You Can be Free
an Interview with Meg
Adventurer, Heroine, Misfit
Interviewer – Elena Ivanova
Interviewee – Meg
“Know That You Can Be Free”
Copyright © Elena Ivanova, 2017
Heroine – In 2006 Meg helped me flee from my oppressive society. We started our escape in Kiev, Ukraine in March 2006 and completed it in April 2007, arriving safely in Victoria, Canada after an ocean crossing journey of 10 months.
Adventurer – Escaping with me to Canada has deeply changed Meg and her view of the world. Now, she sees no other option but to learn, experience and explore the unknown by traveling the world any way possible – on a sailboat, plane, train, car or donkey.
Misfit – As the result of her somewhat “unconventional” activities – saving Russians, exchanging her house for freedom, experiencing the world in unimaginable ways, and living her life the way SHE wants to – Meg is admired by some people, and ostracized by others.
In this interview I, the woman she helped escape from Russia, ask Meg questions I’ve wondered about for years.
The subjects covered in this interview are:
p((((((. Escape with Elena from Russia
p((((((. Life of a Russian woman
p((((((. Meg’s past and current life
p((((((. Decision to help Elena flee
p((((((. Relationship between people
p((((((. Women and fun, sexuality
p((((((. Women’s and LGBT rights in Russia
p((((((. Final word to Russian women
Meg infected me with her hunger for life, and her unswerving determination to choose her own path. She has changed me and my life thoroughly and I know that the same can happen to you, to anyone. You just have to know that you CAN be free. This interview with Meg was intended to do just that.
[*ELENA: You do things that many people would consider to be crazy or reckless, others would say you live your life to the fullest. How would you describe yourself? *]
MEG: I say, to each their own. It really doesn’t matter to me.
[*ELENA: It doesn’t matter to you what people think about you? How they evaluate your actions? *]
MEG: No. Just as long as they pay me (laughs). Really, I don’t care about what they think. If they try to change me, that’s annoying, I tend to ignore them. If they’re hell-bent on imposing their behavioral expectations, I distance myself, just walk away.
ELENA: The things that you did, like sailing, building a house, flying planes, climbing mountains – all this takes a lot of courage and energy. What is that inner force that makes you do this things?
MEG: How can I not do these things? I do them because I want to. Is that an inner force?
ELENA: I’ll rephrase the question. Why don’t you just find a job for yourself and sit in four walls?
MEG: Don’t want to. It wouldn’t be right for me, unless it was something I wanted to do, believed in. Otherwise I’m burning my life for someone else. It would be hugely dishonest to myself. Is life worth living if it’s for someone else?
ELENA: So there is never a point in your life when you are looking for calm, safety, defined path?
MEG: I used to think so. I thought about the whole thing – building a house or renovating one, being a part of the community, going to craftsman bungalow society meetings, discussing Stickly furniture, and I realized, you know, it’s kind of boring. And yet other times, I would be hiking, getting higher and higher into the mountains, the rain would turn to sleet, and it’s cold, the rocks are all shiny, and yet there is something so beautiful about them, there is something so alive, so in the moment, in the now. To me that is just great. I love that stuff, it thrills me. I have to be thrilled.
[_“There are answers there that I believe can never be found anywhere else.” _]
ELENA: What part do Kiev and Ukraine play in your life?
MEG: It is something mysterious, something ancestral.
ELENA: So you have ancestors from that part of the world?
MEG: Absolutely. And from Scotland. Scotland and Ukraine are the two areas. They are mysterious, colorful, and alluring.
ELENA: Why necessarily there? Why don’t you find that say in other parts of the world, say, in Asia or Africa?
MEG: There’s no common ground, or culture, elsewhere for me. It just doesn’t connect. But I do find common ground with Ukrainians and Scots, all the beautiful and even the ugly behaviors. There is something charming, something honest and real that draws me to those places.
ELENA: Did you see that charm during your visits to Ukraine or Russia?
MEG: Absolutely. There is openness in spirit, there is generosity, there is innocence that I see. Especially among younger people. There is that ultimate beauty, that hasn’t been somehow damaged. And yet on the other hand there is such ugliness too, there is such a spread between rich and poor, such a horrifying disregard for life and people. And yet there is something that is so generous, so real and so alive. And I find that emotion in Ukraine, it is raw, it is real, totally honest. It draws me in.
ELENA: Do you find that energy only there, in former USSR, or did you find it anywhere else in the world?
MEG: No, only in the former USSR. And I found it in Russia as well as in Ukraine.
ELENA: What place does Russia have in your life and heart?
MEG: I always felt that there is something there, answers to questions about what makes me who I am; like a secret code hiding in Russia’s language and customs. I always felt very drawn to Slavic culture, and I just love Cyrillic.
ELENA: Why do you find Cyrillic so appealing?
MEG: I think it is beautiful. Mostly, it makes sense, and I really like the fact that it’s phonetic. Sure takes the pressure out of spelling!
ELENA: What do you think about modern day Russia?
MEG: I think it is out of control, it is on a collision course with recession if not depression: economic collapse.
ELENA: What would you say about contemporary Russians?
MEG: I think they all desperate to be what they think is American; like doing away with their culture. I see them moving desperately toward cheap consumerism, summarily hating each other, competing to see who can buy the most toys.
ELENA: Why do you think that happens?
MEG: Programming by their media. Like any media, like western media. Their job is to program people to consume, in order to keep the companies and corporations that support the media, going. Making more crap, selling more crap, selling more debt – keep the whole thing going. So that the heads of companies, and investors get their villas in Spain or private islands in Bahamas.
ELENA: Do you believe that there are Russians out there who do not want to follow the path you just described?
MEG: Absolutely. I’ve met them.
ELENA: What changes would your like to see taking place in Russia?
MEG: Restart the Soviet Union from some time before Stalin. But it obviously isn’t going to happen. Russia needs accountability. It would be nice to see the mafia go. All the mafias go. And to see truly elected officials, people who look out for the electorate, protect what’s left of the Slavic culture, not bulldoze it, knock it down. I’m not saying, bring back the czar, but a system which would represent people from the ground up. More respect and caring for people. And I don’t know how they can do that. But they’ve got the resources – the mineral resources in Russia are very rich. They could have a country that is very much like Norway.
ELENA: Do you think there is desire in Russians to save their country?
MEG: No, because right now the whole mindset is “we want to be like Americans. And the only way we can do that is by being criminals”. The criminal mindset has become, from what I’ve experienced and from what I’ve spoken to people when I’ve been there, is that it’s now a goal. In fact kids are yearning to be little mafia dons rather than good people. They don’t want to go to school and study to be professors. They want to get big and strong and have Mercedes with blacked out windows and kick some ass and be tough. Unfortunately what they are doing is they are importing a culture which they have only seen in movies, but which doesn’t exist anywhere, it doesn’t even exist withing the actual Sicilian mafia. They are importing culture that they have seen in Hollywood movies that they think is supposed to be that – you have to be a bad ass.
ELENA: Why do you think such image is attractive for Russians?
MEG: Every Hollywood movie ends up with some kind of resolution. Everything resolves – there is always a winner, there is a loser, there is black and white. And there are no questions in the end. Life is simple, there is no questions to ask. That’s why the whole influx of religion is coming back in – that also answers questions without having to think about them. All your answers are right there.
