Road to America - Help Vera and Marusya Get US Citizenship

Road to America - Help Vera and Marusya Get US Citizenship

From Max Shelton

After fleeing Russia, Max, Vera, Marusya, and Elly (!) need to afford legal fees, school, housing, and other expenses while they wait in Montenegro and Washington, DC for Vera and Marusya to obtain US citizenship.

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I (Max) want to thank those of you that have followed along with our unexpected and forced adventure from Saint Petersburg, Russia to Montenegro over the last week. I am happy to report that we are all safe and sound.

Like the rest of the world, we were shocked to not only witness, but to be directly affected by Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. I was privileged enough to be offered a promotion at American Councils for International Education several days before the invasion, which requires us to move to Washington, DC in the near future. Before we were forced to flee Russia, we were planning on doing so over the next few months in 2022, but those plans dissipated very quickly and we understood the need to leave as soon as possible. In a matter of three full days, we packed up what we could and left.

Now, our task is to sort out migration for Marusya and Vera (and dog, Elly), which we feel we must do from abroad (Montenegro for now) because the crackdown on Russian citizen’s rights has now reached unprecedented levels. If they were still in Russia, Vera and Marusya could have a difficult time leaving the country in the future. We believed it prudent to act immediately, so we did. While we initially were planning on saving money over the next few months to prepare for an already life-altering move to the US later this year, we must now start from scratch in Montenegro. Vera and Marusya do not have any type of American visa - their US tourist visas expired during Covid without much possibility for renewal due to vaccine travel restrictions and long waits. We have been advised to immediately pursue immigration visas with the intent of gaining US citizenship for them. Currently, we are working on one income, and I will soon be required to move to the US to begin my new job at American Councils, placing us in a difficult situation: we will be paying for housing, immigration costs, school, and basic needs in and from two different places (DC and Montenegro) solely on my modest income.

After consulting with specialists and reaching out to authorities in the United States, we understand that the immigration visa process could take up to two years without legal assistance. Additionally, we have spent the majority of our savings getting ourselves (and dog!) to safety. While Vera and I can temporarily pause our careers, we cannot put Marusya’s education on hold and are sending her to the local International Baccalaureate school, which is our only viable option here since it is Russian/English  – Marusya does not speak Montegrin and therefore cannot go to a free public school. We will also need to afford legal services, potential trips to US consulates in other countries, living accommodations, and pay US government processing fees for visas, which is much more than we can afford over the next few weeks or months on our own. With assistance, we are hopeful that we might be able to get Vera and Marusya to the US within the next half year.

I have received countless messages from many of you asking me how to help, and we are so thankful for your willingness to do so. At this point, assisting with Marusya’s education, our legal services, processing fees, and living/travel costs while we wait for Vera and Marusya’s immigration visa appointments at a US Consulate in Europe are the best way to help.

We therefore apply to you.

We do not ask easily, but we have quickly understood that we cannot expedite Vera and Marusya’s migration processes without external assistance, nor can we sustain ourselves adequately while we wait, potentially living separately in two countries on my income alone.

Over the next 6 months, we have estimated that legal costs will be upwards of $10,000, housing costs will be around $4000, Marusya’s education will cost about $4000, and travel prices will vary, but we believe they will approach around $5000, including final flights to the US. Therefore, we have set the fundraising mark at $23,000.

If we are able to exceed this amount, we will donate the remainder to the foundation our friends and colleagues are currently setting up in Montenegro to assist Ukrainian refugees and those fleeing Russia.

Thank you all so much for your time and concern. We promise to reciprocate once we are able.

Love, always,

Vera, Marusya, Max, and Elly

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