I am Elena!
In June 2005, I met a person online who overturned my world. By sharing with me her life, she helped me face the reality I was living and the life-long trap and nightmare I was heading for. Meeting Meg was my tipping point. I could no longer keep betraying myself and living a lie, for others. In February 2006, I ran from my home in Russia and a few months later headed for the open sea. I wasn't afraid. This was the best time of my life! Finally, I was in control of my destiny.
In April 2007, Meg and I reached Meg's home in British Columbia. That voyage changed my whole life and reshaped me completely. I became my authentic self! I loved myself and discovered that I had dreams and the courage and strength to pursue them.
I do everything in my power to inspire others to live their finite years on this planet honestly, in accordance with what their heart tells them. For me, there is no point to do otherwise. My life would be squandered.
To anybody who feels they don't determine their life...
but want to finally start living, fully, honestly, without self-betrayal and lies. I would recommend to listen to your heart. Figure out, what it is you want. Never listen to those, who hold you down and undermine you in any way. You have got your best friend already. It is you! You just need to listen to yourself. As for the forces that we have very little control over, I would say, screw it. There is always somebody, who is ruling over us and who we are stuck with. But what we can do, is to make small steps each day that are right for us. Be honest, mainly with yourself. Define, what bothers you and why. Do, what you need to, for you! The very first action I took that was right for me, gave me the life I have now! In the roar of voices around me who screamed I was horrible and wrong, I listened to my heart just once. I sought Meg out. I found her! And we have a life together!
I don't know why Canada never granted me citizenship...
The burden of answer isn't on me, but on Canada. As for me, Canada was never high on my list of things to do. I don't have to like Canada or want to be there. Meg and I headed for her home in Victoria, not for Canada per se.
In Atlantic, it dawned on me, I was in the open ocean...
five thousand meters of water underneath me, the boat's edge being the ledge of a skyscraper. I was scared. Of course I was. Hell, I knew nothing about weather, oceans or sailing. But this was the time of my life when I was the most alive! I took charge of my life and I loved myself. For the first time ever! Before then, before being honest with myself and following my heart, I had no idea life could be that good.
Elena near Marmaris, Turkey, May 2006, learning to sail. Superimposed, the map of the journey Elena has been going through on her and Meg's sailboat over the last 16 years, in order to stay with Meg, by Lenta.ru
How could I plunge into a planet-crossing voyage without any sailing experience or the right to land?
A life without Meg and without freedom to live as I need to, for myself, wasn't worth living for me. Once I was with Meg and away from my home, I never considered coming back. It would be the end of me. My family and my society were my jail. What I had with Meg, be that on land or at sea, was incomparable to the way I lived in Russia. It was the greatest time I had ever had in my life. I was with the woman I loved and I was appreciated, not attacked, for who I was and what I wanted in life! I wasn't afraid. I wanted more. I never felt, that I made a conscious decision to sail across the world and reach Meg's home. I was just doing what was right for me. One step at the time. My primary goals being, staying with Meg and living on my own terms.
What did I discover?
I learned to love myself. I find it to be the most important gift one can find. To learn to listen to what your heart tells you and to love yourself. If you don't, not only you will never be happy; you will squander your life.
What was I afraid of?
My greatest fear was to be separated from Meg. The second fear was, to be dragged back to my jail in Russia. The third, to perish at sea.
What did my journey do for me?
I have grown up and matured in the way I could have never imagined. I became a hero for my former self, who, I feel, is still in Russia. If I saw my current self, years back in Russia, I would have never believed it was me. Who I became and how I live now, is my dream come true.
What about the hurricane?
Crossing Atlantic, Meg and I were caught in a hurricane with a large part of our head sail open. The furling unit was jammed and there was no way we could do anything about it with the sea conditions the way they were. Wind was 40 knots, then 65. The waves were walls of water rolling onto us, lifting us. When we were on their tops the boat was trying to position itself parallel to the waves. It took Meg inhuman stamina and strength to not let the boat do that. She was at it for hours, for as long as it took for the hurricane to go over us. She didn't leave the helm once!