ELENA: You think Russians are looking for simple answer?
MEG: Russians like any people are looking for easy answers and the easy way out – “Okay, that’s done, now I can watch TV. Give me a beer.”
ELENA: How do you like Russian people? What were your encounters with them like?
MEG: Generally they are good people on a one-to-one basis. In the crowd – not so much. And some of them are truly horrible. Especially when they get in any positions of power. When they think they can stick it to you – they will. If some one is going to stick it to you, they expect you to break down and cry, jump up and down, wave your fists in the air. And if you don’t, they actually get more irate. It’s as if you’ve broken a certain contract with them.
ELENA: What were the Russian who you communicated with like?
MEG: Most of them were very caring. Most of them want to help you out. They want to talk Russian with you, they want to help you with things you try to say.
[_“They are emotionally alive. It’s almost like a manic-depressive culture. There is such a depth of feeling, such a level of joy and elation.” _]
ELENA: What would you say makes Russian people different from other nations?
MEG: They are emotionally alive, that’s what I noticed. It’s almost like a manic-depressive culture. There is such a depth of feeling, such a level of joy and elation. And the most important thing I’ve notice about Russians is that they don’t hide it. That’s what I love. I noticed about Russian culture that it is such a rich spectrum of emotion – everything from incredible sadness and self-pity all the way to a childlike joy in seeing the world when they let it shine. I find it infectious.
ELENA: Why did you like opening ceremony of Olympic games in Sochi so much?
MEG: It was colorful, it was loud, it was unapologetic. I liked it because it was strong. The music was European, classical/romantic sounding, using western tonality: as in a regular scale, major minor keys, rather than dorian, mixolydian and all kinds of weird, whiny, wailing or pentatonic junk. It was my culture. It was strong and melodic, inspiring. And I love that. It was also moving, it never stopped. It moved, it pushed. It used the well tempered scale: music that speaks to us, that we connect with, as opposed to winy Asian stuff, or screaming from minarets, or plink, plucking on guitars, whining about how hard done by we all are. It was downright Wagnerian, gutsy, big, strong, inspiring.
[*ELENA: What image comes to you mind when you remember Sochi opening ceremony? *]
MEG: People. People are beautiful, strong. I just like that strength. And that’s what the whole opening was. It wasn’t this: “Oh look, we are so disadvantaged you have to appreciate our half-arsed job and say it is good because we are so downtrodden and can’t compete.” No way, it shouted out, “These are big vikings!” To me it was like Wagner’s “Ring cycle”, these Aryan gods. I like this strength, this power, this mythology, and the culture mixed together. It was just “get the job done”, without whining, without playing the victim card. I loved it.
ELENA: Do you want to visit Russia again? If so where would you go?
MEG: Of course I want to visit Russia again. Of course I want to go to Moscow, that’s center of Universe as far as I am concerned. I want to go to Kiev again, to Saint-Petersburg. The absolute dream of mine would be to go to Moscow and take in some operas, get onto one of those trains and take the overnight train – slow train to Saint-Petersburg. I love that city too. And the same thing there – I want to walk along the canals.
ELENA: What would you want your encounter with Russians be like?
MEG: I would like to go mushroom picking with Buzikin and his friends (characters from the Soviet movie, “Autumn marathon”). It is crazy, ha? (We both laugh).
[_“Everything in Canada is designed simply to program people into being happy consumers and be happy, or at least, quite in their place.” _]
ELENA: You grew up in Canada, you lived there for many years. How would you describe life in Canada?
ELENA: Few more words.
MEG: It’s all a show. They try to make it look modern. Everything is artificial, everything that I’ve experienced is a matter of everybody is worried what everybody thinks about everybody else.
ELENA: Even in your past life?
MEG: Oh yeah, it’s never been good, it’s always been tense.
ELENA: What do you think is the reason for that?
MEG: Everybody is showing off, everybody is trying to make it look like they are better than the other person. There is also an extremely powerful and almost invisible over-class, essentially the “high class”. It is still the British system. And the system has been there since Dickens has described it.
ELENA: And that’s not the case in USA?
MEG: No, USA is a very different place. In Canada they still have that, overlords – elite. They aren’t called “lords, or barons,” or whatever now. They are the heads of companies, bankers, investors, they are the very rich, the elite. And you’ve got everybody else underneath them, and they’ve got their media like the CBC. And everything in Canada is designed simply to program people into being happy consumers and be happy, or at least, quite in their place. One is programmed to believe it is bad to think above your station in life. Competition, excellence is bad, but it’s good to be mediocre and pay lots of taxes.
Another thing about Canada – it’s all about who you know, not what you know. It’s all connections, it’s all patronage and graft. So I see Canada as corrupt as, say, Russia or Mexico. The difference is that in Russia or Mexico the attitude is – “yeah, we are corrupt what are you going to do about it?” In Canada it’s – “we love you, oh, we care so much” and in the mean time, behind your back it’s, “screw you!”
ELENA: And you had experiences like that?
MEG: Of course I had experiences like that. I used to be rich. I used to be one of the overlords without knowing it. I came from an overlord family.
[_“They either don’t know I exist, or wish I didn’t.” _]
ELENA: Could you describe your family in a few words? What kind of people are they?
MEG: My family: What family? You’re it, and certain special people we’ve met on our travels. If you’re talking about the people I grew up with, am biologically related to, the only connection is a certain amount of shared DNA. They either don’t know I exist, or wish I didn’t. As for what kind of people they are: Father, dead: was a successful doctor, medical researcher, won awards, was head of a university medical school… blah blah blah. Yeah, he burned the house down and then he killed himself.
One of my sisters, was a drug addict, I think she was a hooker too, got intervention’ed, and sent to some born-again Christian school, found Jesus, and then died of cancer. Mom built a shrine to her in the dining room, makes pilgrimages to places, whole kooky nine yards.
My other sister is a money seeking missile, had already bagged the Prime Minister’s son, then she met an oil tycoon, had him in nuptials a couple weeks later, and netted herself billions. She’s since decided to turn lesbian and shack up with kd lang. Let’s just say, Mr. Macho hubby, NHL owner, resort owner, aerospace corp owner, big player in the tar-sands’, ego took a bruising when his blond trophy wife (my sister) dumped him for another woman! Poor guy abandoned Calgary for the UK. A lot of people who’ve had contact with what’s left of my bio-family are either dead, or as far away from Calgary as they can get.
Yeah, my mom is awfully proud of Heather, it’s like some kind of Agatha Christie plot. My mom, you’ve met her. She likes you more than me because you aren’t as embarrassing to her. She can’t take any blame for you. You’ve seen her house, her husband, all her stuff… she’s pretty much like her daughter, Heather – all about the looks and the money. Hey, she’s shallow, it’s her thing, she does it well. They’re all that’s left. I ran away from them years ago. Changed my name, the whole bit. They are pretty typical of the Ultra Elite, so rich they are invisible to us lesser beings that don’t deserve to gaze upon their magnificence. In a few words: contemptuous, self righteous, intensely narcissistic, paranoid, astonishingly ignorant. Yeah, that about sums them up.
ELENA: Why do they thrive, you think?
