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WorldAsiaBarricades, "shredders", heaps of garbage: Russians living in France spoke out on the protests

Barricades, “shredders”, heaps of garbage: Russians living in France spoke out on the protests



Egor has lived in Paris since the fifth year, working in the field of information technology.

“Many pupils and students now have unplanned vacations in Paris,” says Yegor. – About 70% of teachers are on strike, 140 primary schools are closed. My friend had a flight from Charles de Gaulle airport, she barely caught the plane. The strikers surrounded the terminal and did not let any traffic through. She had to walk with her suitcase. I know that the Lion station in Paris was also blocked. The railway has just entered the tracks. Public transport in the city still works intermittently, in the evening there are no buses at all, for example. Taxi drivers raise fares two or three times. So I had to take a bike from the balcony.

Due to the garbage collectors’ strike, Paris is littered with garbage bags.

  • It’s time to talk about a health disaster. The city is buried in mud. On our street, after a two-week break, the bins are just starting to come out. The stench is terrible, rats run along the sidewalks. Oil refineries are also on strike and some gas stations are running out of fuel. Teachers, state employees, electrical engineers, port workers and museum workers come out to protest. The firefighters joined the opponents of the pension reform. All of France stood up. The unions want to stop the country’s economy so that the authorities abandon the pension reform.

The pogroms are attributed to radical left groups, “men in black”, thugs – “grinders”. The next event is scheduled for Tuesday. It promises to be even bigger.

Yegor says the French are told on TV that pension reform is an objective demand from the economy. That the French population is aging. And fewer people are employed in the economy.

  • In the 80s, there were four working people per pensioner, and now this ratio has fallen to 1.5 to 1. But all my friends are sure that all this is a consequence of French short-sighted politics. The French are tired. They don’t trust anyone anymore. Under Sarkozy, in 2010, the retirement age was raised from 60 to 62. Now – a new trick. My friend’s father won’t have to retire until 2030 when he turns 64. Despite his aching legs, he will work hard at a vegetable base to fill the country’s budget.

On average, the pensions of French retirees are 1300-1500 euros.

  • It is sometimes more than the salaries of some French people currently working. People work hard, counting the days until retirement. Now they want to shift those dates by two years. Many consider this unfair. Therefore, they hold rallies, go on strike. My French friends do not hear the name of Macron. They say: “It has no money for the pensions of its citizens, but there are funds for military and financial aid to Ukraine. For rockets for Kiev. Instead of calling for peace, he pushes the world towards a third world war.

Another of our interlocutors, Nikolai, lives in Renne, works as a soldier at the factory.

“My French neighbor was at the barricades in the city center,” says Nikolai. – He came in this hoarse morning, he had a bump on his forehead, one of his own in the confusion hit him on the head with a stone. The eyes are red. He says the smoke from the fires mixed there with the tear gas the police fired at them. But the neighbor Pierre was in a good mood. It is important for them and their associates to defend their rights. They want Macron to hear his people.

According to Nikolai, in parallel with the pension reform, it is planned to reduce social benefits.

  • An acquaintance of mine, a rather apolitical and patient person, also went to the protest action. He is a bus driver and starts his first shift at 5am. He had pension benefits. And now, thanks to the pension reform, they will be significantly reduced. This applies to all public transport workers, as well as electrical engineers. Thus, the pension reform has somehow fueled the fire of popular revolt. The situation is similar to that of the revolution.

Serious pogroms also took place in the south of France, in Toulouse. Protesters threw stones at the city district office. The ring road was on fire.

We contacted our compatriot Inessa, who has been living in Toulouse for over thirty years. Works as a nurse. She was born in Kiev and grew up in Moscow.

“In the south of France, we traditionally vote for the leader of the National Association party, Marine Le Pen,” explains Inessa. – But more – by inertia. The French, for the most part, are uninterested in politics, rather infantile, obsessed with their personal interests. So, about the pension reform, all the French people took to the streets of the cities.

Inessa says she tries not to discuss political matters at work.

The French do not support foreigners. Any. In general, they treat me warmly. But I put a lot of effort into it.

According to financier Anton, who has lived in France for 9 years, the reason for the pension reform is not the current lack of funds, but the imbalance of funding.

  • In other words, it is possible not to carry out reforms, to increase debt obligations, which will not create problems for the next 30 years, – believes Anton. But, since Macron has a serious economic education, he wants to carry out an unpopular reform before leaving his last term. This will avoid imposing a tax burden on future generations.

As for the ninth strike, Anton emphasizes that this is part of the democratic process.

“The right to demonstrate is protected by labor law and the Constitution. Most of the protesters have special pension schemes which allow them to retire much earlier, for example at age 50. This reform could abolish these regimes. It should also be taken into account that trade unions are traditionally strong and organized in France. They brought to the streets of the cities about 3.5 million citizens.

How are the events described in the local press?

  • In different ways, depending on the political wing. The left-wing press supports the popular movement, while the right-wing press is more restrained in its assessments. Most elites are aware of the economic need for reform, but some are trying to use the situation to gain political points.

According to Anton, most of his acquaintances have an average pension of 3,000 euros. This is the equivalent of 247 thousand rubles.

  • Despite the fact that the cost of living in France is not very different from that of Russia, especially if we compare the capitals.

The attitude to Russian culture with the start of the special operation, as Anton says, has not changed in France. Museums and Orthodox churches are open.

  • I have not observed any discrimination on ethnic grounds. Many continue to quietly find jobs with passports of the Russian Federation, receive all the social benefits of a resident, including medical insurance.

In the meantime, the authorities fear Tuesday, March 28. A new nationwide strike is scheduled for that day. The police reinforce security on the Champs Elysées.

Copyright © 2023 The Eastern Herald.

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