Maria aka. Maša from Komi Republic and her “slonglish”

Maria Fedina, Master’s student in Human Geography (University of Eastern Finland), International Department of Movement for Decent Work and Welfare Society.

I assume although it has been already a while since I’ve started my work at Gibanje, my first post comes out only now. Anyway, better late than never.

I guess those members of Gibanje who are in the office more or less frequently have already gotten acquainted with me. However, I believe it is still necessary to “officially” introduce myself to everybody: Gibanje members, activists, supporters and occasional visitors of our web-site and Facebook page. So let’s start.

My name is Maria, but everybody at Gibanje and my friends from Ljubljana call me Maša, since it’s a short form of “Maria”. And here we go: in Slovenia Maria and Maša are two different names, while in Russia it’s a same one. As a matter of fact, generally, people call me both Maša and Maria, the only difference is that Maria sounds more formal for me, that is why in everyday life I usually ask to call me Maša. And yes, we also use different quotation marks: my Russian keyboard suggests me to put «», the English one – “”, and the Slovenian one – »«. Surprisingly, Slovenia was the first country where I came across such an odd (in my opinion) use of quotation marks.

I’m 23 years old and was born in Syktyvkar, the capital of the Komi Republic, a region even Russians have little idea about. It’s a bit ironical since we occupy an area that can fit 20.5 Slovenias (it is surprising for me as well!). So almost every time somebody asks me where I’m from, I say “I am from Russia”, “Aha, where exactly from Russia? From Moscow? From St Petersburg?”, “From the Komi Republic”, “…?”, “Well, do you know where the Urals are?” – at this moment we may have a chance that a person knows that the Urals divide Europe and Asia – “So, the Urals are the eastern border of my region”. Sometimes people think that Komi is located in Siberia, but no, it is actually in the European part of Russia. So, the several conclusions may be drawn up: 1) people generally are not very informed about other places’ geographies, 2) Russia is huge indeed and there are far more places besides Moscow and St Petersburg.

At the age of 18 in August 2012 I moved to Finland to study at Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences, from which I graduated in December 2014 with Bachelor’s Degree in Tourism and Hospitality Management. I spent half a year working in Russia in a hotel and in August 2015 moved back to Finland. This time – to study at the University of Eastern Finland at the Master’s degree programme “Border Crossings: Global and Local Societies in Transition”. At the same time, I applied for the Master’s degree programme in Criminal Law at Moscow State Law Academy. Currently, I am still a Master’s degree student, but will graduate from both universities by the end of this year.

From October 2016 till February 2017 I was an exchange student at Univerza v Ljubljani (filofaks and fdv), so when I started an EVS project in the beginning of August, I already knew something about the country and the city I’d be living in for the next year.

The main reason for choosing Gibanje as a place for volunteering includes my desire to see how a non-governmental organization operates, how does its daily life look like, what are the difficulties it faces with, what effects and influence it might have on civil society, general public, and authorities. Although before I have almost no experience dealing with labour market problems from, let’s say, professional or scientific perspectives, but I myself experienced various forms of precarity when I was working as a freelance translator or working in industrial cleaning (that job was constantly unstable and insecure, which eventually ended up in me being fired via sms). That is interesting that despite the fact that I have being working in two countries, Finland and Russia, general problems seemingly resemble each other, but, undoubtedly, to some extent have local features in each particular country.

Returning back to my life in Slovenia, I should note that being exchange student and being volunteer are completely different experiences for me. Even though both mobility types belong to the same Erasmus programme, the realities one lives in differ a lot. I believe that now I feel more attached to Ljubljana than I was before while being an exchange student. My daily life and routine have changed a lot, to name a few: now I rent a room in a private apartment, use public transportation (surprisingly, I didn’t do it when I was an exchange student), cook in a decent kitchen, spend my free time differently, and have different acquaintances.

The change of my status has also brought me another understanding of the internal problems of Slovenia, especially those ones related to employment and labour rights. I would like to continue this discussion in future posts, but here would like briefly state the issues, which so far attracted my attention: 1) the position of SPs (individual entrepreneurs) in Slovenia, 2) employment of SPs by different companies (the case of kiosk workers or tourist guides), 3) employment of students via študentski servis; 4) rise and expansion of the precariat in Europe and abroad. These topics might be perfectly well-known for the Slovenians, but since I am relatively new to Slovenian reality, I have decided to write posts about these issues. I believe they might be interesting also from that perspective that a foreigner with a different view and from a different perspective is going to discuss these topics.

These posts will be published later, but so far to je to za danes. Se vidimo in se slišimo!