Russian students have been cut off from their bank accounts, but don’t want to risk going back home. They hope to earn their tuition fee in Groningen this summer.
Although the exam period is in full swing, law student Diana isn’t sure whether there’s a point to sitting her exams at all. Even before her home country invaded Ukraine, she suffered from anxiety and applied for a reduced BSA threshold.
Since the war broke out, she has been in the dark regarding her application and now fears it can be rejected, meaning she will be expelled from her programme and forced to return to Russia. ‘If I go back, I won’t be able to continue my studies in Groningen.’
Another problem Diana has to deal with is money. Because Russian banks were booted off the international payments system SWIFT, her parents can’t send her money. She’s not sure she will be able to pay her tuition fee next academic year, unless she finds a summer job in Groningen to save up enough money.
‘Money is definitely one of the biggest issues’, agrees Maria, who studies at the Faculty of Arts. ‘We’ve all been cut off from our savings accounts and our family funds and it’s challenging to find a job here, because there are strict labour laws regarding how many hours a non-EU student can work.’
Russian students are eligible for a two-month student loan provided by the UG, but Maria is hesitant to sign the papers. ‘If I’m going to have to repay it, then what’s the point, basically?’
For now, Maria is looking into working in Groningen over the summer to collect funds for her degree. ’None of us would risk leaving the EU to go home anymore.’
Since Maria was ‘really proactive’ about the war on her social media, which might result in a fifteen-year prison sentence, she wasn’t planning on going home anyway. ‘My friends often get stopped on the street by the police to have their phones checked or their voice messages played.’
The idea of possibly never seeing her family and friends again has been ‘difficult mentally’, she says. ‘I think a lot of Russian students are kind of in a split situation right now. I really support cutting Russia out of SWIFT, but at the same time, I do realise how that will affect my grandparents, who no longer have access to the medication that they need to survive.’
PS: This interview was recorded and taken before the news of the Bucha and Irpen killings. All Russian students in this story condemn the massacre and the actions of Russian army and the government. ‘We try our best to show our support to the people of Ukraine and anyone affected by constantly spreading the news, donating to NGOs and support groups. Our hearts go out to everyone affected, and we will never understand the pain but we hope to do our contribution in trying to help people.’