They thrive, as you say, because they have connections. It’s all about who you know and how you can form elite groups – like Binding Multiples (a term coined by a Sci-Fi writer, Greg Bear). Sure, they do nothing, and they get paid obscenely for it. They have convinced themselves they are worth it, and using their binding multiples, the whole Ultra Elite over-class have indentured everyone else into generating more wealth for them. Nothing new. Charles Dickens pretty much had it pegged in all of his writing.
ELENA: Would you say that life of the rich in Canada is different from lives of people who are not rich?
MEG: Of course it is. Those that aren’t rich, live and exist for those that are. They live meaningless lives doing thankless, spirit destroying jobs to enhance the rich. They are paid only enough to survive. Made to fear for their subsistence and shut up and take it until they die. They live in fear.
As for the rich, everybody has to be showing off and be better than the other. It’s always looking at what neighbor has that you don’t. That’s why in school when we had breaks all I could do is to get away from the school. I climbed cliffs or I explored the forest.
ELENA: What did other kids do during those breaks?
MEG: They played games like house leagues, volleyball. And if you didn’t participate then your class wouldn’t get 100% of participation, and everybody in your class would hate you. And they would beat you up. So society is really designed right from the beginning to make everybody conform, to make everybody exactly the same and to make everybody competitive consumers, to see who has the more expensive shoes. And to make you hate yourself if you don’t actually want those shoes.
ELENA: What do you think is the purpose for that?
MEG: To make everybody good consumers. So that they buy the products of the companies to make the overlords rich. To make life meaningless for the average. To change the meaning of life into consumption. Because if people realized what they are losing, missing, by slaving for an identity defined by the media or the stuff they buy, they would stop doing this. It would be a disaster for the elite. You wouldn’t buy their junk and garbage. You won’t need their banks for all the debt they give you to buy their crap. All of that stuff would be superfluous, the overlords would have no means to keep getting richer. If people all of the sudden realized what they are actually giving up for these Chinese trinkets – everything would collapse.
[_“They are trying to find what’s missing by spending millions of dollars buying these trinkets and toys. They don’t realize that they are not going to find it that way.” _]
ELENA: Do you think people can realize what they are losing? That they are losing their lives?
MEG: They usually do. They usually realize it when it’s too late. A lot of men realize it – they call it a “midlife crisis”. Take a look in a marina, and you see all these men with their power boats. They are trying to find what’s missing by spending millions of dollars buying these trinkets and toys. They don’t realize that they are not going to find it that way. But that’s the whole point – they realize, holy shit, they just spent their entire life making sure they have the right hockey equipment for their kids. In the neighborhood where I grew up in, people leave their garage doors open on Sundays so people can drive around and look into each other’s garages to see what kind of cars they have and to see how much stuff you have in your garage. And if you have so many cars you can’t get them all into garage – that’s even a better thing. It’s like that guy in Los-Angeles we knew, who had 9 cars.
And the kids as well. When you walk around in Calgary, there are all these expensive ski resorts around that you had to buy an expensive tag, paper and wire thing, that dangled on your coat to use the ski hill. The point was to wear the tags. They wore those lift tickets on their jackets all the time. Even though the lift ticket expires at the end of the day, they leave them their like “Oh, I just accidentally left that on my jacket”. It shows that I was able to spend 150 dollars to go up and down a hill in Banff.
ELENA: So people never grow up? Never realize what life is about?
MEG: No, they never do. And it’s so boring. It’s so boring it actually hurts.
ELENA: Why do you think they never do?
MEG: Because they are convinced not to. They are convinced there is stuff on TV to watch. Because it’s easier to be unaware of the world, or the finality of life, and live for instant gratification and adulation.
ELENA: What would happen if they did?
MEG: They would be ostracized, they’ll fall through the cracks… like we did.
ELENA: How would you say USA is different from Canada?
MEG: Oh America is pretty. America is a much nicer country, Canada is just taiga and steppe. It’s got some mountains in it. Everything is privately owned. But mostly Canada is flat and boring, like it’s people. America on the other hand is beautiful. America has vast, diverse landscapes, it has incredible deserts, a climate that lets you out of the car or mall more than two weeks a year. It’s beautiful.
ELENA: Do you see any difference in governments?
MEG: Of course – the American government is far more accountable. It’s also a different system – it’s not British parliamentary, it’s not British common law, it’s not based nearly as much on graft and patronage as the Canadian one is. In the American government, I do believe, there is a chance you can get elected on your merit rather than on being acclaimed heir to a certain position.
ELENA: How would you say Americans are different from Canadians?
MEG: Generally, Americans are not living with fear. They don’t tend to be filled with hatred and contempt. I find that Americans are open, they open their hearts to you, no matter what. You don’t have to be afraid of them. The hardest thing for me to grasp, when I am outside of Canada, is you don’t have to be afraid of people. In Canada you do, you always have to be afraid. What I found in Canada is that somebody always wants to hurt you, they’re always are looking for a way to get you. To a certain extent in Russia, of course, (because in Russia every one is guilty of something) and they treat you that way. In Canada it is the same hatred, but also in Canada the other underlying motivation is “How can I get you? How can I hurt you? How can I put you down to make me look good.”
ELENA: So they do it to look good?
MEG: I think everything in Canada is a game. I think every interaction is a challenge, a provocation, a trap. I mean, even in a simple conversation with some one, you look for a way to humiliate them. Then you can turn around and either bad mouth them behind their back or ridicule them.
ELENA: You had such experience?
MEG: All the time. I never had anything good in Canada, ever.
ELENA: So people actually wanted to hurt you?
MEG: Everybody is mean, everybody is upset and contemptuous. Everyone is programmed to feel superior by either buying something that defines them, or by putting someone down. It’s all such a game to show – look, I am so trendy and I am so loving and warm, and gentle. But the instant that person turns their back it’s going to be “Oh, God, did you see the shoes? What a fashion crime! Oh yuck!”
ELENA: What are immigrants in Canada like?
MEG: I think immigrants are zombies. I think the immigrants are forming their own societies, and that’s it. Look at Vancouver, or “Hong-couver” as they call it. There are parts of Vancouver where they don’t even bother putting the road signs in English because there are no English people there to read them. They have Canadian passports and Canadian citizenship but they are still as Chinese as on they day they arrived. They have a culture, they came with it. Canada has no culture. Why assimilate? Assimilate what?
ELENA: So when you talk about Canadians you talk about people who were born in Canada?
MEG: Yes, the immigrants are different. They are a different country onto themselves, and they exist in their own enclaves. They talk about Canada as multicultural – it’s absolutely not multicultural.
ELENA: What is it then?
MEG: It’s a collection of enclaves. And the immigrants come in and live in their own societies. It makes it more convenient for, immigrants there to serve the overlords, to provide pressure on wages to ensure service and menial jobs stay underpaid, or just paid at survival – to ensure a working class to service the elite. So the immigrants leave their places in suburbs, their enclaves and go and clean the toilets and do what ever they do for the overlords and then go back. But they don’t mix, none of the society integrates. And now there is huge influx of Syrians. Mostly because it looks good for the media, and that’s important. Everything in Canada is about image and social programming. I call it “social engineering”. And also they need cheep labor, they need to replace a declining birth rate.
