Foreigners Self-Isolating in Montenegro: Do You Feel Safer? Julie from Moscow in Budva

By , 21 Apr 2020, 00:05 AM Lifestyle

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April 21, 2020 - Do foreigners in Montenegro feel more or less safe sitting out COVID-19 here than in their home country, and what are their experiences? A new series on Total Montenegro News, with Julie Barbidonskaja from Moscow in Budva as the first contributor.

Montenegro was the last country in Europe that COVID-19 penetrated. Since then, confirmed cases and deaths have remained low compared to the rest of Europe. But how do expats in Montenegro feel about being self-isolated in Montenegro rather than in their home country? In a new TMN series, we start by asking Julie Barbidonskaja from Moscow, who is currently locked down in Budva. 

Firstly, how are you? Are you alone/with someone? Tell us a little about your situation and sanity levels.

Everything is fine with me, despite all the hype with the virus and quarantine. I am in Budva with my husband. I was lucky enough to return from Moscow, where I was visiting relatives, a couple of weeks before the borders of Montenegro were closed. For now there are just over 300 people with the virus identified. Tests, as I understand it, are done selectively, mainly among the circle of people affected. Honestly, I am not so much concerned about the virus as about the situation with quarantine, closed borders and the economy. My work has partially stopped, because government agencies do not work with visitors right now, and clients cannot come. But now I have time to actively engage in developing my website, services promotion, and self-education.

Of course, all these restrictions are extremely unpleasant, especially those related to freedom of movement. It seems to me that in Budva, people tried to observe such measures as masks and gloves only for the first couple of weeks. Then everyone relaxed to some extent. Over the last week, you can see a lot of people on the streets who, despite the prohibitions on walking to the beach and walking in parks and other public places, actively walk there. In general, the restrictions do not affect me much because I work from home. Now I’m just a little bit more at home than usual. Relations with my husband are warm, we are used to spending a lot of time together))) So it is unlikely that we will fall into the 50% of couples who will divorce after quarantine)))

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When did you realise that corona was going to be a big issue?

Perhaps when the panic began in Italy, and the EU states began to close the borders one after another. And a bit later, when the stock market collapsed on Black Tuesday. I started to read a lot of information in different languages both about the virus itself and about the situation in countries and the consequences for the economy.

What is your impression of the way Montenegro is dealing with the crisis? How safe do you feel?

Montenegro was very fast with preventive measures. But, unfortunately, a bit late in general. I think that if they started with the control of visitors earlier, when the first infected people in Italy were discovered, Montenegro would have been able to maintain its status of a corona-free country. In any case, it seems to me that Montenegro is doing its best. It is no secret that the country's healthcare system is not strong enough. So the introduction of preventive isolation measures probably gave some time for preparation.

In Budva, only 4 people have been infected in the last three weeks. Therefore, I have no concern about the epidemiological situation in the city.

Now compare that to your home country and how they are handling it. What is Montenegro doing better/worse?

It is difficult to compare Montenegro and Russia. Two different states: territory, economies and the development of the health system are completely different. But in general, for me, the most important thing is that here in Budva, unlike in Moscow, we are not locked at home. We can safely move around the city from 5 AM and until 7 PM during the week. This is not a problem for me. And in Moscow, you can not venture more than 100m from your home. And for larger movements (for example, to work, to the doctor, etc.) electronic passes are needed.

I came across this issue recently when I had to make an appointment with a doctor and make a pass for my old relatives. Since they themselves cannot do this at the age of 90, I did it for them, 3,500 km away. Oh, the power of the Internet! Yes, the Moscow authorities did their best to describe in detail how to obtain this electronic pass. But it takes time to manage it.

In addition to the fact that here, in Montenegro, we can freely leave the apartment, without any special restrictions, the weather is an absolute plus. Although I must admit, I have often envied those who have their own house with a small plot of land. Well, in Moscow at this time of the year the weather is not so pleasant. And there I would have to constantly stay in an apartment in a gassed city (my flat is in the city center). I am a sun addict, and I would go crazy in Moscow locked in my apartment.

So thank you to the Montenegrin authorities that they allowed free movement within cities.

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What about official communications from the authorities, compared to your home country?

I must say that both the Montenegrin and the Russian government were very efficient in terms of information. We listened to the first news about restrictive measures live on the Internet (we do not have a TV at home, use exclusively the Internet). I follow the Montenegrin government posts on their official Twitter page. Posts published right during online press conferences. There is also an English version. In Russia, the president was constantly speaking on TV, and I watched them on YouTube. Well, in both countries the media reacted very quickly - all new information became available very quickly.

