Our story: The Whole Shebang
You think we survived unimaginable odds crossing the planet, got to Canada and that's it. The end. Nope! Our journey never ended. Canada wasn't the destination. It was us getting from point A to point B. It was only the beginning! During that voyage Meg and I came to being. We became alive, aware. Of the planet, of it's life. Of how much we cherish it. Of how wonderful and right it feels when you act on your own needs. From then on, we couldn't and wouldn't give this freedom up. This is why we are, today, where we are.
Lenta.ru, a major Russian publication, made a nice map of our wanderings. The red line on it, is our original escape from Turkey to Meg's home. Everything else is our voyage after leaving Victoria in 2012.
- EPOCH 1: summer 2005 - April 2007; Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, crossing the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, the Caribbean and the North Pacific to Meg's home in Victoria, BC
- EPOCH 2: September 2012 - April 2019; leaving BC, down West coast, sea of Cortez, non-stop from San Diego to Panama, crossing Panama canal, the Caribbean, up to Charleston, NC, non-stop to Halifax, NS, to Florida and Bahamas
- EPOCH 3: April 2019 - today; non-stop crossing the Caribbean from Bahamas to Bocas del Toro in Panama. Where to next? Wait and see.
In Russia, secretly communicating with Meg online Elena discoverers that she doesn't have to sabotage her life by marrying a man and having children she never wanted. That she can choose her own destiny.
When Elena escapes from her home to Kiev where she and Meg see each other for the first time after months of online correspondence, she is being followed and kidnapped by her parents. Their attempt to drag their daughter back to Russia fails when Meg comes to Elena's aid. Meg's Western citizenship and the bribe she pays to the demanding police officer interrogating them sets Elena and Meg free again. Elena's parents return to Russia with Elena's passport they stole from her during the assault.
Elena and Meg flee to Odessa where Meg conceives of one way of getting out of the former USSR with Elena. Buying a sailboat and sailing it all the way to her home in British Columbia! Turkey with thousands of boats for sale is just across the Black sea. But Elena has no passport! As the last ditch attempt Elena gets in touch with Tatiana, her coworker back at home. She is in luck. Elena has no idea why, but her mother relinquishes Elena's passport. A few days later Tatiana is in Odessa and so is Elena's passport.
In Turkey, Meg buys a sailboat out of the charter and equips it for offshore sailing. Elena, seeing the sea for the third time only and boats for the very first, isn't afraid of what Meg is conceiving of doing. She is with Meg. Still! And not in Russia. Things couldn't have been better.
Hours at sea become weeks and then months. Elena and Meg gain confidence. They cross the Mediterranean and face the Atlantic crossing. While having no way to provision or fix the boat! Elena, a Russian without a visa, can't enter any of the European countries. Elena and Meg cross the Atlantic and the Caribbean. Approaching Panama canal Meg fears they won't be let in. What will they do then? Go around the Horn? Somehow, someway Elena's presence on the boat doesn't concern Panamanian officials, she is let into the country along with Meg. Via the canal, they slip into the North Pacific.
It's not just the head winds that Elena and Meg are dealing with in North Pacific climbing north to British Columbia. It is getting colder. Once they reach the latitude of sea of Cortez, it is no longer the kind of sailing they got used to; sunny, lazy, safe. Point Conception passed, the ocean tries to thwart Elena and Meg with it's wrath throwing at them one storm after another. Still they go on, taking huge waves broadside. Elena listens to the wind howling in the rigging, can't believe where she is. In the middle of North Pacific! In a storm! And why?! Because she and Meg want to be together?
Yet another storm troughs Elena and Meg's boat into Juan da Fuca straight. Only hours later, when it calms down and she sees land all around her it drives it home for Elena; she is on the other side of the world! Canada on one side of her and Washington state on the other. They made it! But what is it? Elena isn't overwhelmed with joy. Not at all. She is worried. Can't see herself giving up the freedom she found in the ocean. After she's been pointing the boat anywhere she wanted for months. Will she loose this freedom? For how long? And why should she?
Next morning, Elena is taken away from Meg and their boat. She is a 'refugee'. In need of protection. Being processed at a building full of armed officers Elena doesn't understand why she is here and what they want from her. All she wants is to be with Meg. They both are in Canada. Why does she need a special status or treatment? She is Elena. Meg's friend. Meg's partner. Meg's everything. What do these people have to do with it?
Alone, without Elena, on their boat at her yacht club and then back home, Meg is lost. Strangely alarmed. She feels no relief or joy. Walking through her unfinished house Meg is an alien. She looks outside, at her neighbors' houses, their trash and recycling bins dutifully lined up. At the lonely dog walker. It's not just the house, Meg realizes. It is everything. She no longer belongs here. She doesn't care about this life. What she wants is to have back what she lost by tying her boat to the dock. But Elena is a refugee now. How long will that take?
After being played by Canadian Immigration for 5 years and going mad in the land of consumerism and artificiality, Elena and Meg leave British Columbia sailing south along America's West coast. Where? They aren't sure. Meg has a Canadian passport. Elena has a travel document issued to her, a refugee, by Canada that allows her entry to 7 countries visa-free. In Latin America and the Caribbean.
Their life in limbo when Elena and Meg can't plan their future waiting for a decision on Elena's citizenship application goes on and nothing seems to be changing. The lord, Canadian government, refuses to throw the bone to the dog. They hear not a pip from Canadian Immigration when they reach South California.
When they are in Mexico, three years into her application, Elena is called to attend a citizenship test she has been diligently studying for. Their hopes are up again and it seems safety, when they aren't facing deportation to two different countries, is withing their reach.
