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Returning to the U.S.? What to Do?

Man with passport and bag

Davy Crockett once said, “First, be sure your right and go ahead.” It’s a motto I’ve tried to live by. Make a (good or right) decision and move toward it as quickly as possible. Don’t let anything stand in the way. It’s gotten me into some dangerous situations, but everything worked out – and I have some great stories to tell. However, barging ahead doesn’t work when you have other people to consider. Now the question I face is “Do we move to the U.S., or do we stay in Russia?”

The Green Card Process

We applied for my wife’s Green Card visa in Sep. 2018. We gathered the documents, found a sponsor who agreed to cover our bills if we were out of work (the U.S. government can sue a sponsor for unemployment benefits), and paid the first of four exorbitant fees for the initial processing of the Green Card request. Then we heard nothing. There was no one to contact because we were told that to do so would jeopardize our standings. We kept checking the status online, and there was no change.

A year went by, and our application moved to the next stage and the next fee. A couple of months after that, and the application went to the next stage. Finally, we had our interview and our next fees. The first week of March 2020, we went to the embassy in Moscow and were approved to come to the United States. Jenya’s passport stayed at the embassy and would be sent to use in the following week to 10 days. This was still at a time when the president was talking about how the coronavirus was hoax, the cases would go from 15 to 0, it was under control, and it would magically disappear.

The passport arrived 11 days after our interview. The next day, the borders were closed. We couldn’t get a flight out, but I was trusting enough to believe the U.S. would get the issue under control. We just had to wait while people did what they needed to do to create a healthy society again. I stopped my volunteer work in solidarity with the shutdowns going on elsewhere in the world. The embassy sent us emails with charter flights available back to the U.S. It wasn’t clear whether or not Jenya would be allowed to go on those flights, but it looked like it. The problem was that we would get the notice with only two days to get to Moscow, which wasn’t possible from where we live in Russia.

In the U.S., cases were increasing, so we thought we could wait the virus out. Things would be okay in the summer. Given the assurances of the president and the lack of contradictory information from his advisors, we decided this would be the most prudent thing to do. I could be in Russia until August 15. Jenya had to be in the U.S. by August 31. No one should have to travel during a global pandemic anyway. I paid the last of our fees, just incase we found a secret flight out, we would be ready to go.

We had purchased flights for July 23 and 24, but all international flights were canceled. We effectively lost $1200 because the two airlines involved and CheapOAir are only offering credits on the specific airlines to be used by the specific person. Nordwind is a regional operator that we will never be able to use once we leave Russia. Turkish Air doesn’t fly out of Oregon. Both airlines are facing financial instability as part of the consequences of the pandemic. I even bought insurance thinking I would be covered. Always read the fine print. The insurance only covers us in the case of our own illness or death. (Moral of the strory: Don’t book through CheapOAir, and definitely don’t get their insurance.)

Russia’s borders remain closed. All visas from Russia got an extension until Sep. 15. Jenya’s Green Card visa, which took us over 18 months and more than $2,000 to get, still has the same time constraints. If she’s not in the country by August 31, we will have to start the whole process over, including finding a new sponsor, who can be financially responsible for us. There are commercial flights available beginning on August 1, but no one is sure that Russia will reopen the border then. We have those tickets from Moscow to the U.S., but we haven’t secured regional flight tickets, yet. (Nordwind flies a week before our scheduled take off or four days after; neither of those work for us.) It’s important to note that the Green Card visa doesn’t guarantee entry. There’s one more interview at the border.

Should We Even Bother

The whole reason for us to go to the United States was for the opportunity. As a writer and a handmade creator, we could go to holiday markets and comic conventions to sell our wares and garner more fans. We could open up a small store on the coast and create a community place where people would gather to improve their creativity. However, coronavirus is not going away any time soon, and the lack of leadership at the state and federal levels is exacerbating the problem with conspiracy theory tweets and dumbass statements. There are anecdotal and unsubstantiated reports that people can get coronavirus more than once. Spain’s early research says that herd immunity isn’t an option. And the U.S.’s largest problem regarding this issue is that people won’t wear masks. Instead, they cling to freedumb and conspiracy theories that are easily debunked with a little critical thinking.

Worse, those that don’t wear masks feel like it’s their duty to yell at people who do (and vice versa). Stores that make a policy requiring their customers to wear masks are well within their rights according to the law. No shirt, no shoes, no mask, no service – if you don’t like it, go to another store. (Or if you love the store, see if they’ll serve you outside the building.) My wife is in a vulnerable category; your mask could save her life. Your lack of mask could kill her.

