Who are you? Age? Where do you live?
I’m Veronika Ainhoa “zhoak”, a 27-year-old freelance artist, born in Barakaldo and now living in Chemnitz, Germany. My artistic work is focused mostly in video production and photography. You can have a look at what I make at studios.zhoak.com
Which measures have taken the authorities there where you are living, when the crisis of Coronavirus Pandemic started? People respect them? How did it the containment happen? With whom was you? Where?
Well look, the state of alarm took me while I was in Mallorca. Miraculously my flight back to Germany was not cancelled. So, I have been able to live the situation in both countries and experience the big differences. I was in Mallorca because I had to go for a photoshooting job, and have some new glasses made. I was couchsurfing in the flat of Ali, a pakistani guy. He used to work in a restaurant, and from one day to another all restaurants closed. He got furloughed and some of his friends in the restaurant industry lost their jobs, so he also hosted one of those friends. Two days after, Photo: Portrait of Veronika. Photography by Inma Martín he hosted another german tourist that had been couchsurfing in Ali’s flat before I came, and that she was on the streets because all hotels suddenly closed. The return flights also were getting cancelled. In those moments, if there was any flight for go back Germany earlier than ours that was yet not cancelled, costed around 400 €. And with the fear, most of hosters in Couchsurfing were not willing to host anyone. Both of us were very lucky of having a couch-hoster that was so hospitable and didn’t leave us high and dry.
On one hand it was a bit complicated because it was a small one-room flat, and we had to manage like canned sardines in a sofa-bed. In the flat there was no internet. We were making up board games. One was sneezing every half hour, all being stuck, and for the other ones there was no other choice than laugh and make jokes about that we all get coronavirus. But the experience was in the end nice, because they were very good people that didn’t abandon us to our fate in street, and such crazy experience, with couchsurfing in apocalypse times on an island, does not happen every day. Here in Germany was much more relaxed than Spain, much less strict. I know many basques think that germans are strict, square, super punctual, and a series of cliches that I don’t know well from where they come from, because in my 5 years living in Germany I have seen that it’s rather the opposite, the basques are stricter than the germans.
While in Spain everything was getting closed and setting the state of alarm, my acquaintances from Berlin were telling me that in Berlin the people were still going to party like nothing happened. In Germany the measures have been much less prohibitive, and at the same time they were taken more gradually. Here in Chemnitz has been normal to see people in the streets walking in families, in the parks, giving a round in motorcycle, etc. The streets kept being full. A huge difference with Spain.
In Mallorca there were police everywhere. I went out of house door 2 meters and there was police asking me for what I go out and what I’m going to do. I remember sometimes I was going out to buy food to supermarket and there was some people shouting from the balconies ¨¡¡quédate en casa!!¨ (stay home!!). Sometimes I felt like a criminal, like a rapist that goes out of his cell while his jail mates boo him. I was saving the purchase tickets because of fear of being fined. And the streets empty, dead. The apocalypse.
Here in Chemnitz nothing similar with that. I didn’t even realize more police than usual. I personally didn’t see yet anybody who gets asked or controlled for what he goes out, or what he makes, and my partner neither. My friends told me that sometimes to some people that was in groups making picnic in the park, without holding back and taking the situation like a joke, those yes that were told off and asked for break up the group. But if you don’t go so shamelessly against the rules, it’s rare that you get controlled. I felt ultra happy of being able to go back Germany and go out of the spanish hell. Yes they cancelled events, closed restaurants, schools and so, but nothing so exaggerated like what in Spain happened, that even the optical store that was making my glasses before the state of alarm closed. I am still without my glasses, that I have 6 dioptres and I don’t see shit, because they even closed the workshop. They can’t either finish them nor send. Neither the old glasses. I remember that me and another guy that remained without being able to pick our glasses, complained in the Facebook page of the optical store, that they can’t even finish our glasses and send them or that we can pick them somehow, and we had a rain of comments of angry people that were calling us selfish and with lack of humanity.
Here in Chemnitz, for example my partner, who works as employee, at the company they didn’t stop anything. They have kept going to work in all the time. In spite of the fact that they produce machines, like for example machines for car factories… not essential things. Generally what I have seen is that the most of the companies of no essential things have kept working (of course I’m not talking about restaurants and other stores that have not been allowed to open to the public). At the other hand, and this is curious, many health workers like dentists, psychologists, and organizations of free doctors for people without health insurance DID actually close. Or many offices for social help and social workers. In Germany there are private insurances, or “statutory” insurances from corporations. There is not a public health system like Spain’s one and there is many people without insurance (like for example unemployed, homemakers that are not married, and other kind of people without income or low income that can’t pay the insurance). In other words, the people that want to commit suicide because they got ruined due to coronavirus, or the people that gets ill and don’t have health insurance, or the ones that because getting without resources need social helps, those ones yes they have been let high and dry with closed doors. Very logical all.
On top of that, here in Germany, and unlike what it’s generally thought in the rest of Europe, it’s usual to work very oldschool-like: with paper and post, personally in office, and by luck in telephone. The most of these places are very little prepared for work electronically. So many of these places that are so important and have closed (psychologists, doctor organizations, …) didn’t really offer an electronic alternative. They closed “until further notice”. Although it is true that with this of the coronavirus pandemic, in all the world have been taken measures from night to morning without time for preparation, nor of thinking about better solutions, nor studying the consequences, and some have end being incoherent. Fortunately this week with the lockdown easing some social helps offices or organizations for people without health insurance started to open. Recently it has been established the obligation of wearing masks (or something that covers the face) in supermarkets, stores, etc. The medical masks sold for privates got sold out long ago, at beginning of March you didn’t see them anywhere, so the people started making fabric masks with everything they get (old bedsheets, etc.). If in any supermarket there are some masks for sell to privates, they put them at exorbitant prices, such as 15 € for a fabric mask that it’s not even medical. The privates that may have some masks at home and need to earn money from where they can, have been prevented from selling them: Ebay Kleinanzeigen (the german ¨Milanuncios¨), Quoka (more of same), Facebook and all the big sites for online sales of privates banned the publishing of sales of masks, gloves and such.
Here in Chemnitz the big supermarkets have practically the monopoly of the few masks for privates that can be bought, and therefore they can put the price they want. There is quite a lot of people unhappy with the measures and the fake promises of social helps that to many didn’t come, and lately there are several demonstrations, many of them in the street, gathering again the people. For example today (09.05.20) in Stuttgart there has been a demonstration of around 10.000 people. The official numbers are still not published. There was 50.000 people registered but only 10.000 people was allowed to participate. Photos: Demonstration in Stuttgart on 09.05.20 In Chemnitz there has been demonstrations too, but here in Chemnitz they use to be bound to opportunistic parties of extreme right-wing like Pro Chemnitz and AFD, that simply try to win the people that is unhappy with the current government and measures.
If you want to learn more from Veronika Ainhoa, look at the part 2, in few days!