ELENA: What would you say is the reason why so many people want to move to Canada?
MEG: Because they think it’s the Golden mountain. Because it is better than where they are. If you were in Syria or Iraq with ISIS throwing your friends off buildings you would want to be in Canada too. It would look pretty good.
ELENA: Have you met happy people in Canada? If so, why were they happy?
MEG: Sure, my father was happy, when he wasn’t liquored up and psychopathic. Then again, maybe he was happy then too. He was Slavic: loved misery; turned it into a narcissistic form of high art. But when he was lucid, he seemed happy. He made a tonne of money, was a doctor, scientist, had a university position. He was upper middle class: well off. Not, obscenely rich like my sister, but safe and comfortable, well respected. Why was he happy? Other than when he was polished, sobbing about his hard life, accompanied by tunes from Jesus Christ Superstar and Man of La Mancha at an unreasonable volume – and secretly, I think he really liked doing that, I think he loved the admiration of his peers, the neighbors, the hotel clerk, his patients, his lab technicians, his students. He was a doctor, he was a man with some money, he was big-man-on-campus… he was God. He could solve any problem with money, or by saying, “eh hem, perhaps you don’t know who you are speaking to…”
I think my father’s friends were pretty happy. They were all doctors. They had money, they had wives who didn’t work, they all golfed and hung out at country clubs and guffawed a lot and slapped each others backs.
I think a lot of kids were happy, that I knew. We were in a pretty affluent neighborhood, so it was safe, nobody was starving, or discriminated, everyone got what they wanted, so kids seemed happy. But then again, they were kids, not a worry in the world. Time and worries didn’t exist for them.
[_“As I recall, they cycled through the psych ward like some kind time-share vacation property.” _]
ELENA: Were women happy?
MEG: The women, in my socio-economic class (the Marilyn French types) were miserable. You’d think they had it all, but they were a seriously upset bunch. As I recall, they cycled through the psych ward like some kind time-share vacation property. First time the disappearance of my friends’ mothers for “little vacations” really made sense, was when my own mother, suddenly went berzerk at the breakfast table and emptied the coffee pot on her head! My dad, bundled her up and took her to the hospital with him.
By the time I was in high school, I realized teenagers weren’t really happy. Most of them did drugs and drank. They were vicious and angry, being cruel, violent and destructive was just a way of fitting in. The anger was unbelievable. They set a dark skinned girl on fire with gasoline. They slashed the teachers’ tires. If they found a bicycle anywhere near the school they destroyed it. They ripped up gardens. Spray painted FUCK YOU on everything. It was just a way of getting along, of fitting in. They beat each other up. And really violently. Being gay, or native Indian, or Asian, or having socialist parents, or Jewish, or Ukrainian, or smart – geeze, even getting good grades – and you’d be beaten and attacked all the time. There were a lot of suicides. One guy even came to school with a shot gun and blew his brains out, all over a corridor and its lockers. He was a quiet guy. Smart, a little overweight, and everyone said he was gay. But that was just an insult… probably.
ELENA: It all was happening in your school in Calgary?
ELENA: What about minorities, like you said, Asian or Indian, or black people? Were they happy?
MEG: I have no idea. I never really saw them. They were there, like my dad had an East Indian doctor running his research lab, but they were just a part of the background one doesn’t notice, or one isn’t supposed to notice. I eventually did. My dad’s head of research, the East Indian woman, needed a TV. I had an old TV in my room, my parents suggested I give it to this woman because she needed a TV, and I was getting the TV from downstairs because we were getting a new set for the family room. No problem. The old TV disappeared, I got the better one from downstairs. And then the weirdest thing happened – this woman wanted to thank me and she invited me to her place for dinner. I know this is off topic, but it’s probably a pretty important observation about life in Canada, so bear with me.
She is a doctor, and Ph.D. She is from India. She is running a pretty major research lab and program with millions in research grants. She has Ph.D candidates and technicians under her and my father signing his name to all the journal articles and research papers… and her place… it was a three-story walk-up in a not really swank part of town, on a major road, across from a shopping mall. There was my old junky TV, it was all she had. She couldn’t afford a new one! She couldn’t afford anything but the rented flat and a subsistence lifestyle. Sure, she could survive, but she sure wasn’t going to own real estate, or have her own tenured university position, or medical practice. That was really the first time I had ever been exposed to that class system that doesn’t officially exist in Canada.
ELENA: Why wouldn’t she have a tenured university position or medical practice?
MEG: I’m pretty sure she was teaching, but as an assistant to my dad. She would never be tenured because she wasn’t part of the club.
ELENA: What club?
MEG: The old-boys-club: the rich white guys (like my dad) who were there first, and decide who joins their ranks, and who runs their labs or cuts their lawns, or cleans their toilets. It really is all about who you know, not what you know, and there are unwritten rules about who gets in and who doesn’t. It’s also vital to keep people like my dad’s head of research impoverished so they don’t get power, connections, or time to become competition for those in their comfortable, safe, places, like my family was.
[_“I am risking my life to have a life.” _]
ELENA: Do you think you have special abilities or character attributes that made it possible for you to help me escape Russia and be with you?
MEG: No, I don’t think so. I think I am just a person. I don’t have superhero powers. All I have is the willingness to risk, to risk what I don’t think is worth anything anyway. I don’t want a life of boredom, I don’t want a life that’s not mine. It has to be my life. I am risking my life to have a life. And I think that’s really what it comes down to – being able to risk it. And I am willing to risk it. And we’ve come a long way, I had one hell of a ride! This has been great.
ELENA: Did you doubt yourself at any moment prior to undertaking that trip?
MEG: Never. It’s not something I do. I never actually doubted myself.
ELENA: What was the toughest part of our journey to Canada for you? Something that you thought you wouldn’t be able to overcome?
MEG: Coming up against other people, officials, crooks. When the assholes could actually kill us, or take the boat, or arrest you and drag you back to Russia. When it was us… Hurricanes – nothing, sharks – no problem, whales – “ha-ha, bring it on”. Nothing like that bothered me. Storms, cold, the boat, the seas, the waves – some of that sucked. But I never doubted us for a second, I knew we could make it. But what I did doubt and what did bother me, when I started feeling powerless, was when I was against things like the Russian consulate in Odessa and in Kiev, or your mother, or your crazy uncle, or the police in Kiev. Actually police wasn’t so bad – I just had to pay them off. It bothered me when we were dealing with assholes – with other people who actually had some way to physically stop us or hurt us. Like with the guy in Las-Palmas who was trying to get our boat. But I still think through it. Like it was with your mother, I knew that we just have to think through the situation, get your passport back.
ELENA: Did you doubt me during the trip to Canada? How useful or strong did you think I would be?
MEG: I doubted you sometimes. But not really, you came around. I think you realized that I needed you. And that you needed you as well.
[*ELENA: So you didn’t doubt me? *]
MEG: No, not after we passed Greece. Until we passed Greece I was a little concerned. But after that you screwed your courage to the sticking place and decided that you can be either here, vomiting onto the floating floor boards, or you could sail this boat.
ELENA: It seemed to me when we were sailing to Canada you had no support from your family, was it so? Did you tell them what you were about to do?
MEG: It was so, there was no support at all.
ELENA: Did you speak to them about what you were going to do?
