Many years ago, Elena Ivanova fled from her tyrannical mother in Russia, who was trying to marry her to a man Elena wanted nothing to do with. Together with Canadian, Meg Stone, she crossed Atlantic ocean, only to discover that her troubles didn't end on the other side of the world. Lenta.ru publishes the second, final part of Elena and Meg's adventures.
Wrong type of immigrant
We sailed to Canada because it was Meg's home. At that point, Meg had delusions about her country. She assumed we would be welcomed there and that I soon would have Canadian citizenship. It never happened.
I never felt like a refugee and never wanted to be an immigrant. My only goal was to be with Meg and live as I want. It would have happened that way, but in this world one needs papers. In Canada, they took my Russian passport from me and my refugee hearing was mysteriously delayed for years. I was given refugee status only after Meg and I asked her local Member of Parliament for help. Still, being acknowledged as a refugee is only the very beginning of the path towards citizenship, towards rights and opportunities to which others are entitled.
Refugee status gave me nothing new or good. Meg and I just continued living in limbo.
I spent five years in Canada and applied for Canadian citizenship. The decision on my application was made only 11 years after I stepped onto Canadian soil. I was refused citizenship, supposedly because I didn't spend enough time in Canada while being a permanent resident. Of course I didn't, Canadian immigration did all they could to delay my becoming a permanent resident. During all those years I didn't even have the right to visit Russia and return to Canada without losing any possibility of becoming a permanent resident.
Why wasn't I granted Canadian Citizenship? It could be for various reasons. Firstly, Meg and I never waved the flag. Meaning, we didn't trumpet or glorify Canada. And it is expected from everybody, especially from an immigrant.
Secondly, I am a wrong type of immigrant. I don't want to work for pennies, I have no desire to clean hotels and bathrooms, and I don't depend on Canada financially or otherwise. I am a self-sufficient, happy individual, who lives to make her dreams come true. This is the kind of immigrant Canada doesn't want.
15 years onboard a sailboat
It's been 15 years since I stepped onboard Boadicea, Meg's and my sailboat. Until this day, to stay together we travel between the countries who allow entry to both of us, a Canadian, and a Russian, as tourists. These are mostly developing countries of Asia, Africa and South America. The rest of the world doesn't exist for Meg and me. Including Russia where Meg has no entry. Russia doesn't consider her to be my family and she can't reside there.
Meg and I are constantly asked if we are married. For some reason, it is very important to people. No, Meg and I are not married. Marriage would give us no benefits, no rights and no freedoms whatsoever. We can't be separated only if we are citizens of the same country.
Also, we don't have a need to declare our relationship to the state or anybody else. Our relationship is our own private business. All legal matters can be resolved with the help of contract or a will. Meg and I don't have children or unthinkable riches so it isn't an issue for us. As far as hospitals are concerned, in all the developed, humane countries, they allow people to see their loved ones without the need of presenting any papers.
Endless Journey to be together
In the Mediterranean sea, I saw dolphins for the very first time. It was lots of them, the whole pods. Hundreds of dolphins, they were hunting small fish. Dolphins were moving in a front, constantly jumping out of the water. They swam by our boat's bow, racing with us. They looked us right in the face. Right in the eyes. You feel as one with our planet at such moments. As one whole. It is invaluable experience and it forever changes you.
One other moment I remember well, is when I climbed on top of the mast when we were in the middle of Atlantic. I saw endless blue plane of water. It dawned on me then that our planet is a water planet. That land is a very precious phenomenon on it. Meg and I are aware of that fact as no one else. We always appreciate land, because for us time on it always ends.
When we sailed away from Canada in 2012 and followed North American West coast, we saw lots of whales. In the sea of Cortez we were literally bumping into them. When that happens, when I know that the whales are right beside our boat, these are always tense moments for me. They are huge animals and can wreck a boat with one wack of the tail. I know of the stories when whales broke the rudder on a boat making steering impossible.
Typically, though, whales are harmless and don't touch any one. I am always thrilled to see large shiny back right by Boadicea's side. I cannot believe that the watery darkness underneath me, hundreds meters deep is their home. That they live there every day, seek out food and raise their offspring!
