Moment is publishing regular updates from Helen, a Soviet American Jew living in Kyiv. Read all the diary entries here.
Since both of us, my husband and I, were born in Kyiv, we are eligible for a Ukrainian resident permit. When we arrived back in Kyiv almost ten years ago, except for the outrageous fees—a costly $3,000 at the time, plus attorney and notary fees—receiving the permits was a rather painless operation.
The time eventually came when we needed to renew our resident permits. We went to the government agency on February 22, but the lines were huge and we decided to reschedule for two days later. When I woke up on Thursday and asked my husband about our appointment, he told me we weren’t going. “Why?” I asked. “Lines again?” “No,” he said, “the war.” That is actually how I learned that Russia had invaded and we were now at war. Despite all the warnings that had been going on for months, neither of us, nor any of our friends or colleagues, believed that it would actually happen.
It is still incomprehensible that the war goes on. The whole world knows about Russia’s aggression against the sovereign Ukrainian state. But what is more important is whether the world knows about the numerous Russian war crimes. Does it know that this war is seen by many as a genocide against the people of Ukraine? I among others would like to make sure that Europeans and U.S. citizens understand the obvious: If Putin continues his actions aimed at restoring the Soviet empire, the revival of a terrorist state would threaten everyone.
Yet, as life in the capital of Ukraine, where we live, has slowly been restored, we decided to resume the process of updating our resident permits. This turned into a whole other saga.
The new and very contemporary office was crowded but not as much as we expected. We stayed in line for an hour. Electronic fingerprints were taken, and the birth certificates and our American passports were processed once again by a very polite and professional representative. It took about an hour, and we were told that we would be called within two weeks to come and get the renewed documents. We thought the mission was accomplished. Little did we know what was going to follow.
The next day I got a call from a man who didn’t introduce himself and was actually yelling, demanding I bring my original birth certificate to a different office at once. He wasn’t willing to explain. He just gave us the address and the name of the official to contact.
So, my husband and I went to the address he specified, but we couldn’t find any office. When the door of the building opened, we saw a lady and asked her if she knew where we should go. That woman happened to be that very same official that we were supposed to contact. She didn’t invite us into the office; actually I didn’t see any office. She was extremely aggressive and asked me why I had come. I said that I was sent there. She then yelled at me and called the person who had sent me to her. She did a good job yelling at him as well.
This was a Soviet-era woman displaying an extremely aggressive attitude. But we still didn’t know what the problem was and what was expected from us. Finally, we got an explanation.
While birth data books were being transferred into the computer system, my name was somehow missed. It was most likely a human error. But I now had to prove that I was indeed born. We called the lawyer to find out how to solve this issue. “Three easy steps,” he said.
First, I had to go to a notary and translate my American passport into the Ukrainian language. Then, I had to bring the notarized passport translation along with the original birth certificate to the Government Registry, where I would get reborn and obtain proof of it, meaning a new birth certificate.
Afterward, I had to re-apply for a resident permit all over again.
Now we are waiting and hoping that my registration will go through this time. Two weeks have passed. There is no answer for my husband’s “case,” and there is no way to contact the office. However, we keep our hopes high.