Vladimir Mukotaev

Scene 1: Departure

I am at my grandmother's flat, she is trying to assure me that I don’t have to move to the United States because nobody needs me there. A birthplace determines a walk of life and there is no place like home. I did not understand that completely before I came here, but that had been in prospect to me. We sit at the table and I am touching grandma’s hand; I try to memorize its warmth, because who knows what can happen while I am in America.

That was winter time so I can smell frosty air and see the sunny sky in the street. On the TV is showing another stupid program which grandma believes in. We are eating Russian dumplings and drinking Vodka; it tastes very good. I do not want to leave her…

"Do you understand that you must move to the U.S.A during next 6 months?" the immigration officer asked. "Mm, yes", was my answer. But can I say that I understood my decision? No.  I was just 24 years old and about to graduate from a prestigious Russian law school.

I had been living with my boyfriend for four years before he won a green card. We were upset because we couldn't figure out how to stay together. We thought about education programs or another way to settle in America together. At the same time, the Supreme Court of U.S was considering a case about the Defense of Marriage Act, and its outcome could help us, recognizing same-sex-marriage and its impact on immigration rights. We started looking forward to the court's ruling. Congratulations! A positive decision! As soon we knew this great news, I contacted the United States Department of State, the U.S Embassy in Moscow and the U.S. federal government; they gave us the same advice: marry as soon as possible.

At this time, I had a planned trip to Sri-Lanka with a big group of my friends to celebrate our graduation. I was not planning to marry anybody! Nonetheless, I prepared our documents for the wedding, and evidence that it was a real marriage and also, I had to change the date of my trip. The next big deal I faced was that we were not resident of any country that allowed same-sex marriage. I got in touch with at least 25 jurisdictions with my marriage request, and only Iceland gave a positive reply. I had to get a lot of documents to prove that we were not married in Russia (not easy because of anti-gay law there) and a Certificate of Good Conduct which took one month to receive. We were in a hurry: the visa eligibility was due to expire at the end of September and the earliest we could marry in Reykjavik was September 9. We acted fast, got everything done, got visas and tickets to Europe for the whole family, went to Iceland and got married!

The wedding was fabulous. Iceland is a beautiful country with stunning landscapes. We spent five days there and then had to return to Moscow. I have to thank everyone at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. They did everything to help us and the Embassy officials did not hide their emotions. We were the first gay couple to take advantage of this right. In the interview, there was no question of a fictitious marriage. The only thing missing was a certificate of good conduct. We made a promise to bring it as quickly as possible. The Russian authorities gave me this only on September 20 and on September 23 the United States Embassy issued for us immigration visas; just seven days before the deadline expired.

Scene 2: Arrival

My husband and I have arrived at JFK airport. There is a severe frost, dirty streets everywhere. Our first problems are to rent a flat, find English courses, and figure out what to do with our previous professions. I am happy that it is very sunny even though it is very damp. My husband likes Chinese cuisine so the first thing after arriving is to go to a Chinese restaurant. Then, we must register for New York State ID, open bank accounts.Scene 2: Arrival

If you ask me about my impressions, I am still deciding. There are a lot of pros and cons…

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