Claudia Matjushin, 20 (Audio story included)

Claudia Matjushin is a 20-year-old Venezuelan living in Spain, which had 135,032 coronavirus cases as of Monday. She saw first-hand how the country turned from calm to panic. This is her story:

“Before quarantine was declared in Spain, I took the subway every day — like most people here in Madrid. It was always full. The only time the cars had fewer people was near closing time. So it was surprising to see how the cars were emptied as the days passed and how the government’s approach towards the virus changed.

“Classes were suspended on Wednesday, March 11. On Thursday, I went to the supermarket around noon. The shelves were empty; no meat, no toilet paper, no frozen foods, no tuna cans, no mustard (for some reason). I went again at night, and fruits and vegetables were gone. It felt as if I was transported back to Caracas and its empty markets. Then, on Friday I went to the center of the city. And it was empty. I’ve been living in Madrid for a year now, and I had never seen the city so empty. I’ve never felt it so empty. “

The shutdown affected her lifestyle directly.

“Only supermarkets, a few food-chains and pharmacies are working now. People stopped panic-shopping, however certain products vanish if you don’t arrive on time. Others, like alcohol, antibacterial gel or surgical gloves take time to appear because of high demand and the prioritization of hospitals and health centers in the receiving of these products.

“The restaurant where I work had to shut down as well. [I’m unemployed] like most in retail, hostelry and tourism employees. My contract will remain suspended until the state of emergency is lifted. I won’t receive my full payment, of course, so I will depend on state employment benefits that will cover 70% of my pay rate, which for a waitress with a contract of 16 hours a week, is not much. Not enough.”

Besides the numbers and isolation, she sees some positives.

“The numbers are high with [more than 15,000] people dead, just under Italy’s. . . We are supposed to have reached a peak on the curve and the numbers should start to decrease. There is a sign that Spain will start to slowly get better.

“I’ve had the opportunity to slow down and rest from a very fast-paced routine. I’ve been able to dedicate more time to studying for my college admission tests, which were postponed from late May to later this year.”

“Overall, I am okay here in Spain. I am not driving myself crazy, I’m not desperate for this to be over. I’m trying to be patient, taking it day by day and accepting the measures because it’s the only thing I can do: be cautious and stay home. That is what you need to do to stay safe.”

“I am truly worried about my family in Venezuela –my mother, father, brother, grandmothers… who are on the other side of the ocean. I talk to them every day. They are being careful when they [need to] go out, saving food and self-isolating, but they are in a country that’s already in crisis. As of now, they are okay and hopefully — by God’s will — it will remain that way.”


Alejandra Marquez Janse is a Venezuelan journalism student minoring in political science. She is passionate about understanding policy and informing people on issues that affect them.