April 04, 2020

Piter's People coping with Coronavirus


Piter's People coping with Coronavirus
A rather empty Palace Square, St. Petersburg. Elena Bobrova

Given all that has been going on, we thought it would be a good time to check in with some of the people we have profiled in Piter's People and see how they are doing.

It has now been over two weeks since Russia put itself in self-isolation.

On March 18 Russia banned foreign nationals from entering the country, shut state schools, and limited public gatherings – all in an effort to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. Russia has stopped issuing visas and the ban will be enforced through at least May 1 (in the most optimistic scenario). 

As both a tour guide and a journalist, I realized on that day that the 2020 season will be quite different from all those that have gone before. Actually, my colleagues and I are not at all sure there will be a tourist season in St. Petersburg this year.

Fear, uncertainty, frustration – this is what I feel at the moment. At the same time, being a third-generation Petersburger, I know that our city has endured a far worse isolation. 

Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg
The photo of the Hermitage museum taken on March 21, during my last walk in the city center before Russia's nationwide “non-working week” was announced by President Vladimir Putin on March 25. / Elena Bobrova 

As Mikhail Piotrovsky, General Director of the State Hermitage Museum, pointed out in his statement:

“This is war. The enemy is invisible, but some of the front lines are evident. Today’s difficulties are, of course, far removed from the horrors that our history has known, including the Siege of Leningrad. Things have been far worse than they are now and more frightening… In the situation of a global pandemic and panic, the last function – access – is temporarily moving online, which is entirely in keeping with the spirit of the times… This isolation can and should be used for new cultured, intellectual work”.

And beginning March 28 we are all on a recommended self-isolation (although the term "recommended" is disputable, since Russians are forced to stay at home), which means I’m advised by authorities to go only to the nearest shop, which is located 100 meters from my apartment. Museums, art galleries, restaurants, bars, cafes, and even many parks are closed until April 30, as we are on “quarantine holidays.”

Given all of that, I decided to do several online interviews, to find out how the heroes of my blog series are living during the Siege of Coronavirus. 

Ekaterina Khozatskaya, artist and illustrator

Khozatskaya Russian artist
Ekaterina loves to sketch capybaras. So she drew one who is on self-isolation, drinking her Capybernet in an online bar. / Ekaterina Khozatskaya

I seriously self-isolated myself some time ago, as I live with my elderly parents. I’m not going anywhere. On the one hand, I work at home as usual, but on the other hand, it’s psychologically hard to accept that I can’t go anywhere I would like at any moment. 

Like everyone else, I thought it would be good to use this time for the realization of my artistic plans, but it’s difficult to concentrate: I do a bit of this and that… It’s also irritating that I’ve lost my ability to wake up early, and for me that is the key to a productive day. 

Also like everyone else, I’m thinking what will happen in the economy after the quarantine… And maybe it’s time to learn another profession gradually (but which one?), because people won’t be as interested in Fine Arts as they were before. 

Sergey Goorin, photographer and teacher

Fort Rif in Kronstadt
Kronstadt is a city located on Kotlin Island in the Gulf of Finland. / Sergey Goorin

Since Monday I’m trying to be outside less and only go to the grocery store. I have a list of Soviet movies that I have wanted to watch for a long time. I’m working out, doing stretching and cardio exercises. For some reason, reading isn’t coming very easily, but I’ve just slowly started in on the beautifully illustrated volume by Eugène Müntz, about Leonardo da Vinci. 

And of course, I can practice my cooking. Beginning in January, I was already sort of isolating myself from time to time in the Rif Fort on Kronstadt island – my new place of power in 2020! 

Darya Aleksandrova, co-owner of Julia Child Bistro

Darya Aleksandrova Julia Child bistro St. Petersburg
At the moment, Darya is busy writing her book about "doing business in Russia," as her bistro is closed for a month. / Courtesy Darya Aleksandrova

It’s astonishing how the world had paused since March 16. At the beginning, it seemed unreal to me. The first week was quite ordinary, only parents stopped coming in with kids (but it didn’t change our income that much). But then we saw quite a drop during the second week. And it became clear that something uncontrolled was happening. Probably in foodservice, those will survive who have fewer debts and can minimize their business. I am not panicking. I believe we can hold out, but then I always hope for the best.

Tigran Ayrapetyan, owner of Epoque Projects hotel chain

Epoque Projects hotels St. Petersburg
Epoque Projects had to suspend the work of their Baby Lemonade Hotel & Hostel. / Courtesy Epoque Projects

Well... the situation couldn't be worse (at least that is our thinking right now). Tourism in general and hotels, in particular, were among the first to suffer from this disaster. We were supposed to open our first hotel in Budapest, but luckily managed to evacuate our Russian personnel before it would have been much harder to do, so that's the only good news.

Here in St. Petersburg we have 2 of our 3 hotels still working, but only working as a place for some random guests and for our staff members who are experiencing difficulty paying rent on their apartments. 

Me personally, I'm concerned, as are many, about totally different stuff... We don't know yet the actual impact of this situation, so the best way to keep yourself in a relatively good mood is to get busy with some small things you still can do and try to keep up with your old life-routine and habits. 

Natalia Kapiturova, gastronomic journalist and PR-specialist

St. Petersburg life Mother and daughter
Natalia and her daughter. / Courtesy Natalia Kapiturova

The restaurant business has fallen into a dark stasis. And of course, there is little restaurants can do to fix it if they can't work. Behind the closed doors of their venues [cafes and restaurants are closed to visitors from March 28 – April 30 for "quarantine holidays"], restauranteurs are fighting for the lives of their projects.

So they are coming up with rather non-standard solutions. Could you imagine a month ago that your lunch would be delivered by a restaurant chef himself? Or that you would be ordering your favorite cocktails online? We all need to order out, tip online, buy certificates for future lunches and dinners... In other words we need to vote with our rubles and our warm hearts, on order to help your local producers survive this hard spring. 

Nikolay Predtechensky, owner of a boat rental company

Boat rental St. Petersburg
Nikolay and his friends in October, during a fashion photoshoot. / Mitya Ganopolsky

My mood is calm. Water navigation is postponed this year, though the spring is warmer than usual. Coronavirus doesn’t prevent me from doing my routine: getting orders from clients. Of course, people are playing it safe and wondering about June, July and August. Anyway, the whole season of weddings, corporate parties and big events in St. Petersburg is during the summer months and September. So my situation isn’t catastrophic at all!

My business is flexible, which allows me to make adjustments according to the current situation. I hope everything will be over by May 1, and then we will start working as usual. Of course, a bit more intensively. It’s clear that we won't have as many big cruise ships visiting as we did last year. The same goes for foreign tourists in general, but then my company will work for the Russian market. For those who will come from Moscow, Moscow region, and other regions, as Europe and United States could be still closed for them. 

 
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Piter's People – Sergey Goorin

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Piter's People - Ekaterina Khozatskaya

Piter's People - Ekaterina Khozatskaya

Ekaterina is an artist who is constantly sketching in St. Petersburg bars. Her hobby led to the creation of the Instagram blog “Between the Bars,” where she captures the city's bohemian atmosphere.
Piter's People coping with Coronavirus

Piter's People coping with Coronavirus

Given all that has been going on, we thought it would be a good time to check in with some of the people we have profiled in Piter's People and see how they are doing.

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