PREVIOUSLY, I described my escape from Russia, via land and sailboat, to be with another woman in Canada (“Leaving Russia: A Personal Odyssey,” September-October 2009). My Canadian girlfriend Meg and I had been living together for two weeks in Kiev, Ukraine, when my parents, having followed me from Russia, physically attacked us for being gay. They made it clear that they would stop at nothing to keep me from Meg and return me to Russia for treatment in a mental hospital. Although we survived the assault and kidnapping attempt on March 1, 2006, and went into hiding in Ukraine, my parents continued to hunt us down. To survive, we ran. We made it to Turkey, bought a sailboat, and sailed to Canada.
On May 7, 2010, in Vancouver, British Columbia, a member of the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) declared me a refugee as defined by the unhrc’s Convention on Refugees. As a result, I was granted asylum in Canada as a “protected person.” I am now safe, and Meg and I don’t have to run any more.
When we landed in British Columbia, after battling the North Pacific in winter for 27 days, I was taken off our sailboat by Canadian Border Services officers to start the long process of filling out countless forms. Less than 24 hours earlier, I had been fighting for my life in ocean storms, and suddenly I was sitting in an office with lights, people, pictures on walls, plants, desks, and food.