Looking for an orthodox priest in southern Brazil
So many Russian babies are being born in the Brazilian city of Florianópolis that parents band together to hire an Orthodox priest to baptize the youngest members of their family.
But the services of a priest are not only in demand in Florianópolis. Further southwest, in Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires, Russian women fleeing Moscow’s war with Ukraine travel by the hundreds to give birth in a peaceful country that offers opportunities for their children.
“There is a lot of demand for a church and a Russian school,” said Helena Yaw, a 35-year-old mother of twins from St. Petersburg who is married to an American and moved to Florianópolis in 2019.
A combination of relaxed residency requirements and the possibility of second citizenship for their newborn children has made Latin America an increasingly attractive destination for Russians.
In Buenos Aires, groups of heavily pregnant Russian women can be found browsing bookstores or sitting at cafe tables. According to the Russian consulate in the capital, between 2,000 and 2,500 Russians moved to Argentina permanently in 2022, many of them to have children. The consulate estimates the number could rise to 10,000 this year.
“A door has opened to a new wave of Russian migration,” said Ariel González Levaggi, director of the center for international affairs at the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina.
Similar to the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end of both world wars and in the wake of the Russian Revolution, Latin America – and Argentina in particular – has become a haven again, he added.
Argentina and Brazil have condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but maintain a policy of neutrality in the war and call for a ceasefire. Both are considered attractive alternatives for expectant mothers and fathers, as they give babies a passport and parents permanent residency and offer an affordable western-style lifestyle. In Argentina, it only takes two years for parents to be issued with a passport.
Argentine and Brazilian passports grant visa-free travel to at least 170 countries, including Europe, versus 87 with a Russian passport.
Yaw, who previously worked for Russia’s Olympic Committee, is amazed at how popular Florianópolis, known for its beautiful beaches, has become despite the language barrier. On the messaging app Telegram, a group of Russian moms living in the southern Brazilian city has grown to 241 members.
“Every family I meet plans to stay. . . Maybe some will go back to Russia for a vacation,” Yaw said. “We are campaigning for a priest to join us because of the sheer number of children being born.”
Infant. RuArgentina, which helps make maternity regulations in Argentina, said it helped a record 100 Russian women last year alone. Kirill Makoveev, its founder, said he and other agencies couldn’t keep up with the demand. “Fifty babies were born to Russian mothers in a single hospital last month,” he said.
Turkey has long been a popular destination for Russians, but there are signs that Ankara is beginning to restrict residency permits. Those restrictions, academician Levaggi said, could spur even more Russians to travel to Argentina and Brazil.
Tatiana, who declined to give her full name, moved to Istanbul from Moscow last year. She first noted that Russians were denied 12-month tourist residency permits in December. If rejected, the Russians have 10 days to leave Turkey.
Telegram chats are filled with discussions about where to go next. Few thought of returning to Russia.
“Some are considering Kazakhstan, then Georgia, then Argentina,” Tatiana said. Two couples she knows in Antalya, where 60,000 Russians live, go to Buenos Aires after being denied residency in Turkey.
Turkish Airlines plans to offer daily flights from Istanbul to Buenos Aires starting in September, instead of four times a week in 2022. Weekly flights to São Paulo will increase from seven to 11 times this year, the company said.
While the airline said demand was “fairly balanced” between countries on these routes, travel agents in Argentina said this was mainly due to flights from Turkey.
Among those planning the flight from Istanbul is Dmitry Chetverov, a 33-year-old Russian entrepreneur who has been living in Antalya since September.
Turkey is overcrowded with Russians, he said, so there’s less chance of success. “We all come from similar backgrounds and offer the same services,” he said.
But Chetverov is confident his online pet food delivery service will do well across the Atlantic and is already in touch with Russians in southern Brazil, “through a Latin American business group on Telegram, of course.”
Additional reporting by Adam Samson
https://www.ft.com/content/a72cc0fd-fe68-49bb-8e2a-e95ac6103239 Looking for an orthodox priest in southern Brazil