MEG: Yes, I wrote to mother.
ELENA: What was the answer?
MEG: Nothing. Silence. She didn’t say a thing.
ELENA: When you were writing to her did you say why you were doing this trip?
MEG: Of course.
ELENA: Did you say you love this woman and you want to be with her and that is the only way you can be with her?
MEG: I think so, yes.
ELENA: What was your mother’s reply?
MEG: I don’t think she replied at all. I don’t recall anything. I can check the satellite records. But I think if anything, it would have been “Well, have a nice time. Say hi to Lena or whatever her name is.” Or “bla bla is such a nice place, we visited it once on your sister’s 300 foot mega-yacht.”
ELENA: Before meeting me, what did you want your life to be like?
MEG: I never really thought about it. I wanted to be an adventurer, I knew I wanted to do adventures.
ELENA: Did you want to have a house?
MEG: I could never conceive of myself as having a house. I had a house and that was okay.
ELENA: But I was under the impression you were building that perfect home of yours?
MEG: I was at that point, that’s what it became. Because every one talks about dream houses and slow motion memories of family and friends and home and belonging somewhere. All warm and fuzzy, yeah I fell for that. I guess I wasn’t ready to pay the price for that – for family and safety to be a reality, there has to be losers. I wasn’t willing to be a loser just so I could have the validation of my family.
ELENA: Did you think that house could be your future?
MEG: No, I thought the house wasn’t a future, it was just another object that I had, like you own a car. You own a house, a good set of golf clubs.
[_“I think people fear of dying because they are afraid that they haven’t lived.” _]
ELENA: It seems to me you had no fear of pain or death when we were sailing to Canada. Would you say it is so?
MEG: Because pain and death are entirely mine. I don’t fear pain, I don’t fear death. Death is the least I fear, actually. Because death means – that’s it, it’s over.
ELENA: Why would you say people are afraid of death?
MEG: I think they fear of dying because they are afraid that they haven’t lived. And to die without having lived is terrifying. That I think is the greatest fear – the fear that you’ve wasted your life; that time’s up. Time is ticking, it’s going to run out, life is going to end. Life is the gift we’ve got now. Whatever you are experiencing matters only to you; it has to, nobody else cares. Your experience of this massively complex, but terminal, chemical reaction is yours alone! It really has to be all about you. You are the only one who can have your life, you are not living for anybody else. And if you do, that’s the greatest fear – is that you have not lived for yourself. Then of course, death is a terrifying thing.
ELENA: Have you discovered something amazing during our trip to Canada? Something that profoundly affected you, changed your vision of life or the world?
MEG: Yes, I think I did. Mostly what I learned is that one’s happiness, one’s feelings are entirely one’s own and one’s alone. You have to make it your own way. When we were out there, we would either live or we would die, something could kill us or we could survive it. It was entirely up to us. We either made it through the day, or we didn’t. We did obviously. We fought to survive, we didn’t let stuff kill us. We never worried that something might be too big for us, or bad, or impossible to live through. We just faced it, whatever challenge it was, and dealt with it; doing whatever it took without worrying we wouldn’t get through it. It wasn’t a thought process, it just happened.
What I learned about life is that it is really up to you. How you see your life and world is really your choice. And when you don’t rage against it, feel sorry for yourself, don’t scream and cry about something getting busted and just get the tools and the spit and glue and try to fix it so you don’t die, life is profoundly, amazingly beautiful. Questions, doubt, worrying… pointless. Whether you enjoy it, whether you cherish it with every breath, or whether you hate your life, resent it, feel cheated – it’s entirely up to you.
Something else I learned was to feel things that I didn’t even notice before. Tiny things suddenly had huge value to me, indescribable value. Like coffee – the taste of coffee. Before I would say “Coffee, start me up!” and hoover it down. Now I actually taste it, and you know, every single brew is different. Even every single cup. I never knew the difference before. I just never cared to notice. I learned that some of the most overwhelming, indescribable, life experiences are the first sip of coffee in the morning; or the feeling of sheets, getting into bed at night; or the call of a crow, or dog barking, or rain just starting to fall. I never noticed that sort of thing before.
ELENA: Why do you think it never happened to you prior to our journey to Canada?
MEG: Because there was so much chatter, so much useless crap in my mind. That was all about paying the taxes, making sure the bills were covered, and endless forms were filled, that the car had the oil changed on time, that I’d had so-and-so over for dinner, that the neighbors weren’t pissed off about the dandelions, that my shoes matched my outfit. There is so much of that chatter, useless crap going on, that you miss life, you miss the truly profound – and every moment is profound. All that chatter prevents you realizing, “wow, that just made me feel something, I liked the way that felt.” It’s also the dependence. We are programmed to be completely dependent. If we weren’t we wouldn’t be mindless consumers and providers of labor, and we’d be useless to society. For society to function it is imperative that we are dependent on everything, but ourselves, to keep that flow of money going that feeds the elite. But out there, there is no such thing as dependence. When things go wrong, who you gonna call?
ELENA: How did the idea to sail with me to Canada enter your mind? You must have known that you would loose your home, your status, maybe your life!
MEG: I had no other choice. I knew that that had to be done – I needed to get you out of there. I couldn’t leave you behind, you would be lost.
ELENA: So it was all about me?
MEG: No, it was also about me. I wasn’t going to give in. Everything was standing in our way. Everyone was saying we couldn’t do this, that they would crush us. I just knew that I would stop at nothing to prove it wrong. When somebody puts something in my way, I am going to either go over it, around it, or right through it.
ELENA: Weren’t you scared, preparing and undertaking the trip, doing it completely on your own?
MEG: Sure, I had no one to help me, but I didn’t think about it that way.
ELENA: You didn’t feel lonely? You didn’t need people’s support, your family’s support perhaps?
MEG: No, I didn’t have it, didn’t feel it. Sure there were times I felt alone, sorry for myself. But it was only when it was Christmas and we were somewhere offshore, floating around – then I indulged in some self pity. But mostly, it was you and me and that’s it.
[_“In Russia, I’ve never seen any support for anybody: male, female, human, non-human, plant, animal… nothing.” _]
ELENA: I asked you about Russian people in general, now what is your opinion of Russian women?
MEG: They tend to be subservient, scared and subdued. It comes across to me like they play what ever game they need to exist within the confines of their society, like any society. I see Russian women the way American women were portrayed by the popular media in the 50-tees.
ELENA: You’ve been in Russia, so you know what woman’s life there is like. Do you think this life is a happy one?
MEG: No. I think some can find happiness, some find ways of doing it, but no. I don’t think I actually met any woman who was truly happy. I met Russian men who were happy, but not Russian women.
ELENA: Do you think the life of a Canadian or American woman is in any way different from that of a Russian?
MEG: Absolutely. Albeit reluctantly, Canadian/American society had to accept universal freedoms, and get over the male superiority and segregation. Women have far more power and safety here than in Russia. There is more of a legally mandated equality here, and even a social stigmatization of violence against women, or possessive, degrading behavior. Then again, I think American women have far more support from their own communities, families, society, and colleagues than Canadian women. But Russian women really tend to be subjugated, subdued and denigrated and it’s kind of a societal norm there. I think it’s getting worse, not better, especially as there appears to be an overt attack and erosion of women’s rights taking place in Russia.
