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Mitya* tried many times to move to Western Europe. However, the last push was the beginning of a full-scale war in Ukraine: then he decided to leave Belarus for good. Now Mitya is now traveling in Spain.

*name changed

Mitya, 35

My name is Mitya. I am a Belarusan, a person of alternative views on life and ways of solving life issues.

I did not do much of anything in Belarus. I changed jobs, was unsettled, like many of our generation. My own ideas prevented me from settling down in life, if I may say so. Since childhood I didn’t agree with generally accepted opinions, it was somehow strange for me to follow someone’s orders, to follow someone’s recommendations without explanation. Not knowing the reasons, doing something without understanding the situation, it seems to me not logical and even stupid, not rational. In Belarus, the system is fucked up and people’s relations with each other are not always favorable, especially in the working system. And even more so at official work: there the bad sides of human relations especially show themselves. I can say that in Belarus I was an idler, and a well-deserved one at that.

I tried many times to get a “normal” job, changed enough professions to make sure that as soon as the issue concerns money, even among the closest mates and friends there are some friction and unrest. And if it’s just a job with some bosses and supervisors, it’s a total  a**.

I have now been traveling for over a year. On February 24, as the war started, I realized it was time to leave. In Belarus, I contacted friends in Poland, made a work visa, and then helped close friends and comrades make it. And I left before the hell started to happen in Belarus. First I went to Poland and through friends I fit into a squat, and from there I went to a friend’s place in Germany. Then I bought a ticket to Barcelona. There I started looking for hosts.

After changing a couple of hosts, I made it to Galicia and started looking for options to legalize myself. Requested an interview with the police for political asylum. This was an extreme act because political asylum is requested in the country of entry, but there was hope. Of all the documents I had only a real visa, but the work invitation, the covid certificate, all the paperwork – were fake, but I was able to get through.

Spain, illustration-Morgue_art

Now I live in Spain, in the Murcia region. It’s hot here, mosquitoes bite:) But as a responsible citizen I am in two realities: my body is in Spain, and on the other side my emotions, feelings, of course, somewhere between Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. This whole invasion is very personal for all of us. No matter how we run away from it, we will have to accept some share of collective responsibility.

It is easy now to operate with these terms as responsibility when there is a war going on. It has become clear to everyone that there is responsibility for this, responsibility for that… I believe that with the advent of mass media, telephone, telegraph, newspapers, it was already possible to get a feel for the situation, to sort things out, to make some decisions, to take some sides. And in the days of the intranet, even more so.

Responsibility is not about feeling bad and donating to the UAF. Responsibility is nurtured, it needs to be trained, recognized in yourself. We have humanity and responsibility is what you will do now to make it easier for future generations, to make this generation better and healthier.

I emigrated and I believe that emigration for a Belarusian at this time is a strong deed, not to support this f****** regime with a single penny. It is impossible to protest actively in Belarus now, I personally don’t know any examples.

I can’t donate money, support funds. Now, to put it bluntly, it’s difficult for me to provide for my own life. I’m not ready to join some foreign legion, I may lack courage. In Belarus, I was avoiding the army, I didn’t take my military ticket. I would be a bad soldier, I have problems with discipline, bosses, chiefs. So there was only one way out – to leave the country.

This is my second emigration: from 2016 to 2019 I was in Spain and Portugal. I am such a person that I easily part with the comfort zone: I lived in tents, in tipuchas, in the woods, on the street – as it already happened once in Spain. In Barcelona in the Citadel Park (central park of Barcelona), I slept on the street for a couple of months, but it was okay. It was, I think, December-January, I slept on cardboard. There was a transitional moment, I was deciding whether I wanted to return to Belarus. And while I was waiting for an interview in an organization that would help me to be sent there, I had already “settled down” in this park, got acquainted with local punks and informals. As a result, I scored an interview and went on partying, for a year and a half in Spain, without official status.

On that trip I was illegal for a total of 3 years. Then, as if I “lost” my passport, I made myself a certificate of return, returned to Belarus, made myself a new document there. I burned the old passport in Spain, along with the rest of the papers.

One of the most convenient ways for me to travel is the workaway platform. In 2015, I learned about it from a refugee from Ukraine, from Donbass. And when I was in Spain, having lost the thread of traveling, I remembered about such an option as workaway. That’s when I registered an account there. It cost 25 euros a year, now it costs about 40 euros for 1,5 years. Roughly speaking, workaway is uber volunteering. You paid money and you can create your own project, if you have a farm or your own cabin – create a host and invite travelers. If you want to travel, you need a volunteer account. Workaway is not just a squat. You come and work, help projects, different farms. The classic example is 25 hours a week of work, in exchange for food and lodging. It’s a convenient way to travel on a budget. But there are different mishaps, host to host can differ strikingly. You need to get in touch in advance, discuss details, despite what reviews are on the site. Often people leave five stars, and in fact there turns out to be a complete asshole. Some people find it easier to put five stars or not to put anything and not to write, in case of anything, true information. And because of that, perception is refracted.

If someone is going to use workaway, negotiate the little things right away. It is important to understand that they have no feedback, formally they call themselves an organization, but they have no responsibility. If any crime happens on the host (show your imagination), there will be no support from them. It’s just a service, all the responsibility of being on the hosts is on you. But I personally have not encountered such problems. There were problems, from one host I was discharged without explanation, this also happens. It was last summer, they told me to pack my things, they said we don’t want to see you the next day. But then they gave me a couple more days. There have been times when I’ve gone to a dude’s house and he’s a flat-earther, an trust-fund alt. I lived there for more than a month, and in general he was a good dude, but he constantly loaded me: conspiracy theories, the earth is flat…. I couldn’t take it anymore. I left.

