Istanbul, Spanish woman trapped by coronavirus

Spanish woman trapped in Istanbul for a month and a half due to coronavirus

Valentina, a Valencian woman who traveled to Istanbul and could no longer return to Spain, depends on the help of friends in Spain and Turkey to go ahead, and denounces that the Spanish government and the consulate left her alone.

Her name is Valentina Blay Moreno, and for about a month and a half this Spanish woman has been trapped in Istanbul due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has turned what was going to be a pleasure trip for her 42nd birthday into a real nightmare due to lack response of the Spanish government and institutions, according to her complaints.

Valentina planned her trip to Istanbul thinking about touring the wonders of this historical city of Turkey for ten days and celebrating her birthday in a big way. What was going to be a dream trip has nevertheless become one of the hardest experiences of her life, trapped for weeks 2,500 kilometres from home, practically “almost without money to eat“, and besides the Spanish consulate in Istanbul has provided no help, she regrets.

Her ten-day getaway to Istanbul, where she arrived on March 9th, was scheduled to end on March 19th. However, as the days passed, Valentina began to worry when she saw that the evolution of the pandemic in Spain was getting worse. Just 4 days after arriving in Turkey, the Turkish government banned new landings of flights from Spain and other European countries, which caused her concern.

On March 14th, the Spanish government decreed a state of alarm and the first measures of confinement, further aggravating the situation. However, after contacting the Valencian Government and her travel company, they assured her that there was “no problem“, so Valentina confidently decided to keep her plans, since she could not get a ticket to return sooner due to the high demand .

“I wish Spain had repatriated its citizens like Turkey”

The problem came on March 19th, when travelling on the bus to the airport she received a call to tell her that “my flight had been cancelled”. In shock and not knowing what to do in the midst of that chaos, she returned crying to her accommodation in Istanbul. It was then that her odyssey began, echoed by media in Spain and especially in Turkey, where Turkish newspapers such as Milliyet or Hürriyet have told in recent days the story of this Valencian woman resident in Moncada.

I wish Spain had done the same thing that Turkey is doing (with its citizens). Spain has not repatriated its citizens (trapped) in other countries,” complains Valentina, to whom no official Spanish institution is helping and which depends entirely of the goodwill of friends, both those she has in her country and the new ones she has found in Turkey.

After contacting the Spanish consulate in Istanbul for help, not only they did not offer help for their accommodation problem, but they also offered as a solution that Turkey was going to send a plane to Spain -which left the last week- to repatriate its citizens in Spanish territory, so the consulate suggested that she could buy a ticket for that flight going to Madrid airport.

Unable to go home, and with no money

“The one-way ticket cost 330 euros, and I don’t have that money to buy the ticket. I asked my friends for help,” says Valentina, who also explains that the plane was going to land in Madrid, hundreds of kilometres from her home: that means she would be trapped again since they did not offer her a solution to return to Valencia, and travel between cities is prohibited. “Upon arrival I would have to quarantine 14 days. Then, I would be homeless” she says.

One of the biggest concerns of this woman, who works as a receptionist in a hotel, is her 88-year-old father, with whom she lives and who is now alone in the middle of all this situation. Cared for by friends and family, he also suffers from his daughter’s situation. “I worked and cared for him. The death rate (from COVID-19) is very high in Spain. I am very worried about my father,” she confesses.

I came to Istanbul with a limited amount of money. The money I brought was enough for my stay until my return, but being unable to return to my country, I am here with very little money. I have contacted my friends in Spain, who sent me some money. I’ve been holding it up for a while. But my friends can’t help me anymore,” she adds.

“I want to return to the city where I live by plane. The consulate has not helped me. Spain has not repatriated its citizens. Turkey has been an example to the whole world in this matter. I wish Spain had done the same as Turkey. Turkey brings it returns to its citizens from abroad, and takes you to the city where you live after passing the quarantine,” says Valentina.

In Istanbul she has discovered Turkish solidarity and hospitality

In these terrible circumstances, practically abandoned to her fate by the authorities of her country, Valentina has nevertheless found solace in the famous Turkish hospitality. Despite her difficult situation, in her Turkish odyssey she has had the opportunity to meet people who have shown her that we must never lose hope in the humanity of people.

This is the case, for example, of Taner, a Turk who she considers her guardian angel: he is the owner of the apartment in Istanbul that she had rented through the online platform Airbnb, and that after knowing her problems has allowed her to stay in the accommodation as long as she needs and “at no cost”.

Another person with whom she contacted through the Internet got her a free laptop, which was sent to her apartment to communicate with his loved ones in Spain. Despite what has happened, the life of this Spanish woman who lives trapped in Istanbul by the coronavirus has changed forever -for better and for worse- like that of so many people. “I look forward to the day of being able to return home,” she concludes.