The only problem, of course, was the rapid closure of borders - in 3 days, without warning. In Montenegro, that is how it was. The government in the evening, about 20:00, announced that the borders would be closed. And after 30 minutes the borders were locked. People were not ready for this. Many of them just had no concept of lockdown. There was a story of people coming back from Russia by car who got stuck between two borders: Serbia and Montenegro. The Serbs closed the border immediately after they passed. And the Montenegrins closed the border when they approached it. People were locked at the border for 2 days, while the Russian embassy and the Montenegrin authorities tried to solve the situation. Well, of course, there were problems with the cancellation of flights. Today people can fly, and tomorrow all flights are suddenly cancelled. This was perhaps the most resonant and difficult moment in both countries.

What’s the one thing you wish you had taken with you into self-isolation?

My life has not changed much in isolation. So I have everything that I need.

One thing you have learned about yourself, and one thing you have learned about others during this crisis.

The crisis confirmed the importanсe of some basic rules related to the organization of personal finances, business, understanding of global processes and psychological feelings. The lives and business of many people around the world are crumbling. People are panicking because of their fear of the future, of the virus. Many of them can not resist the pressure. And, as I see from many thousands of discussions in social networks, many were not ready for the crisis - neither economically, nor morally. Although in the Balkans, and especially in Russia, people know well enough what economic crisis is. Analysts constantly talk about the cyclical nature of the crisis over the span of 10 years. Each new crisis in Russia entails the collapse of the rouble. I am glad that in general the current situation has not affected me either financially or morally. In terms of the virus itself, I am not an alarmist so no fear. As for the financial situation we have savings, enough for a family of two for a reasonable period. There are no renting obligations because we bought our own apartment. Work is organized in such a way that there are no financial losses. We continue to work actively and prepare for a quick restart as soon as the borders are reopened. 

Thanks, Julie. Stay safe and see you on the other side.  You can connect with Julie via her MNE Consult website.

TMN is starting a new feature series on foreign experiences of sitting out COVID-19 here in Montenegro compared to their home country. If you would like to contribute, the questions are below. Please also include a para about yourself and where you are from, and a link to your website if you would like. Please also send 3-4 photos minimum to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  Subject Corona Foreigner

If you would be interested to record a video version for our partners www.rplus.video please let us know in the email. Thanks and stay safe. 

Foreigners Self-Isolating in Croatia: Do You Feel Safer Than in Your Home Country?

Firstly, how are you? Are you alone/with someone? Tell us a little about your situation and sanity levels.

What do you think about the economic measures the government is taking, are they helping your business? (PLEASE IGNORE IF THIS DOES NOT AFFECT YOU)

When did you realise that corona was going to be a big issue? 

What is your impression of the way Montenegro is dealing with the crisis? How safe do you feel?

Now compare that to your home country and how they are handling it. What is Montenegro doing better/worse?

What about official communications from the authorities, compared to your home country?

What's the one thing you wish you had taken with you into self-isolation.

One thing you have learned about yourself, and one thing you have learned about others during this crisis. 

TMN has recently become a partner in Robert Tomic Zuber's new R+ video channel, initially telling stories about corona experiences. You can see the first TMN contribution, my video from my home on Hvar, Croatia, talking about the realities of running a news portal in the corona era below. If you would like to also submit a video interview, please find Robert's guidelines below 

VIDEO RECORDING GUIDE

The video footage should be recorded so that the cell phone is turned horizontally (landscape mode).

There are several rules for television and video news:- length is not a virtue- a picture speaks more than a thousand words

In short, this would mean that your story should not last more than 90 seconds and that everything you say in the report should be shown by video (for example, if you talk about empty streets, we should see those empty streets, etc.).

How to do it with your cell phone? First, use a selfie camera to record yourself telling your story for about a minute and a half. Ideally, it would be taken in the exterior, except in situations where you are reporting on things in the interior (quarantine, hospital, self-isolation, etc.). Also, when shooting, move freely, make sure everything is not static.

After you have recorded your report, you should capture footage that will tell your story with a picture, such as an earlier example with empty streets.

One of the basic rules of TV journalism is that the story is told in the same way as a journalist with his text. Therefore, we ask you for additional effort. Because we work in a very specific situation, sometimes you may not be able to capture footage for each sentence of the report. In this case, record the details on the streets: people walking, the main features of the city where you live, inscriptions on the windows related to the virus, etc.

The same rules apply if you are shooting a story from your apartment, self-isolation, quarantine. We also need you to capture footage that describes your story.

When shooting frames to cover your reports, it is important that you change the angle of the shot (in other words, shoot that empty street from several angles). Also, when shooting a detail, count at least five seconds before removing the camera to another detail.

The material should be about 5 minutes long (90 seconds of your report + frames to cover your story).

After recording everything, send us to Zagreb, preferably via WeTransfer to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Wash your hands.

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