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 encourage others to live as it is right for them, as their heart tells them. To me, there is no other way, my life would be squandered.
On the run
Meg and I have no mutual country of citizenship. To be together, we run between the precious few places in the third-world that grant tourist entry to both Russians and Canadians. Our updates on Telegram.
My dialogues with Igor, a Russian journalist in hiding
I have been outside of Russia for years, but a part of me is still there. Will always be there. In Igor, I found the very same pain for my country. Our dialogue in Telegram morphed into this program which we are happy to share with you. It is a conversation of two people who were expelled from Russia by Russia itself. Igor and I would have never fled our country if it didn't become a monster, devouring us. Just for our desire of life. Of honesty with ourselves and others. Of a dialogue which we don't want to be punished for. With our YouTube channel called 'THE ARK' we are trying to to look inside ourselves and our compatriots and understand "where are you rushing troika Russia?", to quote Gogol. And if there is a chance we will want to return to Russia in the near years which, for us, are dwindling.
Have a question for me? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll do my best to answer it in the nearest Ark episode.
Я - Елена из Иваново. В 2005 году я познакомилась с Мег. Она взорвала мою жизнь: у неё не было мужа, не было детей и она делала то, что ей хотелось. В своём окружении я никогда не видела женщину, в которой было бы столько энергии и для которой не было бы слова "невозможно". Это был конец моему старому мировоззрению. Оно стало рушиться вместе с моими страхами. Я поняла, что бояться-то нечего. Кого мне было бояться? Своей матери, которая заставляла меня выходить замуж, предавать себя и ломать себе жизнь? Общества, которое меня уничтожало? Такое общество мне было просто не нужно.
Я сделала всё возможное, чтобы вырваться из моей темницы - из дома и страны. Я бежала к Мег в Киев в феврале 2006. С тех пор у меня началась вторая и настоящая жизнь. Я не вру ни себе, ни другим. Я живу так, как нужно мне. Важнее моей жизни для меня ничего нет.
Сегодня всё, что я делаю, направленно на то, чтобы вдохновить других бороться за свою жизнь. Ничего, кроме самой жизни, свободы и честности с самой собой, нет драгоценнее.
У нас с Мег нет общей страны. Чтобы быть вмете, мы странствуем по свету из одной страны в другую, где въезд разрешен и российским, и канадским туристам. Наши заметки в Telegram.
Мои разговоры с Игорем
Я нахожусь вне России уже много лет, но часть меня осталась там. Всегда будет там. Ту же боль за нашу страну, те же страдания и то же желание моей земле счастья я нашла в моём новом знакомом, Игоре. Наш диалог в Телеграм перерос в эту программу, которой мы делимся с Вами. Это разговор двух людей, оторванных от России самой же Россией. Мы с Игорем никогда бы не покинули нашу страну, если бы она не стала пожирающим нас чудовищем. Просто за то, что мы хотим жить. Хотим быть честными с другими и с самими собой. Хотим диалога и не хотим быть наказанными за него. Посредством нашего телевизионного моста Ковчег мы пытаемся нащупать надежду для нашей Родины. Заглянуть в себя, в наших соотечественников и понять, куда же ты несёшься, Русь. И захотим ли мы вернуться в Россию в ближайшие годы. Которых у нас становится всё меньше и меньше.
У вас есть ко мне вопрос? Присылайте его на email@example.com и я постараюсь ответить на него в ближайшем выпуске Ковчега.
TITLE: Talking to the Moon
AUTHOR: Elena Vaytsel (memoir, screenplay)
GENRE: biographical drama
COMPARABLE FILMS: Rori’s Way, Thelma and Louise, Pleasantville, Brokeback Mountain, Erin Brockovich
LOGLINE: An online encounter with a westerner spurs a Russian woman, forced into marriage and motherhood, to fight society, indoctrination and the laws of her country to live as she wants.
SUMMARY: 17 years ago, I was faced with forced marriage and motherhood. I didn't resist. So completely indoctrinated, I couldn't even conceive of standing up for myself. Russian women are groomed by their society and culture to aspire to nothing more than bondage to a man and a lifetime of childbearing and servitude.
Then, I met Meg online. The Westerner unwittingly shattered my every preconception of womanhood with nothing more, or less, than common sense. By telling me I didn't have to do what didn't feel right. By not acquiescing to bondage with someone I loathed. That I could, and should, live my life the way I want to! That I must respect myself.
What Meg wrote to me, and what I was seeing for the very first time in my life, was a representation of a woman who was not a victim. On the contrary, Meg bowed down to no-one and lived as she wanted! Her life was her own! And it was an adventure. I discovered that freedom for women was possible. This shook my whole vision of myself and I saw that I was lied to. That all along, I could make life choices that were right for me, I didn't have to hurt myself. That the dogma I'd lived all my life by was there to keep me in line; blindly participate in my own subjugation. My discovery of my own freedom clashed with the very fabric of social life in Russia where a woman has no right to her body and to chose her destiny. I had no idea what to do about it.
Meg invited me to meet up with her in Ukraine's capital, Kyiv. My first reaction was to refuse. I could not see myself existing without the approval and support of my family and society. Being with Meg, not with some man, I knew, I would immediately become a pariah. Weeks later I was no longer afraid. I saw clearly, my future would be a life-long agony and lie. It wouldn't be a life if I destroyed myself for others' vision of me. I could no longer stand my world a second longer. Meg and I finalized our plans to meet in Kyiv.
Counting down the seconds to my escape to Ukraine, I endured daily molestation by my fiancee, under threat of blackmail. My mother sensing something was afoot, fought harder to move me into a flat with Dmitry. All around me, my girlfriends were falling pregnant. I was the last one standing. An abomination. And I was planning a trip to Ukraine, to meet with a foreign stranger. Worse yet - with a woman. In the eyes of others I was acting strangely, and I was keenly watched. It was going take all of my stamina and resources to escape the future that was laid out for me. Hardening with every new day.
On the day of my escape, I was a machine, letting none of my emotions show. With only a secret in me - in a few hours I would be free and with Meg! I endured the last minutes with my boyfriend at the bus station, spent six hours freezing on the bus to Moscow, crossed Moscow barely aware of anything around me. And finally I was at Domodedovo airport, watching the jets outside, in awe. Life of my own was within my grasp! Breathless, nearly fainting, I boarded my flight.
Words can't describe what I felt when the jet touched Borispol's tarmac. I was aware of every step I was making crossing the airport. Meg was waiting for me just beyond a few walls. Meters between us dwindling! And I was at the very beginning of my new life! Without lies and self-destruction. Never before I felt as alive and looked forward to the future as i did then.
When my and Meg's eyes met I felt as though I was struck by a lightning. Meg was before me, looking at me! I was in her life and she was in mine! We were real for each other, no longer just words on the computer screen. I walked on, unaware of anything but Meg's face getting closer.
Surrounded by people greeting, hugging, Meg and I stood before each other, studying each other, speechless. I had no clue what awaited for me, how I will be able to survive and it didn't matter. That very moment, I was living my life my way. For the very first time! I was ready to do anything to keep having that.
Q & A
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!
My connection to Russia today
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.