ELENA: What would be your answer to anybody who tells you you have to be with a man, have children, be more “feminine”?
MEG: I can’t answer that without saying a lot of bad words.
ELENA: If you could speak to a woman in Russia who desperately wants to live life on her own terms, but to whom everything and everybody around her tells her she is wrong and should get married and have children, what would you tell her?
MEG: I would tell her to empty her bank account, put everything she can get into her pocket, no matter what it is, and get the first plane ticket she can get to New York, to San Francisco, or to Los Angeles or where ever she wants to be. To get off the plane and to hook up with a group of like minded people, of open minded people, friends, find an atheists group, a feminist group, a LGBT group, an outdoors group, if that’s what she’s into. Go to the University and just say “Help! I want to stay here, I want to live this life, I want to be free.”
ELENA: So you think that free thinking Russian woman can find happiness only outside of Russia?
MEG: Absolutely. There is zero support for them in Russia. It’s getting better in Ukraine, better even in the former east-block, better in the UK, but the best support is British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California. The northern, big, US cities aren’t bad either: New York, Boston, Chicago. In Russia, I’ve never seen any support for anybody: male, female, human, non-human, plant, animal… nothing. And that’s the difference with Russia and America and even Canada to some extent – is that within these societies, over here, groups of people form. Total strangers would meet and immediately form bonds. And there is no that fear. In Russia, though, the fear is that your husband is going to find out, you are going to have the crap beat out of you, you are going to have your rights taken away from you. That fear isn’t here, in America and Canada. It is even illegal here to instill that kind of fear into somebody, to oppress, harass, threaten someone.
The only other way it could work inside Russia is if women were to get together and form some kind of support group, some kind of collective. But that’s not going to be allowed. They will be pushed to the side, they will be denigrated, rejected, dismissed, belittled – and very possibly jailed or killed. Male dominance and ownership of females is very much a sacred Russian custom, and getting more entrenched every day. I think Russian men have a pathological fear of women having power or control.
ELENA: Can groups on social media be any help, you think?
MEG: They are monitored. And social media is never a help. Social media is simply yakking, squawking, marketing – there’s nothing real there, no commitment. Texted, or twittered words of support are fine, but they are essentially useless, they don’t cost anything real. You need physical support in the situation like that. You actually need to get together, you need to see face-to-face. You need to cry on someone’s shoulder, and know they aren’t laughing behind your back, passing your desperate pleas to your husband, or the police, and you can’t do that over the Internet. You need more than anonymous text.
ELENA: You can fix almost anything. Were you always into mechanics, engines and Jerry-rigging stuff. Do you think there is such thing as man’s and woman’s jobs?
MEG: No, there is no such thing as man’s and woman’s jobs. I think we all do what needs to be done. If you tell yourself you can’t do it, or I am not allowed to do that – then sure, you won’t. The only reason women think that they can’t do things, is because they are told they can’t do things.
ELENA: What would you say to a woman who, like you, likes to putter around with electronics or engines. Should she feel awkward?
ELENA: Just “no”?
MEG: Yeah, what else is there?
[_“I move on, I don’t pull things out of the past, I can’t.” _]
ELENA: Are you glad I am in your life, despite the troubles I got you in, which you would never have without me?
MEG: Yes, obviously I am. I don’t know what my life would be like without you, and frankly, I don’t think about alternative scenarios, I’m busy experiencing the current reality.
ELENA: Saving me you lost your social standing, wealth, safety and we got into the nightmare with Immigration.
MEG: It doesn’t make any difference to me. I am where I am, and that’s it.
ELENA: You still would rather live the life you have now?
ELENA: When you recall your past life, life you lived before going to Kiev, what do you think of it?
ELENA: Would you want your old life back? Or anything from it?
MEG: Nothing. I move on, I don’t pull things out of the past, I can’t. Nor do I want to.
ELENA: Is there anything from your past life that you want? Anything at all?
MEG: Money was nice, it was safety. And that is about it.
ELENA: What is it, if anything, that you have in your current life that you didn’t in the old one?
MEG: I am way more aware of life and experience. I guess, I’ve picked up a bit of wisdom and experience.
ELENA: How would you describe people you dealt with in your old world in Canada, I guess you would call them “rich” people? What were they like?
ELENA: Just one word?
MEG: I can say that they were boring. Everybody is worried about the stupidest, the smallest petty things. And everybody worries about how they look, everybody worries about being embarrassed. They are the most petty, self obsessed, self important, narrow-minded people this side of Key West. You’ve met my family, how would you describe them?
ELENA: I don’t mean only your family. I mean anybody from that layer of society of wealthy people who don’t have to worry about sheer survival.
MEG: They are elitist, arrogant, demeaning, rude, clueless, narrow minded, ignorant and bigoted.
ELENA: You didn’t see anything positive in that world?
MEG: No. They are a hateful, two-faced bunch. Mostly – hateful, suspicious, judgmental.
ELENA: You never found yourself being comfortable in that society?
MEG: No, I found them incredibly boring. They all feel like they are better than anybody else. Arrogant bastards, really.
ELENA: Does a wealthy person, a person of high standing in Canada, have to follow certain rules in order to maintain that standing? Did you follow them?
MEG: Of course I followed them. You had to dress the right way, walk the right way.
ELENA: What would be the right way to dress?
MEG: With the latest fashions. You definitely had to distance yourself. Like the fish, that might not be aware of the water, I don’t think, I was terribly aware of being in that social class. It was society, you sort of exist in it, and you are unaware of anything else. The only people who exist, to you, are the people who are on your own financial plane, and everybody else is kind of background, like furniture.
ELENA: You are saying that you didn’t notice anything beyond that “comfort zone”?
MEG: You knew it was out there, but it never came into play. Like starving kids in Africa, used to guilt you into finishing your fiddle-head greens, but it didn’t exist for me, or matter.
ELENA: Were there rules you had to follow in order to be part of that world.
MEG: Oh yes, you had to fit in and follow them. I didn’t care about them, so I didn’t tend to fit in very well.
[_“Nobody else I knew was in your situation. Nobody else would ever have done what you did.” _]
ELENA: What did you think of me when we corresponded on-line?
MEG: I thought you were a silly girl.
ELENA: In what way silly?
MEG: Very young, I though you were just fooling around. I didn’t think you were very serious. Hey, it’s social media.
ELENA: Then why did you want to know me better, to be with me?
MEG: You started to sound serious. You mentioned something about music, classical music, that showed me you had listened to something, really listened and were moved by it. You were curious and interested in things, you had an opinion and wanted to know mine. You weren’t making jokes of things, belittling anyone or anything, you had some very interesting observations and views you expressed about the world you were living in. I saw a part of Russian life through your eyes, I had never known about. You were not trying to be cute, to show off.
ELENA: What did you think of me after we met in Kiev?
MEG: At first you were a deer-in-the-headlights. When I met you in Kiev, you were a scared little thing. I didn’t know what to think of you at that point in time. I found it hard to believe you were the woman I corresponded with. By the time you were attacked, we were attacked, I realized that you were desperate to get out. That you were fighting for your survival, and that there was a lot to you that I wanted to know more about. We’d been all over Kiev, walked in the park, explored Pecherskaya Lavra, and some of the things that brought you joy, thrilled me, proved to me you were truly sentient and worth knowing. You were also interested in the things I was. You saw beauty in almost everything. You were bringing beauty to Kiev that I hadn’t noticed. Of course, I knew you were in serious trouble too.
