Daria Shornikova is 33 years old, and married. Born in St. Petersburg, Daria has also lived in Luxembourg, Paris, Santiago de Compostela, and Madrid. She moved to Barcelona 8 years ago and is currently Brand & Communication Director at ISPD, a Catalan cognitive marketing business that operates in 7 countries. Her career in cultural management, innovation, and communication has also led her to be a TEDx speaker.
Why did you choose Barcelona?
On my first visit, I had some excellent and very generous guides who enabled me to see a side of the city that many people don’t see: the Festa de San Fèlix in Vilafranca and the Mercè, where Manel played songs from his first album. The decision to settle in Barcelona later was easy because I had a lot of contacts here already. In addition, I already spoke Catalan, and unlike Madrid, Barcelona is next to the sea.
What do you see as the city’s strengths?
Barcelona offers a whole kaleidoscope of experiences; it is by no means a homogeneous city. Gràcia, El Ravel, and Poblenou, for example, offer three totally different ways of experiencing the city, and all three are within 30 minutes’ walk. At first, I was bewildered and found it difficult to find my place in this cultural mix, but now it is one of the things I enjoy the most.
I like the love for Catalan tradition, combined with an openness to innovation and technology. The memory of ancestry is key for a society to develop in harmony. On the other hand, the concentration of talent, investment and institutional opportunities in the world of technology have helped to create some jewels, with companies created here making a positive impact on people’s lives.
When you’ve been here for a long time, you get used to it, but the people who come to visit remind you of your good fortune: being well connected, within easy reach of all kinds of weekend activities, being able to walk to work, to eat ingredients grown locally, and to experience outstanding gastronomy. Barcelona competes with the world’s leading cities, but it’s small enough not to feel impersonal. In a megapolis it’s not common to run into people you know in the street.
What aspects of the city need to be improved? How?
Preserving tradition in a city with so much diversity is positive, but there is still much that needs to be done. There is still resistance to new trends and new people; those from ‘here’ and those from ‘outside’ continue to live alongside each other in parallel worlds. There is little dialogue, little openness, little interest in the inevitable shift towards globalization and integration.
Barcelona needs to look outwards and take advantage of the new ‘glocal’ world, while not losing touch with its own traditions. The different groups need to find a way of living together. If not, the city risks becoming provincial and broken down into ghettos.
What do you think will help the city to overcome the crisis?
Barcelona has a very good image. There is a constant influx of new talent; companies continue to invest and develop hubs here; and there are always people wanting to do things, to change, and improve. Doing business, finding solutions, and surviving, the energy so typical of a port, drives the city to overcome obstacles. The philosophy of the Catalan human towers—the group identity that exists here—is another advantage, one that means that solutions are sought for the many, not for the few. And not only this, Barcelona has an irresistible appeal, attracting the likes of the Mobile World Congress, Primavera Sound, Sonar, and now the Copa América. The current trend of nihilistic hedonism, of wanting to enjoy the moment, if only a little, no matter how difficult the times are, will continue to encourage people to leave the house to take advantage of all the social and cultural events offered by the city.
What challenges do you think the city faces?
I am not directly connected to any of these, but I would say inequality, inclusion, rental prices, mobility, and waste management. With regard to the last two, I would like to hope that problems are part of the transformation process and we will end up with good results, but there is still a lot of work to be done. High rents are driving many out of the city, and this detracts from its cultural and social wealth. It is becoming a very economically segmented community and this gives rise to prejudices and growing distance between people.
What do you expect from Barcelona in the coming years?
Larger scale projects. I would like to see more speed, more ambition, greater scale in Spanish, Catalan, and city council projects, as well as greater openness to major international projects. The city needs to be more daring, to try out new things, to open up and participate in the wider conversation, one that links it to other places. This should help us understand each other better, and learn new things. This applies both to those who were born here as well as those who have moved here.
In which city do you feel most at home? What do you miss the most?
When I take a plane to go to Barcelona, I feel I am ‘going home,” but when I talk about St. Petersburg, I also say ‘my home.’ I am one of many transmigrants who have homes and connections in several places. What I miss about the place where I was born are the family ties and long-standing friendships, the smells that remind me of my childhood, and understanding the jokes and references to my post-Soviet roots. But when I’m with people who speak Russian, it’s Barcelona humor doesn’t work. The need to seek new ways of understanding people and new experiences wherever one is both the curse and the blessing of being a transmigrant.
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