Questions and Answers

Elena Vaytsel, Елена Вайцель
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 a journalist from Moscow who I worked with on an article about my story. Like me, he lives in exile outside of Russia. I have no communication with my family.

What about the war in Ukraine?

Meg and I are with the Ukrainian people in our thoughts and are watching their courageous fight against, what I can only call, evil.