitan nature of Istanbul, with an increase in foreigners including people who have escaped the war in Ukraine.

Since February, Kadikoy has become a popular spot for new arrivals from the warring countries sharing the same roots and culture despite their nations’ troops facing off against each other on the battlefield hundreds of miles away.

Ukrainians and Russians are now part of Kadikoy, bringing their cultures and establishing communities. They are also learning Turkish to more easily adapt to local life so they can successfully coexist and interact with each other, sharing the same areas.

War can’t prevent friendships

Alexandra Karaseva from Russia and Valentina Moiseyeva from Ukraine met in a Turkish language class in Kadikoy. Despite the conflict in Ukraine, they built a friendship and enjoyed living in the same neighborhood.

“When we met for the first time in the class, I realized that Alexandra is Russian. At first, I distanced myself from her. We each introduced ourselves and Alex said she is from Moscow,” Moiseyeva said.

But Karaseva’s opposition to the war earned respect from Moiseyeva, a 48-year-old photographer.

Karaseva and Moiseyeva enjoy a good friendship now and share their experiences with each other.

“I had some Russian friends before the war. After the war started, I realized that they support it. Then I cut my ties with them,” said Moiseyeva.

Karaseva, 28, is a musician and has students from different countries, including Ukraine.

“When I started to say something against the war on social media, many Russians unfollowed me because they were angry. I broke off relationships with many friends.”

Ukrainians, Russians feel comfortable in Istanbul

Istanbul now provides common areas for Ukrainians and Russians that they can share.

“For example, when you went to a hairdresser before the war to have your hair cut, you would (just) see Ukrainian girls. But now it’s changing. There are many Russian girls you can see (at hairdressers),” Karaseva said.

For Moiseyeva, Karaseva is not responsible in any way for the war.

“Alexandra did not do anything bad to my country, Ukraine. So how I can blame her?” she said.

Karaseva said “despite the war, it does not matter which nationality we are coming from. I have many Ukrainian friends here. We are always together when we go outside. We have a good friendship.”

Highlighting Türkiye’s neutral position regarding the war, Moiseyeva said Türkiye took steps and tried to stop the war diplomatically and accepted people from the two countries.

She added that Türkiye is a “good chance” for people from both sides to build a new life amid the war.

Karaseva said her Turkish neighbors have always been supportive of her, even after the war erupted.

“I have a WhatsApp group with my neighbors, and Turkish people said they are so sorry for us and the Ukrainian people. I don’t feel any pressure from Turkish people. They are trying to support the people from both countries.”

Will continue to stay in Istanbul

Moiseyeva, who has a Turkish husband, is from the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, which was retaken by Ukrainian forces in November. The city was under Russian control for eight months.

When she came to Türkiye, she was not planning to stay long. But the war changed everything and the airport in her city was destroyed by Russian forces, making her return impossible in the near future.

“Of course, I would like to go back to my home in the future,” she said.

Karaseva will continue to stay in Türkiye for now.

“I always wanted to live in a different country. But the war is not a good reason for that,” she said.

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