ELENA: How would you say I’ve changed over the past years?
MEG: I think you’ve gotten stronger, more interdependent. I think you value life more than you ever did. I think you actually recognize life now. I don’t think you recognized it then. You’ve become stronger and you’ve developed a more complete personality. You are not self-absorbed about it, you are not narcissistic in that way. Mostly I think you’ve become stronger. And you’ve let that joy of life carry on and expend. I really love that.
ELENA: Why do you think I have changed?
MEG: Because you were allowed to.
ELENA: Why did you chose me over people you knew in your past.
MEG: It wasn’t a choice.
ELENA: You dedicated yourself to me in a huge way. You joined your life with mine, why did you do it with me, not somebody else?
MEG: You were in a lot of trouble, but I saw so much potential. The thing was – you were ready to go. You were ready to spread your wings, so I was going to help you fight. You needed me and I needed you.
ELENA: And you don’t think the other women you knew needed you?
MEG: Sure they did, but I didn’t need them. The other thing was – you had everything to loose and you were ready to give it all away. You were running for your life and I knew you were not going to make it without me. There was no question in my mind, I had to run with you.
When I turned around and went back to McDonald’s – that was my decision. You said, on the phone, that you were in trouble, that you needed me and that you loved me, and I knew you really did. I went back there and when I heard you say “no” to your parents that was it – I knew then that you decided you were going to save your own life, and I wasn’t going to let you fail. I was going to help you.
[_“What I saw that just clinched it for me, was seeing that you truly loved yourself at that point, you loved life then. You were not going to let it go.” _]
I knew that although you were determined and standing up and ready to fight for your life and freedom, you weren’t going to win. And what I saw that just clinched it for me, was seeing that you truly loved yourself at that point, you loved life then. You were not going to let it go. You took a stand.
I knew it wouldn’t be such a big thing for me to help you, be there for you, use my superhero-foreigner powers with the authorities, it would be a small thing for me. But without me, I knew, you were going to be lost, you were not going to make it. The bastards holding and beating you, were going to win.
I had already secured my life, taken some stands, had made it. By then I was just doing adventures. But I knew that I could change the Universe by changing your life. And I could change my own Universe and everything all at once. Otherwise there would be no Elena, you would have been gone at that point. That was the crossroads.
Nobody else I knew was in your situation. Nobody else that I knew would ever have done what you did. So it wasn’t just me, it was also you. I realized at that time that you were literally leaping off that cliff and the only one there to catch you was me. I wasn’t going to walk away.
ELENA: I know many people would think that instead of being with me you should have been with a big-wig or somebody rich. For many people in Russia the idea is to hook up with some money bag in the West, that’s the dream. You were doing the opposite. Money didn’t matter to you?
MEG: Money wasn’t the problem. The point was – you were in serious trouble, I wasn’t going to let you down, you reached out, you needed a hand. And that wasn’t even that you needed a hand, you didn’t even think about that at the time, you just said to your parents: “No, I’m not going to give you my life. My life is my own. That’s how I’m going to live it.” It wasn’t up for discussion, it was a declaration of war, of independence. I was blown away.
ELENA: What people are you drawn to?
MEG: People with energy, people who are alive, who are joyful, adventurous. And who are willing to take a risk. People who would do anything it takes to get what they want. I like that.
ELENA: I think you pretty much described yourself.
We both laugh.
MEG: Then I want to meet people like me.
ELENA: What makes relationship good between two people, in your opinion?
MEG: I guess, it would have to be complete honesty. But even that is so cliche, it sounds like some kind of song. I think it’s just being yourself with the person and that’s it. Having no fear.
ELENA: No fear of what?
MEG: No fear of rejection, no fear of jealousy, no fear of lying. Just – no fear. You trust this person implicitly. I trusted you with my life and you trusted me with yours. It’s just a relationship without fear.
ELENA: Do you think people usually have this kind of relationship? Why do you think they lack that honesty and lack of fear?
MEG: Just because they do, it’s human nature. People have relationships because they think they have to. It’s like “I gotta have shoes” or “I have to wear pants in public,” it’s a social norm and there’s a huge industry built on it.
ELENA: But that’s a pretty huge commitment, don’t you think?
MEG: I think so, but it depends on who you ask. A lot of people change relationships every 2 weeks.
ELENA: So you are saying that people are together because they think they have to?
MEG: Absolutely. I think a lot of them are. It’s also seriously, heavy-duty, programmed into us, hard coded by nature and reinforced by the media and social programming to ensure a market for the relationship products, like houses, cars, furniture and to secure a source of future consumers.
ELENA: What is your relationship with your family like now?
MEG: What relationship? What family? I don’t know my family. I’m pretty sure they don’t want to know me.
ELENA: How do you feel about that?
MEG: So what? Shit happens, “Bummer dude”.
ELENA: Are you not concerned?
MEG: About what? All they can do is throw money. There is nothing else there. I don’t see any support. I don’t see anything that they can provide other than money.
ELENA: Does it bother you that you have no relationship with your family?
MEG: I guess I feel put out. It would be nice to have a relationship, it would be nice to have somewhere to go to, somewhere to fly to, to send presents to.
ELENA: But that’s not the condition, so “too bad”?
MEG: Yeah, too bad. Get on with it, move on.
[_“Women are trained not to play or have fun.” _]
ELENA: How did you end up doing so many things that a woman usually doesn’t do in this world? Was it because you could afford to do them, or because you had desire to do them?
MEG: Both, obviously. If I didn’t want to do something, or I didn’t have the money, chances are I wouldn’t do it.
ELENA: Would you say it is harder for a woman to get to do fun things than for a man?
MEG: Absolutely. Society imposes that inequality. Women are trained not to play or have fun. Women are programmed to find fun in service, child-rearing and homemaking tasks. Like getting together to make doilies for the church sale, while the men go off fishing, golfing, yacht racing, with their buddies; competing to show off who has the biggest disposable income and who is having the best time, or is the drunkest.
ELENA: You don’t think men are happy?
MEG: I think it’s all about showing off, I don’t think there is any actual real joy in it.
ELENA: How do women around you react to you being on your own (without a man), flying freely through life, not having children and the responsibilities that come with them?
MEG: I don’t know what they think. I don’t really care, actually.
ELENA: You have a theory that all women are lesbians. Can you tell me a bit about it.
MEG: Well, that’s a bizarre question.
ELENA: I think it is very interesting. I think, many women would like to hear what you have to say about that.
MEG: I don’t believe in “lesbian” or “heterosexual.” I believe sexuality is just sexuality. But I think a woman will always get closer to another woman than she ever will to a man.
ELENA: Like in nature, just because a male mates with a female it doesn’t mean she would want to be with that male?
MEG: No, of course not. From what I’ve seen, sex between women is genuine, it’s exciting, it’s mutual. Between a man and a woman it tends to be a chore. Men tend to be intensely selfish. They believe they need sex and sexual partners to justify their existence. For them it is an actual physical need. Like having gas and needing to fart and it’s the woman’s obligation to provide that man a way to satisfy that need. Like what happens when you eat a lot of prunes and under cooked cauliflower.
