In shadow of war, Russians, Ukrainians mark Easter in UAE

Apr 23, 2022, 8:40 PM | Updated: Apr 24, 2022, 8:48 am
A Russian-speaking expat celebrating Easter lights a candle at the Christian Orthodox Church in Sha...

A Russian-speaking expat celebrating Easter lights a candle at the Christian Orthodox Church in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, April 24, 2022. Hundreds of Russians and Ukrainians alike crowded into the only Russian Orthodox Church on the Arabian Peninsula on Sunday to celebrate the most important Christian religious festival of the year — far from home and in the shadow of a war that has brought devastation to Ukraine and international isolation to Moscow. (AP Photo/Isabel Debre)

(AP Photo/Isabel Debre)

SHARJAH, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Hundreds of Russians and Ukrainians alike crowded into the only Russian Orthodox Church on the Arabian Peninsula on Sunday to celebrate the most important Christian religious festival of the year — far from home and in the shadow of a war that has brought devastation to Ukraine and international isolation to Moscow.

The church’s gold Byzantine crosses rise unexpectedly from the dusty streets of Sharjah — a conservative Muslim emirate just south of skyscraper-studded Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

Although the two nationalities, united in language and history, typically celebrate Easter in harmony in this strange corner of the world where they’ve forged new lives as expats, this year there was unspoken tension even as children in floral dresses played on the stone steps and priests blessed brimming bread baskets under the blazing sun.

“I don’t have any problems with Russians as people,” said Sergei, a Ukrainian businessman from Kyiv and Dubai resident of five years, who like all those interviewed, declined to give his last name for privacy reasons. “But war changes people. Children are dying. The Russians now hate my country.”

A few Russians interviewed said they did not support the war and felt sick or guilty about it. But to avoid any confrontation in the pews, they stuck to small talk with Ukrainians about the festivities and warming weather, they said.

“We’re all the same, we’ve all come from Russia or Ukraine to seek a better life here,” said Kata, who moved from Moscow to Dubai for a marketing job just before the war. “It’s so weird between us right now. We try as much as possible not to discuss the war. … It’s too painful, too difficult.”

The vast Russian Orthodox Church in Sharjah, the country’s biggest church, has for over a decade served as a touchstone for Dubai’s booming Russian and eastern European community.

Dubai’s glittering skyscrapers, white sand beaches and luxury malls have long attracted Russian visitors, who made up the city’s third-largest tourist source market last year. Before the war, the Russian Embassy estimated there were 40,000 Russian nationals in the UAE, along with about 60,000 Russian-speakers from former Soviet states. Cyrillic signs dot the UAE’s cavernous malls and airport concourses.

Dubai, one of the few remaining flight corridors out of Moscow, appears to have emerged as a magnet for scores of well-heeled Russians despairing of their country’s future and concerned that their own livelihoods are no longer viable amid a stranglehold of global sanctions.

The UAE has imposed no such sanctions and retains close relations with Russia — a major trade partner and fellow member of OPEC Plus, the group of oil-producing nations and its allies that has rebuffed Western pleas for increased oil supplies to calm energy markets. Russians need no visas to enter the UAE. Any investment of over $200,000 in real estate secures three years’ residency.

Ordinary Russians say Dubai has become an increasingly rare haven as anti-Russian hostility escalates around the world over the grinding war, which has rocked the stability of Europe, sent oil prices soaring and triggered the continent’s worst refugee crisis since World War II.

“Dubai is the best place for business and job opportunities because the conditions in our country radically changed,” said Leonid, a Russian social media executive who moved to Dubai after the war.

Last week, Leonid joined the UAE’s now-thriving expat Jewish community in its celebration of the Passover holiday. He received Passover Seder invitations from over a dozen Russian and Ukrainian Jewish friends who have moved to Dubai since the war.

“Professionals and IT specialists are leaving the country. They don’t want to live in the new Russia,” he said, adding that the Ukrainians and Russians he witnessed sharing the traditional feast last week managed to get along. “It’s not like on TV.”

In Sharjah on Sunday, the Christian faithful filtered into the street full of mosques and Pakistani-owned barbershops after taking communion. The call to prayer sounded out, beckoning Muslim worshippers fasting for the holy month of Ramadan.

“This country is more warm to us than Europe,” said Maria, a Belarusian real estate broker who lives in Dubai. “There is no hate here, it feels natural.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Associated Press

Construction set to begin on first US Coast Guard Museum

NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) — Construction is set to begin on a long-awaited national museum that will honor the U.S. Coast Guard. A special keel-laying ceremony, a term that’s usually used to celebrate construction of a cutter, was held on Friday at the museum’s riverfront site in New London, Connecticut, about 40 miles south of […]
17 hours ago
Evidence markers dot the scene, Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022, on Richmond, Ind., where Richmond Police ...
Associated Press

3rd attempted murder charge filed in shooting of Indiana cop

RICHMOND, Ind. (AP) — Prosecutors have filed a third attempted murder charge against a man accused of shooting an eastern Indiana police officer in the head during a traffic stop and search for possible narcotics. The Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office filed the new charge against Phillip Matthew Lee, 47, of Richmond for shooting at a […]
17 hours ago
Associated Press

Tanker truck in Yellowstone spills nearly 5K gallons of gas

WEST YELLOWSTONE, Mont. (AP) — A tanker truck hauling gasoline in Yellowstone National Park rolled over Friday and spilled an estimated 4,800 gallons (18,200 liters), officials said. An investigation was underway to determine whether any of the unleaded gas entered an area creek. The truck’s driver lost control of the rig during the early morning […]
17 hours ago
Associated Press

Montenegrin government falls over ties with Serbian Church

PODGORICA, Montenegro (AP) — The Montenegrin government fell in a no-confidence vote early Saturday that followed a rift over relations with the powerful Serbian Orthodox Church. Lawmakers voted 50-1 to oust the government of Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic just weeks after he signed an agreement regulating the position of the Serbian church in Montenegro. The […]
17 hours ago
FILE - Bill Paxton arrives at the Critics' Choice Television Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on ...
Associated Press

Bill Paxton family settles lawsuit with hospital over death

The family of the late actor Bill Paxton has agreed to settle a wrongful death lawsuit against a Los Angeles hospital and the surgeon who performed his heart surgery shortly before he died in 2017, according to a court filing Friday. The suit, filed against Cedars-Sinai Medical Center more than four years ago, had been […]
17 hours ago
Associated Press

Guest lineups for the Sunday news shows

WASHINGTON (AP) — ABC’s “This Week” — Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo. __ NBC’s “Meet the Press” — Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y. __ CBS’ “Face the Nation” — Education Secretary Miguel Cardona; Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio; Dr. Deborah Birx, former White House COVID-19 response coordinator; David Laufman, former chief of counterintelligence at the Justice Department. […]
17 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
...

Compassion International Is Determined to ‘Fill’ a Unique Type of Football ‘Stadium’

Compassion International SPONSORED — During this fall’s football season—and as the pandemic continues to impact the entire globe—one organization has been urging caring individuals to help it “fill” a unique type of “stadium” in order to make a lasting difference in the lives of many. Compassion International’s distinctive Fill the Stadium (FtS, fillthestadium.com) initiative provides […]
...

What are the Strongest, Greenest, Best Windows?

Lake Washington Windows & Doors SPONSORED — Fiberglass windows are an excellent choice for window replacement due to their fundamental strength and durability. There is no other type of window that lasts as long as fiberglass; so why go with anything else? Fiberglass windows are 8x stronger than vinyl, lower maintenance than wood, more thermally […]
In shadow of war, Russians, Ukrainians mark Easter in UAE