Looking at the sea, the endless valley of angry, boiling waves meters high, I knew, this could be the end of us. We were overpowered by the wind with the open jenoa. There was nobody for hundreds of miles we could call for help and we could be killed right there and then. But what I was thinking about was, what an amazing sight I was witnessing and what an amazing person Meg was. She just kept struggling with the helm. I fed her cookies with her not releasing the helm. I put her jacket onto her, one arm at the time. She was amazing. She wasn't afraid! She never is, that's why I always thought she was an alien.
If Meg was asked about that episode, she would play down what she did, how brave she was. She would just say, she did what she had to. But I know her saving our lives in Atlantic and what she is doing every day presently to keep us both alive and together, is outstanding. She infected me with her bravery and defiance. We were even laughing then, right in the middle of the hurricane. This was amazing laughter. We were alive! At that moment, we cherished our life and each other like never before. I often recall that day, to remind myself how precious life is and that it can end in a flash.
How did I deal with the fear of drowning?
Meg isn't afraid of the sea or dying. I was then and still am afraid of the sea. I m not particularly crazy about it, never dreamed of it or sailing. I ended up at sea to stay with Meg and go on with my life. There was nothing I could do about my fear of drowning. I couldn't just make it vanish and our destination was on the other side of the world. Fear or no fear, we had to move on. I had to overcome it. Live with it. I still do. As long as there is no country for us, we are always back at sea. If I choose to be with Meg, I also choose to deal with whatever happens to me offshore.
What was arriving to Meg's home like?
When I saw lights of Victoria in the dark, I was relieved, but I wasn't overjoyed. Mostly it meant, we could finally stop sailing. By then, it has been nearly a year! I forgot what living on land was like. And I wasn't sure if I needed humans or the way they lived. Meg and I have become a country onto ourselves. I needed to be with Meg and to be free. By the time we arrived in BC, I had everything I wanted.
What I was glad to see in Victoria, was Meg's home. Meg's house was Meg for me. I imagined, how she wrote her emails to me in her kitchen, or how she was packing for Kiev. I couldn't believe I was actually there! Before then, I saw Meg's house only in the photos, Meg sent me in her emails. It felt like a dream. I was there! And Meg and I were together!
Do I have any connection to Russia and my family?
My connection to Russia, presently, is two people. One of them is my former co-student. I am very glad I reconnected with her and found true support and friend in her. We frequently chat and dream of seeing each other again, one day. The other person, is a journalist who I worked with on an article about my story. I have no communication with my family.
My escape wasn't about my love for Meg. It was about my love for myself and my life. The whole of my struggle was about the freedom to choose my own path. To live as I want.
I am outside of Russia, away from it's hateful society. But I feel like it isn't over for me. I am sick of my compatriots', my sisters' suffering and abuse. Russia won't change, I know that. Not in the near future. Women need to start living now! To do that, they need to change. To change their attitude towards themselves and their place in society. They need to know that they have talents, that they are capable. That they can achieve anything they put their mind to. Women need to stop thinking like victims and start respecting themselves. To know that a woman isn't a man's or state's property. That she is owned by no one and beholden to no one!
Want more women to take back their lives?
Don't send money anywhere or write to anybody. It won't do anything. The way you can change the world to better for women, is by telling a story. Showing a woman the alternative. Right now, she has no idea she can be free. She thinks she is a thing, a servant, a man's sex toy and has to crank babies.
A few messages to women
If you don't want to be knocked around by your husband/boyfriend, here is an idea. Don't tie yourself to an asshole.
Don't want to get pregnant? Don't have sex with an asshole!
Respect yourself. Stand up for yourself and your life for once!
Women let others trash their lives because they believe that being a woman makes them a victim. A thing, an object. An inferior. That freedom, as such, isn't for them!