Spain, illustration-Morgue_art

If we talk about hitchhiking, I traveled like that in Spain and Portugal. But in these countries it is not good to hitchhike, in Spain there is simply no such culture of hitchhiking. You show a thumbs up, they also show you a thumbs up that everything is cool – and that’s the end of hitchhiking.

I’m in favor of freedom of movement, but after prior verification. I’m also in favor of radically simplifying that verification. So that there would be some kind of app: you take a picture of your face and they tell you that you can drive everywhere. And they give you a multigold visa for 20 years. That’s it.

Another way of traveling and surviving that I practice is to just ask locals about opportunities, income options. For two months now I’ve been living in a small one-story hotel in Spain, on a tourist route. I have a regular job at the hotel, a couple hours a day, just tidying up. And I got there by just knocking on the door as I was walking by. Explained the situation and asked: “Do you need any help?” They said they did.

Payment is by arrangement. There is a hotel, bar, restaurant, and activity places: there are ATVs and canoes. The first month I worked 3-and-a-half hours or even less. Got money for food and didn’t smell of extra income. Only after a month did I realised that you can work more hours here and get a little more money. But no one will tell you about it, you have to look and see for yourself. Overall it makes me feel much more comfortable, I eat more and smoke more marijuana.

In Portugal and Spain you can’t see much difference with marijuana, it’s available and that’s another plus, unlike in Belarus. You can consider both of these countries to be absolutely decriminalized and almost legalized. Portugal is a more relaxed country, unlike Spain, so the countryside. In Lisbon, dudes hang on your shoulders and buy you joints. They say check out my drug stuff, right on the street. In Spain, they don’t do that, they politely invite you into a coffee shop. Coffee shops in Spain are semi-legal. They are called “associations” , but you have to realize that these are criminal aspects. In Catalonia, two or three million bushes are cut down every year, but another 20-30 million grow, for some reason. It’s a very criminal story. In Spain, everyone knows everything and whoever needs it gets a lot of money. That’s why ganja grows and sprouts all over the country and there is no problem with it.

For my age, I must confess, I’m a very unsettled person. And all the practice inherent in 35-year-old people, long-term planning, constructing plans, saving money for cars, apartments, houses – all this passes me by. But it’s not new to me, it’s been that way all my life. From when I was young and begging my parents for money, to when I was incessantly changing jobs. Roughly speaking, at the moment, I have nothing… A lot of things, but not material things. And that doesn’t bother me. My entire material kit could be packed in a backpack.

I could give up my job. It’s necessary for society to grow psychologically. In Norway, for example, every citizen is paid whether he works or not. Or in Saudi Arabia, where every child who has reached a certain age has a certain amount of money in the bank by right… To grow up psychologically means to grow up in order not to go crazy, without work. Many people psychologically need some kind of job all the time, it’s self-defining for them. Or it just helps them not to think about life. After all, being alone with oneself for someone is an unbearable agony. But labor, in its invention, can be useful. I like to work. But at the same time a person should not be afraid, if he is used at work, to say f*** you.

A sense of self-responsibility and psychological growth is what humanity lacks now. Consumer society blurs these concepts very much. Responsibility disappears and people are trained to just not think. People are happy and stupid, they buy more.

Spain, illustration-Morgue_art

Also in Spain there is such a concept of occupy, in Spanish okupas, in English squat. It’s a place where you can fit in, but not always there you will be reciprocated, not everyone is allowed in. It’s a house or space “illegally” occupied by people. I lived in an occupation in Barcelona and Madrid for a while. Most of the time it will be a disgusting place 🙂 Dirty, smoky, drunk, there will be people lying there under substances. And most likely to be evicted by the cops within six months. But they will find a new home, no doubt.

Occupy is a cool, positive movement. There are a lot of empty houses without people, and a lot of people without houses, and the task is to synchronize it all. And as always, when a lot of people get into an idea, some of them, adults, do it well, correctly, diligently. The rest of the 90%, they do it in some way, the same with everything.

The main idea of occupation is that why the fuck are houses standing empty for years, even with electricity and hot water, until some banker or someone else buys them and builds some elite house, when there is a whole line of people in need on the street. Everyone should have a home, everyone should have love, happiness, everyone should have food, this in my opinion is a birthright of the human race. If a man is homeless and he sees an empty house, he can occupy it. If he doesn’t shit there, and doesn’t burn it down, it’s his right to live in that house. And the fact that structures, banks have made up their own rules, well… let them turn to their rules and sit in a corner, nobody asks them.

When traveling, especially forced traveling, it is important to create the right relationship with yourself and others – honest and fair. If you build such a framework, then the journey should be built on it, then the chance of favorable relationships with people on the journey is much higher. I’m talking about general existential answers, I’m not talking about opening an insurance, getting vaccinated, calling the police – I’m not talking about such obvious things, I hope it’s clear enough.

In order not to get screwed on a trip you need to follow the principle of goodness and light, so to speak. Like attracts like: goodness, love and justice. If a person is honest, it is unlikely that he will get into a dishonest situation, and if you do, you must immediately recognize it. It is difficult, but what can you do.

To future travelers I wish not to be afraid… although, it is necessary to be afraid. Without fear, we would all die very quickly. Not to be afraid of your fear, that’s what I wish. Learn to interpret your fear, it also has different levels, different directions. Good luck, everyone.