Russia Home Visit Invitation
January of 2000 I decided to visit my friend in Russia. One kind of visa was by invitation to visit one's home. Olga started the process in Pyatigorsk in February. Knowing that tickets cost less in advance, I purchased my flight to Russia for May 16. It would be my second trip to Russia. In 1997 after teaching the summer in Lithuania I made a 3 day excursion to St. Petersburg.
To visit Olga, I waited and waited for the official invitation so I could send to get my visa. Olga was told it was in the process. By April they had not yet issued the invitation. Then due to corruption, the office in Pyatigorsk was closed. It was then a 14 hour round trip for Olga to go to Stavropol. A On May 9 Olga made her third trip to Stavropol and finally got the invitation. On the morning I was to leave, the invitation came.
I had no visa but I had the Official Russian Invitation. I left for New York City and my Aeroflot flight. The Russian woman checking documents in New York was not going to let me go, but gave in when I begged her and said I would get my visa in Moscow.
In Moscow I was arrested for deportation! To be arrested for deportation at Sherometevo Airport meant you were detained behind the exit gates.
Olga had little money and had taken the 2 day train ride to Moscow to meet me. She and her cousin (that lived in Moscow and spoke English) were on the other side of the barriers some where.
With tears I told one of the young supervisors of the gates my problem and how Olga had suffered to get there on the other side some where waiting for me. He was kind and said he would try to find her and bring her into the baggage clearing area so I could talk to her over the clear plastic wall.
A few minutes later he had found Olga and her cousin Luda. He brought them to the other side of the plastic barrier. The barrier was about 3 meters high but the ceiling was much higher. We were able to call over the barriers.
It was sad but there was nothing we could do! We would email each other when I got home. Olga had a 2 day train ride. After some time we said good bye and Olga and Luda left. would take me some time to get from New York City to Buffalo after a 10 hour flight the next day. I was devastated to see what Olga was going through.
There must have been 15 or so waiting for their deportation flight. We were given meal tickets for a restaurant there in the "International Area". This is where all the duty free shops are. If you had the documents you were free to pass through the gate! There were no beds. Detained people were just sleeping on the floor.
After a couple hours of talking to others that spoke some English, I had learned the authority structure and offices for those. I knew where the office of the chief officer was. I was told over and over "YOU CAN NOT GET A VISA FROM WITHIN THE COUNTRY!!!"
I remembered a verse in the bible that seemed to help. Ecclesiastes 7:16 "Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself?"
I had about $250. I put it in my passport and went to wait in line to see the Chief Government Officer there. My turn came. When I was called in I found he spoke English. I told him my story and handed him my passport with my money in it. He took the money and told me he would see what could be done!
After about an hour he called me in and asked how much money I had. I said none but I had a bank card. He gave me $100 back and handed the rest to his secretary. She filled it in as the amount of a fine and he had me issued a 2 week visa. The next hour I spent trying to reach Olga at Luda's. I had no idea of how much time and trouble it was to get across Moscow and out to the airport. Finally they got home and started their trip back!
How our sadness was turned into joy. Below is Olga on return to the airport.
The next day we were on the train heading to southern Russia to meet Olga's daughter and family.