Irishman David Gilmartin has made a marathon journey from Moscow to Helsinki by train and minibus after helping many of his expatriate clients escape Russia.
r Gilmartin’s company Troika Relocations, which normally helps executives and their families relocate to Russia, has focused on evacuating clients since the invasion of Ukraine four weeks ago.
“I left Russia on Wednesday by train to St. Petersburg and a minibus to Helsinki,” said Mr. Gilmartin, who arrived back at his family home in Lucan, Dublin on Friday. “I’ll be back in a few weeks, but I really don’t know for how long. This isn’t the end of my time in Russia, but it’s certainly the beginning of the end.”
At the Russian border on Wednesday, Mr Gilmartin’s minibus driver, who had taken them from St Petersburg, was asked by Russian police to take four Ukrainian passengers to the Finnish side.
“They were all traveling from Russia to Finland on a bus and by the time we got there they had been detained at the border for eight hours,” Mr Gilmartin said Irish Independent. “Their original bus left without them, so we took them on board. Three of the group were Ukrainian nationals who had lived and worked in Russia but felt they could not stay longer: “Russia is bombing our country. How can we stay here?’”
The fourth man, a 19-year-old from Kherson in southern Ukraine, had a more harrowing story.
“He was forcibly evacuated by Russian troops last week, first to Crimea and then across the bridge to Russia. He somehow made it to St. Petersburg by train and was on his way to Helsinki last night for a flight to France.
“Due to the delays at the border, he missed his flight. He was desperate and didn’t have roaming, so I downloaded Viber to my phone and put him in touch with relatives in France. We then took him to Helsinki Airport where he was given a new flight ticket and hopefully he is now on his way to Paris and safe.”
Established in 2007, Troika Relocations has several multinational clients, with the largest Irish client being the Irish Embassy.
“In Moscow, the initial panic has subsided,” Mr Gilmartin said. “Most expats have left the country and now we mainly pack up apartments and help Russian nationals get documents to go and work abroad.
“Many of them have simply decided they cannot live in a country at war with its neighbor while others will be young men of army age fleeing the threat of conscription. Luckily we are seeing many of our customers and partners helping their local employees to leave Russia at this time.”
With direct air travel to most European countries now blocked, Istanbul and Dubai are the best transit points for those wishing to leave Russia for Europe. However, plane tickets for one-way flights to Turkey have risen to 4,000 euros from 400 euros three weeks ago, while flights via Serbia have been completely suspended.
His company with five employees in Moscow is now increasingly evacuating customers to Finland and the Baltic States in minibuses. These trips last 12 to 15 hours.
“Especially at the weekend, families have traveled by plane to Istanbul and Dubai, by car and minibus across the border to Finland, by car and on foot across the border to Estonia,” Mr Gilmartin said.
Many Muscovites are now stockpiling food and medicines in anticipation of shortages.
“Not a toilet paper roll as observed in the West at the start of Covid, but more logical items overall,” he said. “Medicines are in short supply. In the past week, many friends and colleagues with medical conditions have not been able to find the medicines they need – for cancer, epilepsy, thyroid, diabetes.”
For the first time in his 20 years in Russia, Mr Gilmartin said he felt intimidated by the police presence.
“Police squads with riot gear are stationed every 50 meters along the main streets in central Moscow,” he said.
“OMON, the National Guard’s anti-riot division, is in position outside subway stations and hundreds of anti-riot police cars and trucks are parked throughout the center.
“All places are cordoned off to prevent gatherings and passers-by who stop to watch or take photos are warned by megaphone to proceed. This show of force is designed to intimidate and arrest would-be protesters, but the overall look is that of a city under siege by its own government.
Mr. Gilmartin’s team is also busy helping Russian nationals obtain the documents they need to leave the country and work abroad. It is estimated that 500,000 Russians left the country in the last month.
“It’s a brain drain of unprecedented proportions,” he said.
https://www.independent.ie/business/moscows-irish-join-growing-exodus-leaving-by-road-rail-and-even-on-foot-41488926.html Moscow’s Irish join the growing exodus departing by road, rail and even on foot