CC Foreign Correspondents: A Wet Arrival in Batumi

This summer, Colorado College students Zeke Lloyd ’24 and Michael Braithwaite ’24, with funding provided by a CC Venture Grant and the Sheffer Fund for Catholic Studies, spent a month travelling around central Europe reporting on the Ukrainian refugee crisis. They visited Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Poland, and reported back through stories published in the Colorado Springs and Denver Gazettes. Along the way, they kept us updated on their travels and experiences.

A welcoming party greeted us upon our arrival in Batumi. As our bus pulled into the city square, a crowd of vendors surrounded its exit, advertising shops, hotels, and taxis to us in Russian as we disembarked.

It was a great introduction to the city.

Batumi was popular with Russian tourists before the war began. Its subtropical climate and Las Vegas-like attractions cater significantly to those seeking a vacation getaway. But since Russia invaded Ukraine, it’s become a more permanent destination for Russians looking to wait out the conflict abroad.

And Batumi’s streets reflect this Russian influx. Since Western financial sanctions limit ATM transactions with Russian banks, currency exchanges have become commonplace throughout the city, allowing migrants to exchange cash roubles for dollars, euros, and Georgian Lari.

Businesses, too, cater heavily to the population. Questions are asked first in Russian, and then in Georgian to patrons passing by. Menus have items written in both Cyrillic and Georgian script. Magnets depicting Josef Stalin, the former Georgian-born leader of the USSR, are sold outside shops.

It rained the entire time we were in the city, but we still left with a good understanding of its culture and its people.


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