Where are you from?
I was born in the Kalmykia Republic, in the south of Russia, about 100 km from Moscow. I went to university in capital, and then lived there about 20 yrs. I moved here in July 2016.
Why did you come here?
The pace of life in Moscow is very fast. You have to be on the go all the time, and that makes you tired. Life in Slovenia is much slower, and the environment, ecology, is also much nicer. Plus we have children, two girls, and now is the best age for them to start a new life in Europe.
Is it easy to move here if you are Russian?
No, it was really difficult. Russians need visas to visit Europe, even as tourists, and it’s even harder to live here. Now we can stay, but it took some time and effort to get this. During the first five years we just get temporary permission, but after five years living and working here we can stay permanently.
How did you decide to start this business?
It wasn’t easy to decide what kind of business to open, and it took us about a year while we were still in Russia.
The market in Slovenia is very small, just two million people. Now in some bigger countries Russians can work for the Russian market, but the number of Russians here is also very small compared to, say, Germany. So we looked at people who had already moved here and talked to them. We learned it wasn’t easy, of course, so we had to think of something original for this market.
This way of thinking led us to Siberian Health, which was already a very rapidly growing company, as it still is, although then it wasn’t represented in Slovenia. Now it sells it’s products in more than 60 countries, with over 800 stores selling just Siberian Health products, so in monobrand stores.
Is this the only store in Slovenia?
Yes, it’s a new market here, but not in the Balkans. For example, Siberian Health entered the Serbian market a few years before and has been very successful. There are nine stores there, with a monthly turnover of 200,000 euros. Of course, Serbia is bigger, but it’s also poorer. The business here is much younger, but that means there are more opportunities for growing, and since it’s a multi-level model it’s better to get in earlier. It’s been a lot of work, but after two years my salary is higher than the average here.
Was it difficult to meet people?
When I first came here I was alone, as my husband as still in Moscow, so I found some Russians on Facebook. I also opened the store, and Russians would see Siberia on the sign and come in. But now I know more and more Slovenians, especially through the company. It’s multi-level marketing, a way for people to be self-employed, and word-of-mouth is very important in this, because we don’t advertise. So personal relationships are the key thing, and if people want to join then they can come here and talk about it.
What’s it been like for your children to move here?
We have two daughters, 12 and 18. For the youngest it’s been easier. She was just 10 when she came here and now she speaks the language fluently, better than any of us. And she didn’t make any effort for this, she just went to school, spoke with her schoolmates, and gradually learned how to do it.
It’s a little harder for the older one. For someone who doesn’t speak Russian or Slovenian then maybe they sound the same, but it’s an illusion, really. So our older daughter has a teacher and learns it academic style, with a textbook and vocabulary. But she has friends here and they don’t speak Russian, so they speak Slovenian together.
Other than the visa situation, are there any problems you faced here?
No special problems, really. Slovenia is a very tolerant country, and it’s also Eastern European and Slavic. And it’s easier for us to live in a Christian country than, say, a Muslim one, because the gap between cultures isn’t so significant.
Do you think you’ll stay here?
We like this country very much, so we want to stay. Our children, I don’t know. For our older daughter this country is perhaps too small for her ambitions, but we really like it here, and not just because we moved here and have to stay, we like it very much.