Running from one country, that allows both Canadians and Russians to land, to another, aboard the boat they fled with from Turkey, is how Elena and Meg stay alive and together.
Why Elena and Meg Are Running
Elena's immigration process in Canada was a decade long blunder, during which she and Meg were stripped of freedom of movement and the right to plan their life. In September 2018, it concluded with Canada making a negative decision on Elena's citizenship application.
Since Canada refused to issue her a refugee travel document in 2016, Elena is forced to travel with the passport of her citizenship. Canada sees this as Elena accepting the protection of her home country, Russia, called “re-availment". If Elena returns to Canada, a secession order will be initiated to strip her of refugee status and permanent residency.
Presently, Meg and Elena are a Canadian and a Russian, holding passports of Canada and Russia. They have been a family for 17 years. The only way they can continue being together, is by bouncing between the few countries where both Russians and Canadians are admitted as tourists. Since the war in Ukraine began, the number of such countries has been steadily decreasing.
What They Want to Call Home
ELENA: We've been dreaming of living in Scotland for years. We even considered sailing there on our weary, broken boat — which would require crossing the Atlantic. However, the likely course of events, should we approach the UK’s shores, would be us both being arrested, me, as an illegal migrant, Meg as a human smuggler. And deported — Meg to Canada — me to Russia.
Still, we hope to end up in Europe, which we consider to be our home. The only place where we can try to make that happen, with me being a Russian, is Montenegro. That may very well change with the war in Ukraine.
The Map of Elena and Meg's Life on the Run
The map was made by the Russian publication Lenta.ru in December 2021. Since then, Elena and Meg escaped Latin America and added to their voyage many more miles.
When Meg and I got together in Ukraine what we wanted was to continue being together and go on with our life. I never considered the ramifications of my being an immigrant in Meg's country. Worse yet, a refugee. And Meg had no idea what she was getting herself into by bringing me to Canada.
When we arrived our life was put on hold. I was a refugee claimant when Canadian government was issuing me one useless paper after another. While years of our life were flying by. Crossing oceans on the way to Meg's home, I thought we would be done with the paper crap in a year and would go on with our life and travels. In reality, after having spent five years in Canada I had only been granted the status of permanent resident. With more years of waiting and in limbo if I wanted to be like Meg, having a country and a passport of something other than Russia.
We left British Columbia by our boat in September 2012 and have been living on the run ever since. We refused to play more of the waiting game with Canadian Immigration and chose to live our lives instead. Canada punished us for it, of course. They dragged my citizenship application for more than a decade, eventually making a negative decision. And they refused to issue me Canadian Travel Document forcing me to travel with a Russian passport. If I enter Canada a secession order will be initiated against me to strip me of permanent resident status.
Where does all of this leave me and Meg? In between a few countries we, a Russian and a Canadian, can enter as tourists. We are tired of boating and the sea. But this is all we have. There is no place in the world where we both can stay legally. We have no families waiting for us. All we have is two passports of two enemy states. And my country waging a war making me yet less desirable worldwide. The boat keeps breaking while what we desperately want is to get off it. To come back to the world of humans. To stand on land again and know that we aren't under a deadline to return to the sea.
I know, I know. Why, in the hell, did we leave Canada where Meg and I could be together? Because Canada only grants us this right by taking away our freedom. We do not settle for such a deal. And really, it isn't only about being together. It is also about one's life, how short and precious it is. And about dignity.