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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Place of Birth Causes Stress at the Border

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I have two sons. The elder emigrated to the United States in the 1990s, while the younger lives in Moscow. This means, unfortunately, that they rarely get to see one another.

Back in March, my younger son decided to visit his brother in Boston. When the younger son was in medical school in Astrakhan, he met his future wife, Lyuda. She is an ethnic Russian, though she was born in Chechnya. They were soon married, and I managed to get them transferred to a medical school in Moscow.

When the big day arrived, I drove my son and his wife to the airport. They returned 12 days later. I was too busy to meet them at the airport, though my grandson's car will only hold three people and suitcases anyway. "Don't sweat it," my grandson said. "You'll be able to kiss the kids when they get home in a couple of hours."

Sure enough, an hour and a half later my phone rang. My son called to invite my wife, Maria, and me to his house. He and Lyuda were bursting with stories about their visit.

I asked Lyuda what had struck her most about the trip, her first to the States.

"To be honest, I'd have to say passport control at Sheremetyevo," she replied. "It says in my passport that I was born in Chechnya." The agent studied Lyuda's passport long and hard, and then started asking her questions.

"When were you last in Chechnya?" the agent asked. "1988," Lyuda said. The agent took a moment to think, and then asked, "What did you go there for?" "My father's funeral," Lyuda said. "And where are you traveling today?" "I'm flying to Boston with my husband to visit his brother," Lyuda said. "Did anyone in Chechnya give you instructions to carry out in America?"

The questioning went on like this for quite a while, and Lyuda started to worry that she wouldn't be allowed to get on the plane.

"I realized that I really didn't have anything to fear, but it was scary all the same," she said. "I was standing there, thinking, 'Why did I have to be born in Chechnya?'"

When they flew back to Moscow, Lyuda was again held up at passport control. They wanted to know if she had received an assignment to carry out in Chechnya.

"What nonsense!" Lyuda concluded. "But I'm still glad we went. We had a wonderful trip."

Vladislav Schnitzer is a pensioner and journalist living in Moscow.