I can’t believe it has been 10 years since your epic journey started, and I didn’t know about it! And I’m a pretty up-to-date and informed person. I can’t believe the world didn’t know.
When we got to Canada, we offered the story to the media and there was absolutely no interest. Canadians themselves poo-pooed what we had done, so we went on with our lives. It wasn’t until Francesca Visser, of Prospekt Magazine released her article, “I never wanted to be with a man: escaping Russia for Canada”, that we had any idea people were interested in this story.
Where is the English translation of your book, Talking to the Moon? I started reading some of it here on your site, and I even sent money to see more. Will you re-post it?
ELENA: If the book will be translated, it won’t be by Meg and I. We did try very hard to make it work but we were not happy with the results. Neither of us is a professional translator and neither of us knows both languages flawlessly.
MEG: We gave it the good ol’ college try, but we can’t make the structural differences between the two languages work. Also, the emotional payload was getting lost no matter how hard we tried.
It turns out, I wrote a narrative of the events of our escape way back in 2010. It was an unpublished and early draft. However, a re-read shows it has promise. It has the emotional payload, wasn’t fictionalized or “punched up,” (like The Russian Factor was) and can be re-written and e-published in a few weeks. It’s called “Forbidden Horizon“. As chapters are readied for release, we are posting them here, on this site.
Where are you now and what are you doing?
ELENA: Currently we are on the Atlantic coast of North America trying to outran the winter and get South. We also try to figure out how we can follow our dream of traveling the world on our “vessel of freedom” without ending up dead. Not only Immigration Canada was refusing to issue me Refuge Travel Document throughout entire year and trapped us in Nova Scotia, I am stateless till this day with my citizenship application being in process for nearly 6 years.
Why didn’t Elena return to Russia to get a visa for Canada?
ELENA: I, along with Meg, had been violently assaulted by my parents. They had stolen my passport and were in possession of all the documents and my money that I would need to apply for a visa. They had made it clear they would not relinquish my documents, would resort to violence to prevent me from seeing Meg, or any other woman, would literally chain me down in the apartment I lived in with them — should I return for my documents, would put me in a mental hospital to be treated for lesbianism. Meg wouldn’t be allowed into Russia (Canadians need consular visas for Russia they can only get in Canada). Also, being a lesbian, Russian police would treat me as a criminal and side with my parents.
When Elena got her passport back, why didn’t you just buy plane tickets to Canada?
ELENA: A Russian needs a consular visa to visit Canada, which can only be applied for from within Russia. See the FAQ, Why didn’t Elena return to Russia to get a visa for Canada? Although I had my passport back, I was very suspicious of why they let me have it (a Trojan horse). Also my parents had all of my other documents I would need to present to the Canadian consulate. If they knew why I wanted those documents, Russian authorities or officials would absolutely not help me to replace them.
How did Meg’s family react to your ordeal and how did they support you during and after the journey?
MEG: I don’t think anyone really noticed or gave it much thought — my bio-family is obscenely wealthy and have their own problems to deal with, so no reaction or support, then again I didn’t count on any, so it wasn’t a factor. As far as afterward; nothing’s changed, pretty much like it never happened. Then again, stuff like what Elena and I do and have done, it’s just not their thing. There certainly isn’t any support or acknowledgment from them now.
Elena, you wrote a book about your ordeal. How popular is the story/book in Russia and what feedback do you get from Russian readers?
ELENA: I get wonderful feedback form Russian speaking people from all over the world, including USA. I am absolutely touched by their words. However very few people from former USSR are exposed to the story. My book, and in fact, this website, would be illegal in Russia as propaganda of homosexuality. It is a big risk for people in Russia to access this site, or be found with any of its content in their possession. From my own family members, those who are around my age, I received no feedback. My guess is that they find the concept of doing what I did unthinkable. They can’t conceive that someone would be willing to go to such lengths to fight for her life. Women in Russia are not expected to have their own opinion and especially desire to live their life the way they want to and fight for it.
How would this story have turned out if Meg hadn’t been rich?
ELENA: Simple – we would still be together. Only perhaps we wouldn’t end up in Canada, but somewhere in Europe. One thing I can tell you is that I would do anything in my power to stay with Meg. I would cling to her, I would hold on to her, I would not let her go. We would be separated only if we were torn apart physically. And even then she would remain with me, in my heart till I could escape to her and be with her again.
Elena, do you have any communication with your family in Russia now?
ELENA: My family is Meg. As far as my relatives in Russia are concerned, those of them who are aware of the fact that I connected my life with a woman haven’t acknowledged my relationship with Meg or my life in North America. Some of them believe I immigrated to Canada for economic reasons. There is no relationship between me and my mother. There is no point for her to get closer to me. I am nothing but disgrace for her – I have no husband, no children, I don’t exhibit signs of wealth, and I encourage people to liberate themselves from conditioning and subjugation. As for my relatives, I think they can’t comprehend why Meg and I undertook the “mad” trip. Not only because we are both women and such union is unwelcome in Russia, but mostly because all-consuming affection – when all that matters to you is being with the person you love – is an alien concept to them.
Elena, do you miss Russia and do you see yourself visiting it in the future?
ELENA: Russia was my home for 27 years of my life. It is where I was born, and it is where part of my heart will always remain. I do miss my home country. I miss the closeness that I had with people whom I shared the same history with, the same roots, the same culture. I miss the Russian language terribly. I envy Russians who are in Russia and who speak the language without even realizing how lucky they are to be speaking it. I love and appreciate everything that country gave me, now more than I did when I was there. But I would think twice before revealing myself to a Russian anywhere in the world or in Russia. There is something I have now, a sort of freedom in me, a character I have got, that Russians, especially Russian women, resent and despise me for. It is my will to stand up for myself, to fight what they call “fate”.
I am not sure if there is or will be a way for me to visit Russia and ever be allowed to leave again, but if there was such a way, I would absolutely want to see Russia again. I dream about it. Meg and I would like very much to take a trip via the Trans-Siberian railway.