Elena and Meg, header


Meg's Address to the First Minister of Scotland

Dear First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon,

I am Meg: one of the two women who fled for our lives and our love from Russian attackers in Kyiv, Ukraine sixteen years ago. Our journey across the planet, to my home in British Columbia, has had some media coverage, including by The BBC. Still, we are on the run to be together with no mutual country to call home.

The country of my citizenship, Canada, is not a place Elena and I can be together as equals and full participants in society. Elena declined a RCMP, Canadian Security and Intelligence agent's kind offer (made the day we came in from the sea) of a swift and trouble-free immigration process in exchange for her becoming an informant on the local Ukrainian and Russian communities. Perhaps, as a result of this, her immigration process was blatantly delayed and mishandled. It cost us years of our lives, our freedom of movement, dignity, thousands and thousands of dollars and finally our home. Twelve years after washing up on Canada's West Coast, Canada officially denied Elena citizenship.

We are still on the same small sailboat we crossed oceans non-stop aboard to reach Canada (my home). Elena was granted refugee status at a hearing we procured only after years of intervention by lawyers and our Member of Parliament. It did little good. Immigration Canada continued to lose documents, delay applications, and on more than one occasion suggested I abandon Elena. Immigration refused to issue documents at one point, stranding Elena in USA and telling me to abandon her. Because she was forced to use her Russian passport -- (the only one she has) to prevent being illegally in The USA -- she is now subject to arrest and deportation to Russia should she try to enter Canada. Frankly, I am ashamed of my country. I can never feel at home in a place that treats anyone like that; especially my own family and life partner (an LGBT refugee from Russia). I hope to never return.

This is why we live on the run. But we don't want to be outcasts forever. We so desperately want to come home somewhere. We want to have a community, a clan. Some companionship and a place to belong and participate. Scotland is the home of my ancestors on my mother's side. Ukraine is the home of my father's ancestors. Elena asked President Zelenskyy for Ukrainian citizenship, which the media covered in depth, but was refused. This was long before the war. We would consider moving to Ukraine even during this war if we would both be welcomed and recognised as a family. We can't move to Russia because it will not recognise me as Elena's partner. Nor would we want to. Just as I am ashamed of my country, Elena is exponentially ashamed (and afraid) of hers.

Thus, we wander the planet in our sailboat, approaching countries that allow us both to land for a few months at a time. Covid has stranded us, forced us into hiding and left us in a very precarious position.

Our love is illegal everywhere we've bounced among tropical states that allow tourist entry to both Russians and Canadians. This is why Scotland matters so much to us; the land of our Northern European ancestors; a place where love, in all forms, and human diversity, is embraced. Celebrated, even! This is why we want to sail for Scotland, for home, from tropical paradise.

We would like to know, though, what might happen to us; how we might be received, drifting up the Clyde in what's left of our sailboat. It is going to take everything we've got left of our boat, of our strength, of our courage, to reach Scotland. Elena and I would like to know what our chances of being let into the country, allowed to land, are. As opposed to being told we are inadmissible and must move on.

May 25, 2022
Meg Aitken
Elena Vaytsel