Elena and Meg, header

 

Love Across Enemy Lines

By Elena Ivanova

Mine is a story is a story of liberation, but not the kind written in history. It's because this liberation is personal, it serves me. Not an ideology, an agenda, marketing, optics, or anyone else. The wisdom of our time, is that liberation is a thing of the past. We don't have to fight for our freedom, because we are already free. As free as it gets; we are told.

I, and the person I love, are citizens of developed, enemy countries. Over the past fourteen years, Meg and I have fought for every moment we have together; running between third-countries that let us both in. Since 2006, when we first saw each other in Ukraine, there has been no country on Earth willing to grant us both the same citizenship, recognize us as a family and grant us safety and equality.

Despite what it takes, ours is a story of triumph! Having survived unimaginable odds throughout the years -- hurricanes, pirates, uncertainty, isolation and governmental malice -- we managed to grant ourselves liberty, safety and dignity, and we did it exclusively on our own. We are beholden to no one. Fighting for our lives and love, for over a decade, we found our freedom!

Years ago, in Russia, I could never have imagined myself living the way I do now. Had I a glimpse of my current life, I would think myself truly mad. I was convinced, nobody would willingly chose the life I have now, considering all I have lost to get it. Apparently, one needs to have a country, a town, a fixed-address to call home. Meaning, one must live in constant fear of losing what can be taken, and submit to the system and those around you. I discovered that all of that is wrong. Our life in exile isn't easy, at times it seems unbearable, but it all comes down to our choice. Meg and I choose the freedom to be who we are and to determine our own lives, over a mandate somebody else forces upon us. Also, living between countries, is the only way we can remain together, being the subjects of two hostile states.

I am a citizen of Russia. Meg is a citizen of Canada. The only way we can be together, is as tourists in the few countries that allow entry to both Canadians and Russians. To be with Meg, I have been on the run since the very day I escaped my hometown, Ivanovo, Russia, on February 16, 2006. I no longer consider it to be out of the ordinary. Our partners are not welcome in our own countries, it is simply a fact of life. Our only home and safety is the occasional dock to tie our vessel of freedom -- the sailboat that carried us across the planet to Meg's former home, at very beginning of our never-ending journey.

Reaching British Columbia, after our year-long escape, I assumed our journey was over. Little did I know, it was only beginning! On the way to Canada, we became free. We weren't aware of it at the time, but every step we've taken since then has been about holding onto that freedom, following our dreams, and staying true to ourselves.

Crossing the planet, from Ukraine to Canada's Pacific coast was unthinkable, so huge it was, and with so many obstacles we had in our way. Having no idea how to sail, let alone cross oceans, was only one of them, and small, by comparison. Meg and I were nearly killed on several occasions. Yet to me, it was a walk in the park, compared to everything we lived through after arriving in Canada. We not only found no recognition in Meg's home country, we were berated for doing what we did: standing up for ourselves; taking our lives into our own hands; doing what we needed to and what was right for us. We fought to be together, and we did it all by ourselves!

Canada never granted us equality. After coming in from the sea, I was asked to spy on Russians in exchange for immigration favors. I declined, thinking it was dishonest, and not being a criminal myself, I didn't think I needed favors; thus, fourteen years later, I am only a citizen of the country I ran from. Meg, not only risked her life to save mine, she also lost everything she had to lawyers and legal fees in my decade-long, Canadian immigration charade.

If there is one thing I learned during our life together, it is that Meg and I will never stop being who we are or doing what's right for us. There is no way back. It has become clear: we need very little, aside from each other, and to find our own path. The rest is a technicality to overcome. Nobody can take away our love for each other. Nobody can make us be people we are not. And that is freedom! That is a lot. To me it is everything!

Our unfathomable stateless situation may never be solved. I am not even sure it matters to me any more. Our life has become survival. Much as it is for the monkeys and lizards we see on the precious patch of land we find ourselves sharing briefly. But we will prevail because we are together. For me, that means I have already won. Nobody can take my love for Meg away from me.

If I could communicate a message to people of the world, it would be that freedom is possible. Meg and I are proof of that. We love each other, and we relish every day. Every day could be our last together. But every day we are free, and we are in each other's arms.