ELENA: You don’t think women need to have sex? A lot of them think they do.
MEG: No, I don’t think sex is a need. It is – if you want to reproduce, I guess, and you can’t afford in vitro fertilization.
ELENA: What do you find to be attractive in a woman?
MEG: Courage, strength, independence, and the ability to take risks. Really, lack of fear. I find confidence, brilliance, passion and a love of life, very attractive.
ELENA: Would you call yourself a “lesbian”? Who do you consider yourself to be?
MEG: No, I don’t call myself a “lesbian,” I call myself a “person.”
[_“If everyone came out and was counted, there would be no enemy, it would just be people.” _]
ELENA: If you were a women living in Russia how would you live your life?
MEG: I would try to live it the way I live it now.
ELENA: Do you think there is a hope for gays and lesbians in Russia to one day live in a society that doesn’t abuse and humiliate a person just because she loves a person of her sex?
MEG: Of course I do. I think they have to stand up for themselves. The point is, though, the Russian government, and it’s media, is using the LGBT community as an enemy-within for social manipulation. The LGBT community has to unite and deny the government and media that power.
ELENA: How do you think that’s possible?
MEG: By enough people being out, enough of society being out, being visible! If everyone came out and was counted, there would be no enemy, it would just be people. Vilifying a large percentage of your population inevitably leads to genocide.
ELENA: What is the main obstacle to a society that would accept LGBT people in Russia you think?
ELENA: In your life did you have to act for some one, changing your true self?
MEG: Of course. It happens to everybody. You eventually realize what you are doing and outgrow it, and get out of the situation in which you are doing it.
ELENA: How did you resolve this situation?
MEG: Walked away. I just went on with my life. You don’t give these people the time of day, eventually.
ELENA: Do you think it is possible even if the people who try to turn you into somebody you are not are your parents, you colleagues, your friends?
MEG: Absolutely, if it is bad energy, you don’t need it. Parents, friends, colleagues, bosses, whatever… they are all just people. If they are destroying your life, making it any less valuable, hurting you, making you uncomfortable, trashing your experience of living, you need to get away from them. In the meantime, if you need to get payed, or get fed, or need a place to live, and that forces you into a situation that these people can suck your life force and wear you down, you have find ways to deal with it, try to not let it affect you, until you can change your situation and get away from them. But if it’s somebody who you don’t have to deal with for physical survival – just don’t deal with them. Walk away.
ELENA: Do you think the modern world can one day become a safe and enjoyable world for a woman to live in? Or do you think women will be always in danger and treated as a second class people? With their main functions being servicing men and raising children?
MEG: “Them” and “us” terminology is a pisser. We are all just people.
ELENA: The reality is, women are in danger pretty much at any time.
MEG: Of course they are. Society trains men to be dominant and women to be subservient and afraid. If society didn’t do this, there would be no danger. Not now, that there are guns and police and cast iron frying pans – it means women aren’t necessarily disadvantaged by a sexually dimorphic size difference anymore.
ELENA: Do you believe that other women could do what we did – sailed to the other side of the world on their own?
ELENA: Do you think there are limits to women’s capabilities? The well known concept is – women are less capable because of their weaker than men’s body. What would you say about such argument?
MEG: In a physical sense it’s true, but I would say there is absolutely nothing that women can’t do that men can. I guess a woman can’t get someone knocked up. If we are talking about strength – sure, men have stronger bodies, but there are also women who can be strong too if they lift weights. Yes, physically men are bigger, they are stronger, and the hormones make them aggressive, make them think differently, but the only thing that you need a man for is stud. That’s it.
ELENA: If you had known what I was going through in Russia before meeting you in Kiev, what would you advise me then?
MEG: I would say that if you want to be free, to be yourself and live for you, better fasten your seat belt, hang on tight, cuz it’s gonna get a little bumpy.
ELENA: What would your advise be for me as far as life is concerned?
MEG: Bite through the leash and get away. I would say get away now. Save your life now. Do what ever it takes to live for yourself. You are wasting time, wasting heart beats, wasting life, otherwise.
[_“When someone sees the obvious, takes back her life, that is the greatest thing.” _]
ELENA: What would be the absolute paradise for you – something that you love doing or experiencing? The condition that you find yourself the happiest in?
MEG: Igniting people’s passion. I love it when someone clues in to what I am saying; when I say something turns the lights on inside them; shows them something they hadn’t noticed. If I can cut through the programming and convince someone her life is hers alone, and she can take it back – that is thrilling, a moment of paradise for me! When someone sees the obvious, takes back her life, that is the greatest thing.
I used to teach humongous, first-year, computer programming classes in University. Most of the students had to be there, as a requirement, and couldn’t care less about JAVA programming. I loved making some pedantic little programming exercise funny, enjoyable and exciting. I loved cracking jokes and having the lecture theater in stitches. I have also done some acting. When you are on stage and really connect with the audience – there is nothing greater.
[_“Love yourself. Never let anyone tell you how to feel, or what is right and what isn’t. Only you know that.” _]
ELENA: Imagine you have a few minutes left before you have to part with your Russian female audience in a hall somewhere, what would you tell them?
MEG: Do whatever is right for YOU! If something in your life isn’t right for you – it is wrong, it will hurt you. Love yourself. Never let anyone tell you how to feel or what is right and what isn’t. Only you know that. ONLY YOU. You must be the most important person in your life. Only you can live your life. It is the only precious thing you have – that finite chemical reaction that gives you a sentient connection with your universe. Others will try to take it from you, make you live for them, enslave you for their goals, their dreams, their aggrandizement, their company, their bank account, their honor. Your life doesn’t have any value to them. They will convince you it is wrong to live for yourself, that you must ignore your own needs, deny yourself any joy, that to do otherwise is wrong! They will threaten you, belittle you, even promise you a better life when you are dead. Insanity!
Whatever you do, do it entirely for you. Do whatever it takes to get your life back, and if there’s no other way to get out of a bad situation, then just like at the end of Gorod Zero I’d say “run!”
Learn more about Elena’s and Meg’s escape
from Russia to Canada at
Heroine - In 2006 Meg helped me flee from my oppressive society. We started our escape in Kiev, Ukraine in March 2006 and completed it in April 2007, arriving safely in Victoria, Canada after an ocean crossing journey of 10 months. Adventurer - Escaping with me to Canada has deeply changed Meg and her view of the world. Now, she sees no other option but to learn, experience and explore the unknown by traveling the world any way possible - on a sailboat, plane, train, car or donkey. Misfit - As the result of her somewhat "unconventional" activities - saving Russians, exchanging her house for freedom, experiencing the world in unimaginable ways, and living her life the way SHE wants to - Meg is admired by some people, and ostracized by others. In this interview I, the woman she helped escape from Russia, ask Meg questions I've wondered about for years. The subjects covered in this interview are: Adventure, Russia, Canada, Escape with Elena from Russia, Life of a Russian woman, Meg's past and current life, Decision to help Elena flee, Relationship between people, Women and fun, sexuality, Women's and LGBT rights in Russia, Final word to Russian women.