Translation: Elena Ivanova
Original in Russian: "We don't want husbands or childred, we want freedom". Elena and Meg who fled Russia by sailboat, on their 12 years in exile. Toubles with immigration, indifferent families, and tropical jungle as a new home.
Don't you and Meg want normal home and life?
ELENA: I had true home and life all these years. Home for me is genuine me - without lies or pretense - and Meg. True life for me is the kind of life when I don't live to satisfy expectations of others, when I am honest with myself, when I can be with the person I love and when I am truly free. In this sense, I had a true home and life from the day I saw Meg for the first time in Kiev. I don't need to live in one place and in one country to be happy. I don't need to own household accouterments and appliances for that. What I want is that very freedom to do what I want and to be where I want. My and Meg's dream is to see the world, to experience it, to drink it to the bottom. Not to get ourselves a dwelling and die there.
As far as the country where we would consider staying for good, it is not what we want. We want equality, when Meg and I would be granted the same freedoms and respect. In this sense we do want to be citizens in the same country. At the moment this is our priority and everything we do is aimed at achieving that.
Why did you ask Zelensky for Ukrainian citizenship? Why Ukraine and why now?
ELENA: I addressed President Zelensky in April of 2019 because it was then that he stated, he (Ukraine) would be granting citizenship to persecuted Russians. I don't have the option of becoming a citizen in any other country. I have a passport of Russia which lets me enter a few countries together with Meg - and that is it. As far as coming to European countries which we would very much like to see, maybe even stay, I can't enter them even as a tourist. I am a Russian citizen and I need a tourist visa. I can't apply for a visa because I have to do that physically in Canada. If I enter Canada, their Immigration department will initiate the process of stripping me of permanent resident status because I was forced to travel on my Russian passport when Canada refused to issue me a travel document. It is a nightmare and a vicious circle and Meg and I are living in it for more than twelve years already.
The situation with me being stripped of permanent resident status on entry to Canada can be confirmed by a Canadian immigration journalist, Nicholas Keun of The Star. He intended to do an article on Meg and I but was told not to by his editor.
Why doesn't Canada want Elena?
Can they change their mind, considering that your story gets a lot of attention?
MEG: We refused to promote Canada's brand, and Elena refused to spy for the Canadian Intelligence and Security Service (RCMP-CSIS) and so they made life unbearable for us. Canada doesn't want citizens or people who can vote, it wants workers who can be exploited.
Canada will only let Elena apply for citizenship -- and have the same rights and passport as me -- if we go back to Canada and stay there for six years and wait another several years for them to process the application. Lordy, what are our lives and years worth? We consider what they have done to us over the last 12 years, contemptuous, in the least and possibly criminal. As a result neither of us want anything to do with Canada. I am embarrassed to be a citizen of Canada. We just want to be together and be citizens of the same country. Right now we have to move between countries for as long as tourist visas let us stay in one place together. We would like to know that there is somewhere on this planet that we could both stay without being under a deadline to move on.
...Canadian officials advised me to abandon Elena in Ukraine. Years later they advised me to abandon her in Mexico. Then they advised me to abandon her illegally in USA.
...Yes, Canada would be happy to let us marry. But marriage doesn't give us any real rights. It doesn't make Elena equal to me. It doesn't give her a vote. It wouldn't even stop Canadian officials from telling me to abandon her in a foreign country.
How did you end up in the jungle?
MEG: Because it was simply one of the few places we could both go to together. We aren't living in a jungle because we want to, although it is very beautiful and fascinating. We are living in a jungle because it is one of the very few pieces of dirt on this planet that lets both Russians and Canadians stay as tourists.
Why did they say on Russian state TV that your story was phony?
ELENA: The so-called experts on pro-Putin TV channel are allowed to say only what comes from above. They needed urgently to make fun of Zelensky's proposal of citizenship to Russians and my plea to him and my story was perfect for that. I am absolutely not surprised by that news report and what was said there. Likely, all of them, including the two novelists, do believe that Meg and I did what we did to be together. I think they even admire our guts and our love. But they have to say what butters their bread, so they made mockery of our story. But real people, simple Russians and Ukrainians very much believe in it. Some of them even contact Meg and I and open up to us.