We don’t know if its worth the effort and the aggravation of telling people they can only enter the store with a properly worn mask. No one likes to be yelled at. Even getting normal jobs where masks are required, it’s definitely not worth working for minimum wage to be screamed at for something you, as a peon (pee-on in trickle-down terms) employee, have no control over. Businesses are just trying to protect their frontline workers, and those workers have no say in the policy.

In Russia, South Korea, and pretty much every other part of the world, masks have become an accepted part of everyday life. No one is dying of asphyxiation or having panic attacks, except Karens and Kens of the United States, who also aren’t dying but by their actions, you’d think they were. If you’re a patriot, you’re not being asked to go to war and face death; you’re being asked to wear a mask. Wear the damn mask.

Military Occupation of Portland

Look, if it were just coronavirus, I probably wouldn’t have this many doubts. I would just get on the plane and hope for the best. I have public health training, worked for the Red Cross as an instructor and Health and Safety manager, and my wife is a doctor. We can’t eliminate all possibilities of disease transmission, but we can limit our exposure. We have the knowledge to stay as safe as we can, and we understand that life is inherently filled with risks. However, the recent abduction of U.S. citizens off the streets of Portland by people dressed in full tactical military gear is utterly frightening and incomprehensible. Armed protesters are able to storm state capitol buildings without incident, but protesters with water bottles chanting in the streets are to be gassed, shot and maimed with rubber bullets, and beaten with batons.

The people being snatched off the street have no idea who is taking them, why they are being taken or where they are being taken. They simply get grabbed, thrown in an unmarked van and whisked away. The soldiers(?), agents(?), racist thugs, POSs… don’t identify themselves, which could set up a huge conflict. Anyone who legally owns a gun would probably pull it out on these agents and defend themselves. It’s easy enough to get these kinds of costumes from the Internet. The soldiers could be kidnappers intent on killing the person. NEVER GO TO A SECOND LOCATION. The resulting firefight would probably end up with a dead snatchee and several injured bystanders. If they are government agents, it would also give the federal government more ground to overstep its bounds.

We have due process for a reason. It starts with probable cause, which does not include walking down the street late at night, law enforcement identifying itself as such, giving the person a chance to surrender with violence, and the reading of the Miranda Rights. And the federal government (i.e. the president) has said that Portland was just the beginning.

Gun Violence and Threats

Added to this is America’s endemic gun violence. When the waitstaff at a restaurant asks you to wear a mask while you’re waiting for your food, you do not get to threaten that staff by saying, “I have an exemption” and raising up your shirt to show your gun. Your Second Amendment right is not there to allow you to threaten people who are just doing their jobs. It’s there so you can protect yourself against a government gone bad. It’s also there, so you can protect yourself and your family from criminals. The waitstaff, grocery store clerk, protesters passing outside your home, homeless guy who takes your baton while you’re walking down the street, or black guy jogging through the neighborhood are not people you get to intimidate with your show of force. Use your words; guns are only supposed to be used in extreme situations.

Home, Sweet, Home

The U.S. is still my home. I think there might be more opportunity there for us, but I can’t see it through the haze of violence, idiocy, hatred, and anger driven from the top of lacking leadership. I can’t tell if I’m pushing us to come home to a place that no longer exists and may never exist again. (You can’t go home, again.) Or if I’m making a good decision in the face of adverse current conditions. We’d be safer and more economically secure staying in Russia. My wife has a job that keeps food on the table, and we have a place to live. There’s no risk of economic bankruptcy due to illness because everyone’s covered through insurance. There is little health risk because everyone wears masks, and people are more cognizant of each other.

However, there’s little possibility of us bettering our situation unless I write a best seller or two. We won’t make our fortune here, our diet will remain the same, and I’ll find it difficult to afford English books while also facing a paucity of choice. On the other hand, if Russia pulls out of the coronavirus better than the U.S., I’ll be able to travel more, mostly to Southeast Asia.

I don’t know what the correct answer is. I’m sad, frustrated, angry, and disgusted at what the America has become, especially as its seen from 5,000 miles away. It shouldn’t be that way, but we, as a country, can’t seem to “be best” with the current lacking leadership focused on name-calling, blaming, and bankrupting the country morally and monetarily while pretending to push an “economics first” agenda.

2 thoughts on “Returning to the U.S.? What to Do?

  1. The part of me who is cheep says – spent the money go forward. The part of me that loves the European lifestyle with health insurance and safety says stay. I do think it will be hard starting a new business where you want people to come to you. Best of luck whatever you choose!

    1. Yeah, for better or worse, the choice was made for us because of the time it takes for a new residence permit to be granted through the government in Russia. If I wanted to stay, I would have had to take the test and apply in February or March. We are switching up the store model into more of a studio outlet with everything online. Hopefully, I’ll be able to pull in some clients and more fully monetize my web presence. 🙂

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