Much like its French neighbour, the Principality has told its residents to stay at home to stop the spread of COVID-19. Since March 16th, Monaco’s residents have had to come to terms with this new normal. Between working from home, balancing being a teacher and a parent, how have Monaco’s residents adapted to the Great Indoors?
Despite lockdown, spirits are high
Julia Moraly and Karine Gramaglia, both living in Monaco, are mothers who have taken the initiative to start up a Facebook group to help residents around the Principality. For them, lockdown was a necessary measure. “I was not surprised at all. Italy had already started to put it in place, so it was inevitably going to happen here too,” says Julia Moraly.
Karine disagreed. “I was in disbelief; I did feel as if it could have been avoided […] The last time I went out was March 13th to go to my office. When I closed the door that night, I knew I wouldn’t be going back for a long time.”
“It’s by not moving that we move the situation along”
Once the Prince’s Government made the official announcement, everyone had to adapt. Whether reorganising our daily routine to fit the whole family, creating new routines, picking up new habits, there has been something to change to fit the new pace of life. “There was a bit of anxiety at the prospect of reorganising life,” admits Karine. Julia put it quite aptly: what we are living through is Groundhog Day.
Her family have been living in “homeschool housewife” mode: daily chores along with childcare and lessons make up the day, along with extra weekly errands like the food shop. Julia has decided that going for walks is not an option, but their terrace is a massive bonus for morale on certain days that seemingly never end.
For Karine, lockdown was a relief. “By sheltering in place, we are protecting ourselves, protecting others and slowing the spread of the illness. It’s quite confusing to think that it’s by not moving that we move the situation along!”
Just like Julia, Karine and her children are staying for the most part indoors. Only her husband goes out twice a week to deal with an emergency at the office or do some shopping. “We are lucky to have balconies to get some fresh air. On Saturday evenings, there is sometimes music, so we dance on the balcony, speak across the street, it’s really quite heartwarming and moving.”
As for the days, they organise themselves around homeschooling the children as well as cooking, board games, working and lots of talking. She has allowed her children to spend a bit more time on their screens so they can stay connected to their friends.
“We are really privileged to live in Monaco”
With more than 38,000 residents of 139 nationalities spread over just 2km2, Monaco is an extremely urbanised landscape with little seemingly little opportunity to escape and recharge. However, Karine asserts that Monegasques are used to living in such an urban landscape. For her French friends living in detached homes, lockdown takes a very different form, with children able to let off steam in the garden.
What the two women note above all are the strengths of the Principality. “We really are privileged,” admits Julia. “From a medical point of view, as well as socially and environmentally. Some things could be improved or fine-tuned, but compared to our French and Italian neighbours, our daily life is much more enjoyable.”
The positive points that Karine has found centre around her children’s school, who are heavily involved in the students’ lives during lockdown. “They adapted quickly to the new conditions. From the offset, teachers set up lessons with a lot of empathy and creativity. The children’s ability to get used to the new scheme was amazing.”
“There was a huge influx of help, it was really moving”
Although lockdown is all about social isolation and distance, it has nevertheless brought out amazing proof of solidarity within a community. A desire has emerged to get close to your neighbours as well as connecting with other residents in Monaco. This collective spirit has been borne from crisis, Karine and Julia having played a fundamental part.
Karine Gramaglia, for her part, did not wait for COVID-19 to strike to create the group “Monaco Entraide et Services” [Mutual aid and services Monaco]. In the five years that it has been in existence, it has enabled many Monegasques to find a job, a tradesman, volunteer opportunities and much more. When lockdown was looming, it reacted immediately, mobilising the members.
“I called on all kinds of gestures of solidarity while keeping in line with the strict measures in place. There was a huge influx of help, it was extremely moving.”
Keeping an eye on all posts to filter any anxiety-inducing content, Karine is thinking of creating a second group “Confinés mais pas déprimés” [Confined but not depressed]. The page will act as a breath of fresh air in this period of mounting anxiety and unanswered questions.
“The best way of coping is to keep laughing, to keep morale up by sharing music, jokes, funny images. There’s a lot of making fun of yourself in the group and to be able to laugh during such a serious situation is great!”
Julia Moraly also felt compelled to start a Facebook group, “Aides aux residents à Monaco pendant le confinement” [Help for Monaco residents during lockdown]. Why?
“I asked myself if my husband were to fall ill tomorrow, who would help us? We don’t have any family nearby. I was sure I wouldn’t be in the only person in the same situation.”
Enabling residents to give practical information, offer gestures of help, maintain some social contact, the group allows the Rock’s residents who would never have crossed paths before to “meet up”.
“Inventing a new post-pandemic world”
Plenty of hope lies within these groups. They offer a way to keep loneliness at bay ad keep spirits up despite social distancing. It is an essential source of support when such uncertainty remains.
Karine is already looking to what will come next. Although impossible to imagine what the world will look like post-COVID-19, it will hopefully not mirror the one we have lived in until now.
“Entraide et Service will be useful in reorganising and reinventing a new post-pandemic world that we don’t yet know. It will change as it changed during lockdown. We shouldn’t lose this momentum. Humanly and economically, we are going to have to stick together, and I am convinced that if we put our energies and values together, we will get through it.”