Generally, Meg and I relish every creature at sea. Even an odd bird who lands on our boat. Now I know what species they are. When we were on our way to Canada I knew nothing about sea animals and birds. It's like I didn't notice anything before our voyage. Now I value every day and every life around me.
Sea is the only place on the planet where Meg and I are not chased away from
Meg and I have been thrown out of a marina in Bocas del Toro, Panama, where we found our last refuge. They did it for the same reason, we are detested in nearly every other marina we stayed in the USA or Canada. We are two women with no men and we dare to stand up for our dignity in male environment.
In Panama, the very same happens and even worse. We are hated by the American residents of a local marina on an island that we barely reached crossing the whole of Caribbean from Bahamas. We had a few litres of diesel left in our tanks, fumes literally. The boat was broken. We were exhausted by years of travels and living in exile and by our latest crossing of the Caribbean. But the darling boaters care about it, not. They are enraged by us because we don't seek their company and don't pay them attention and compliments. Such egregious behaviour on our part is a straight road to conflict.
We have been living like this - hiding, avoiding contact with others in marinas - for years. Yet people aren't aware of this side of our story. Because most don't even acknowledge that sexism and misogyny exist. Yet, this is the very reason Meg and I are heading for the open sea, again!
Not only Meg and me have no country where we could both live, we have nowhere to be on the planet because running by the sea we always end up in the very same environment we escaped previously - in misogyny and sexism.
We have nowhere to go, yet we would rather take our chances out at sea than remain in this environment of toxic masculinity. We'll try to reach Florida and see if they'll let us in. I, being Russian, am a problem again. I have American visa, but it is not in my Russian passport.
If we can't enter USA we will have no other option but to end up at sea, again. We decided we'll try to cross Atlantic ocean heading back home. We are hoping for people's attention. It saved us once and we hope it will happen again. In the meantime we are living as we have been doing for years - heading for the open sea. It is the only place where we aren't being chased away from.
Meg is my super hero
When Meg and I wrote to each other online, I thought she was an extraterrestrial. The things she does, how much she knows, how much energy she has, always amazed me. I sometimes think she truly came from space. So much I admire her and consider us meeting each other to be unbelievable.
Now, we both think it strange that there was time in our life when we didn't know each other. We are matching pieces of a puzzle. We suit each other so well that I am astonished. For me, our love, our complete understanding of each other and support is a true wonder. I admire it.
I admire Meg because of her bravery, her defiance in the face of danger or anything at all. It seems to me sometimes that she has no sense of fear. She is inventive and can find a way out of any situation where we can effect a change. She has an immense desire to experience and learn. She always cared about others' well-being and life but lately we shiver over any bug at all.
I have no idea how I would describe Meg to my friends if I had any. How can I sum up in a few words what Meg has done and is doing so that we could be together and alive? Yet she's been doing it for 15 years! Meg is fascinating! For me, she is a super hero. A super woman.
From the very start I was reaching out to Meg because she, a woman, piloted planes, sailed, climbed mountains and lived as she wanted! Nobody could stop her. I, a Russian woman, saw such a freedom for a woman for the first time in my life! For me it had the effect of a bomb blowing up.
I have a dream. I want more people to know and love Meg. I am so pained knowing that it is just the two of us. I want to see on her face one day that we don't have to go to sea again and that we have a country and home. That we have friends and we are always welcomed in their places, be that day or night.
We are dreaming of finding ourselves in Russia again. Of being met by our friends in the airport. I believe it will happen. I can't believe that I won't see Russia again. Russia means too much for both of us. We want to travel Trans-Siberian Railway, to see Kamchatka and Siberia. To visit Petergof together! And I want to stand on Red Square again and know that I won't be hurt in my country. That I and my family are loved and supported.
Meg and I have no regrets. If we found ourselves in the same situation we were in 2006 - I have no passport or country but we are together - we would do the same. We would do anything possible to stay together. I don't want to think that we wouldn't end up crossing seas and oceans. Because our voyage gave us our authentic selves, it made us strong and made us aware of the planet and it's life. This gift is invaluable for both of us.
It isn't easy for us to go on with our journey and stay together but we go on doing it because at the moment we have no other option. And because the voyage, movement became our life.