Thousands of dollars for the air fair and Elena is in Victoria again, passing the test with flying colors. But it makes no difference for the decision makers. Elena is the wrong type of the immigrant. She is no victim. She has aspirations and dreams. She doesn't spend her days toiling at the menial job. And she isn't even in Canada! Traveling on a yacht of her own no less! Elena's application goes dead again.
Months have passed. Nothing from the Immigration. Elena and Meg leave San Diego, sail to Panama, cross the canal, get nearly fried by a lightning storm in the Caribbean trying to cross it. In Charleston, SC, it feels more like home. There are old buildings there. History, European influence. Elena is inspired, Europe she and Meg dream about, is just across the Atlantic.
Elena's travel document is about to expire and Canada refuses to issue her a new one. Elena must apply for the document from within Canada. On the phone Elena pleas Canadian Immigration to understand the gravity of her situation. No deal. The woman's indifferent voice proves to Elena what she already knows. The system, especially the mean one, like Canadian Immigration, has no heart and tears won't solve anything. Meg, too, phones and is advised to leave Elena behind. In the USA! Without a travel document, the only legal way for her to get out! Meg and Elena are left with no other option but to sail from Charleston all the way to Halifax in Nova Scotia.
Elena files the application for the travel document for the sixth time and... Nothing. It looks like weather she is in Canada or not, makes no difference. Somebody is hellbent on Elena not having the freedom of movement. The very freedom she and Meg value the most. The one they can't do without. A reporter is involved. The document is issued within 24 hours. It is already November. Elena and Meg take off into a storm, crossing straight of Main. Back to America. To their beloved Trader Joe's.
A stroke of so needed luck. A program is aired on NPR with Elena and Meg. They get emails! From strangers! Who are inspired by what Elena and Meg have done years back. If only people knew that their voyage has never ended. That they are still fighting for the right to be together. Fighting for it every day. Having forgotten what it is to plan their life or not being forced to leave the country. Always on the run. Always exiles. Would it change anything, if people knew? Should Elena and Meg speak about it? Or everyone wants their triumphant arrival in Canada? And don't want to know what happened after. Don't want to know the reality of things so that their delusions about the world, oh so perfect and just, don't get crashed.
The recognition, even though by strangers, some human connection help Elena and Meg to go on. They sail south eventually reaching Florida. But even so, what now? Where to now? Bahamas is the only country near by Elena and Meg can both enter. Their destination is clear, for the time being. Neither want to look too far ahead, to ask 'Where to, after Bahamas?'
A few trips across the Gulf stream and a month later Elena and Meg are back in Florida. A good news, again! Another hope for survival. The BBC has scheduled an interview. A lava lamp in a private recording studio, helps Elena to 'just be herself' when she and Meg record the program. The owner, asks them for their photograph. May this be really it? Elena and Meg both wonder. And after this program airs their future will no longer be just ocean waves, loneliness and uncertainty? Elena doesn't like it, them relaying on media exposure for their survival. There is something sick about it. And do they actually need public's attention to go on and be happy? Or is it just a delusion and they can achieve it on their own?
As it is, life just goes on. Publicity or no publicity. Finally, 6 years after filing her citizenship application, Elena gets the answer from the Master! Shaking, she reads it: the decision is negative. Meaning Elena will not be a Canadian citizen.
Elena and Meg sit on the sofa, stunned, in the lobby of the resort the marina belongs to where they park their boat. 'Where to now?' has just gotten a whole different meaning. Elena is a Russian and will remain Russian. They are not going to be a family with the same citizenship.
Time goes by. With it, the pain of their crushed hopes and delusions subsides. Elena and Meg discover something astounding. They are still free. Canadian citizenship for Elena or not, who they are, who they have become hasn't changed. They didn't stop dreaming. They have lost nothing but their false expectations!
They have to move on, again. And it is Bahamas. Again! And so it goes, one island changes another. What is around Elena and Meg is indeed a picture of a leisure cruise. Turquoise water. White sand. A sailing yacht. It is everybody's dream come true. Yet, walking the beach on one of the deserted islands Elena is in pain. She is lonely as she has never been. She wants to run. She doesn't know where. Where is there? Russia? There is not a single person there who cares about her. And she can't face her country again. Not the way she is now. Free. Honest. Husband and children-free. As before, she would be an enemy. Only this time she wouldn't be a silent enemy and would be swiftly attacked and eliminated. This wouldn't be life. Not in the true sense. It would be imprisonment, again. And, most importantly, she and Meg would be separated.
Three months allowed in Bahamas comes to an end. Elena and Meg are anchored at the Bahamas most east outpost, Inagua island. With no bays, no protection. Waves rocking their boat, stripping them of so needed rest before tomorrow's crossing of Windward passage. Meg, exhausted by the last sleepless night, dozes off. Elena wrecks her brain. Where should they sail to? Panama or Turks and Caicos? Where do they have more options? And where will they be happier. Elena knows the answer, it isn't a good one. Her tears roll down her cheek as she watches Meg sleep.
I know, i know, you want to know how it all ends. Me too! But we are still going. And as of now, I am not sure if we will ever stop running. Lots has happened since Meg and I arrived in Bocas del Toro. It wasn't easy, here, for us. Still we prevailed. But we are not putting any of it down quit yet. We need this epoch to come to a logical conclusion. Hopefully a happy one. Time needs to pass. We need to digest, look back at what we've been through in order for it to take a shape of the story. So far, the events are still unfolding.