10 years of migration

Ten years ago, I, 19 years old, packed my whole life into one suitcase, got on a plane with a one-way ticket, and flew away without planning to come back.

To be honest, I still don’t know how everything worked out back then. How did I make a decision to move out, how did my parents have a 100-percent trust in me, how did hundreds of little things get solved in a puzzle and lead to this event, which changed my life forever.

Despite the fact that so many years have passed, so much has happened, or perhaps precisely because SO MUCH has happened, the memories of that time are some of my deepest, rawest memories.

France was my childhood dream, and I went there, in fact, as a child, or at least a very immature adult. On the one hand, I made the decision to move completely on my own, I planned, learned the system, went through the entire bureaucracy on my own. But on the other hand, at that time, my young maximalist brain could not apprehend the scale of this “undertaking” and all the related pitfalls.

Summer 2010 at the dacha (Russian country house)

For my parents as well, it was not easy to digest everything that was going on. They were used to trust in my confidence and “rationality”. Somehow, my parents then managed to save up money for one year of my life in France (studies themselves were free, except for a one-time fee of 200 euros for a library, sports, etc.). Nobody knew what would happen in a year, whether there would be even an opportunity to save money for the next year of my studies in France. Back at that time, my parents did not have any savings which they could use if necessary.

Simply put, the whole idea was a pure gamble.

The first problem appeared when searching for accommodation for a visa.

Summer 2010, at the dacha – searching for an apartment in Strasbourg

I haven´t managed to rent an apartment at a distance, without the guarantor required in France (a French person who would agree to pay rent instead of me in case of my inability to pay). As a solution only for the purpose of visa application, I booked a hotel for the first three months, with the idea that I would quickly find accommodation on the spot, and then cancel the remaining reservation. So did other Russians, with whom I exchanged information and advice at the Russian-French forum.

I applied for a visa at the end of July 2010. Three days later, I receive a message that the documents are ready. I remember how I dressed up in a perky floral dress and went from Tula to Moscow to receive the visa.

Visa Refusal.

Red stamp in my passport. This is the end. A disaster. All my plans, the year of preparations… Everything is screwed up, ruined. Besides, I have already un-registered from my university in Moscow, and there is a person who will fill in the free place I left.

Here comes the first sobering reality. I still have two photographs for documents that I took with an interval of two weeks: before and after visa refusal. In these photos, you can see already two different persons.

Before visa refusal

After visa refusal

I spent an evening crying. And then started to figure out what is the problem with my visa documents. Of course, it is the lack of an apartment.

The next weeks were foggy. Literally, since during that summer 2010 Moscow and Tula were in fact covered in fog, or rather in a smoke haze from fires caused by abnormal heat. I am desperately looking for an apartment. And I am also desperately trying to get an appointment for the new visa – everything is booked until mid-September, whereas if I do not arrive in France before September 13, I will not be able to enroll in the university, and the whole process of admission has to start from the scratch.

One day the person on the line finally answers me and don´t stop the conversation after I say that I am Russian, I am in Russia and I want to rent an apartment from a distance. The real estate agent is ready to rent me an apartment at a distance and without a guarantor, but upon condition that I pay for the entire year of rent in advance – “before” signing the contract.

Gamble again. But there is no other way out either. We transfer money, send a signed contract by express mail. And in a few days, we get it back with the signature from the owner.

I also managed to book an appointment at the embassy. This time, there was no flower dress and no exciting anticipation, no place for feelings, only a goal that HAD to be achieved.

On September 3, I received a visa.

The same evening, I booked tickets to Cologne in order to get from there by train to Strasbourg (it was cheaper, and in Cologne, I would be met by a friend with her family, who then gave me a few essentials, like bed linen and a towel).

We packed the suitcase. The whole family drove to the airport in my brother’s new car – the first car in our family. I clarify that the car was new and the first because back then we did not understand how long it would take us to reach the airport and did not take into account traffic jams.

Even if the statute of limitations for the traffic violations has already expired, let me still omit some details from that trip. As soon as we saw the airport building, we stopped in the middle of the road – my mother and I ran as fast as possible, followed by my father with a 30-kilogram suitcase, and my brother who went to look for a parking spot. We ran up to the registration desk precisely 4 minutes before its closing.

At that moment I did not feel any emotions except adrenaline. No sadness about leaving my parents, home, country. No doubts, no worries. “Just get on a plane and fly away.”

And this was only the very beginning of my 10-year long journey. The number of events, ups, and downs I had during this time are off the scale.

How do I feel now after these 10 years?

Obviously, for a long time, I do not feel the same person I was while I lived in Russia.

I do not feel fully Russian anymore, although the relationship with my homeland over the years have also transformed in different ways from denial to acceptance and respect of my roots.

In the same way, I do not feel like a German or a French, even less Dutch (where I lived for only a year). Each of these countries became very close to me, each had a great influence on my personality and each I understand and love with all my heart. But as of today, I still don’t feel like I have fully landed at my destination.

These 10 years and my moves don’t look like this:

Definitely not.

My husband, Mexican by birth, and since last year also German by passport, who moved 12 years ago, describes his move as follows:

You are no longer at point “A”, but you also carry this “A” luggage with you and combine it with point “B”.

I agree with this vision, it describes immigration much more accurately, although in my case the picture of the world looks a little different:

Having departed from point “A” on September 7, 2010, I never ceased my journey. It continues today. I stop, feel the place, I change, but I’m still afraid to fully settle down. My luggage grows in size and weight over time, but I continue to carry it with me in search of the next flight.

Maybe at some point, I will understand that there is no need to go further, my home is here. Subconsciously, I may have even realized that I have landed in my “ABCD” already, I just don’t want to accept it.

I know for sure that I would not like to return to Russia. Yes, my family, my cherished past, including people, and, for example, my school – are there. Origins, some habits that I kept, my character, even some of my judgments are from there.

But I am already a foreigner and a guest in Russia. And I couldn´t agree and live with many things there.

Do I regret anything?

Definitely not. I tried to regret my weaknesses along the way, but it’s useless. The main thing is that after all coincidences and non-coincidences, everything turned out exactly the way it is today. And my today is wonderful.

Posted by m.migalina

Leave a Reply