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Interview with a man from Sri Lanka

Леонид Зильберг
Леонид Зильберг
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Here is a guy from Sri Lanka. His name is Ranuka. He works at a hotel in the United Emirates. But his life changed because of the war in Ukraine. How could it happen to someone who lives thousands of kilometers away from Ukraine? However, the economy of Sri Lanka collapsed because of the war that led to high prices for oil and gas. Ramuka has lost his chances for personal growth and his hopes to move to another country like South Korea or Japan. So, he has a lot of problems because of this war. Hi, Ranuka.

- Hello. Tell something about yourself. How old are you, where from?

- I’m from Sri Lanka, and I’m thirty-four years old. I’m also married, I have a child, he is six months old. My wife and my child live in Sri Lanka, my parents too, my mother is sixty-eight years old, and my father is seventy years old. So, all of them live in Sri Lanka. I’m the one who is taking care of them, working in Dubai.

- Do you have any brothers or sisters?

- I have a sister, she is also married. She and her husband work for Sri Lanka's military.

- Is it a good job to work for the military in Sri Lanka?

- It was good before the crisis. Because of expenses they make enough to survive, they also have children, and they can’t take care of our parents. My brother-in-law has a family, and there are my wife’s parents.

-  When did you visit your family last?

- I have to work a [full] year in Dubai, and then I have a vacation. I cannot go now, because then I would be able to feed my family. For two years, I couldn’t visit my family.

- And have your family never visited you here? Do they have the right to come here?

- The problem is that if I bring them, I need to have a lot of money. My salary is not enough to do it. Currently, my hotel is taking care of me. But I’m suffering, with my salary, now I can’t take care of my family. My father is a 70-year-old person, he doesn’t have a job now. My wife isn’t working, she is a housekeeper. She is taking care of our son. My mother is a diabetes patient and so is my father, so I have to take care of them, and I have to send them money. Also, their food expenses, one kilo of rice was 100 Sri Lanka's rupees, now it is close to 250. We can’t even think of such high prices.

- What has changed with the beginning of the war?

- After the COVID-19, Sri Lanka's economy collapsed. We had to lock down the country, our economy collapsed. And it is badly affected because of the war between Russia and Ukraine. Before, we could have Russian oil through a credit line, now we can’t get oil through a credit line, and also Sri Lanka is a bankrupt country, and nobody gives credits to our country. World Bank and Asian banks are helping our country, but that’s not enough to grow up. In my country, people are now eating one meal a day, and they’re suffering so much, the main problem they don’t have medicine. And there are other hardships, water hardships, and now criminals because of this crisis. I can’t go to my country, and people are trying to steal something from me, because they think that if I work in Dubai, I must be a rich person.

- Have you ever heard about Ukraine before this war? Did you know the name of this country before?

- Yes.

- Perhaps, you met Ukrainians as tourists in Sri Lanka?

- Yes. Actually, so many Ukrainians and Russians were visiting our country.

- Did you see any difference between Ukrainians and Russians? They speak the same language, so could you think they were the same people?

- I didn’t see the difference. Only if someone said, “I’m from Ukraine,” then I only knew it. I really don’t understand, why there is a war?

- So you don’t understand why this war happens and why should it influence your life.

- No. I believe that if this war is stopped, this will really help poor countries. Because when powerful people are fighting with each other, then poor people suffer the most. This is what happened to my country, I see this situation with my [own] eyes. All the poor people I’ve seen don’t have even one meal a day. Some people commit suicide without food. One father tried to find a job for three days, but he couldn’t find it. That family had two children. So the father committed suicide. When I watch news every day, bad news, always something like this is happening. We never expected the situation like this in the world. We expected peace to the world. So everybody would live happily in this world.

- You had a dream to go to South Korea, why can’t you do it now?

- I had a dream to go to South Korea and Japan to work there, but first one came against my education, I’m not well-educated.

- So, your plan was to go back to Sri Lanka to improve your education and go to Korea?

- The plan was to work in Dubai, save some money, go to Sri Lanka and study Japanese or Korean and then go to Japan or South Korea, but now, with the economic crisis, if I go to Sri Lanka, my family will suffer without food. This issue came really badly to us. We’re poor people, and poor people also need to live in this world. If I can survive with my salary, I’m happy. Without salary, I can’t feed my parents. They depend on my salary only. I look at my neighbors, and they starve, they don’t have food. Many of them are coming to us asking for some rice to eat or a piece of coconut. This is unfair, I’m also suffering about them. And the other thing is that we’re not allowed to go to Europe or other countries.

- Sri Lanka is a member of the Commonwealth, but you can’t get a British visa?

- I can’t, because to get a British visa, one needs to have a lot of money. You have to show that you have the means to support yourself there and that you will go back. Or I have to be well-educated and have a degree. Without education or money, you can’t go there. Actually, I believe that this country should be open for everybody to go there and work. This should change. Those people who were able to go to South Korea or Japan and now work in my country, they have no problems. They have a good family life. Today, our government is expecting tourists to visit our country, because our main income is coming from tourism. Many tourists were coming before the crisis, but now the number is down. Many jobs are lost, those who worked in the government sector, they returned to other countries, especially teachers, doctors. They can go to other countries to work, but poor people actually cannot. Actually, nowadays, what we’re expecting is that tourists visit Sri Lanka. So, this way, many people of Sri Lanka can survive. They can go back to work. When tourists are visiting my county, there is a lot of job being created in my country. We don’t have dollar income. So, to our men, dollar income comes from tourism. When tourists start coming to my country, Sri Lanka, then my government has dollars to import [products] such as oil, gas, and other imported [goods], especially medicine. I would like to invite all the tourists to my country to visit and help our people.

I decided to make a story about Ranuka. Perhaps, someone would get interested in his life and help him find a better job, or move to another country, or help him with his education. His situation is very typical, it’s a life of a hardworking man who can’t get out of this vicious circle. He can’t even live with his family that stays in Sri Lanka, his father is quite old, his son is only six months old, and his wife doesn’t work. Perhaps, someone will want to help him and people like him.



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