'The country didn't show up for the protest': how a successful entrepreneur from St. Petersburg decided to move to the USA - ForumDaily
The article has been automatically translated into English by Google Translate from Russian and has not been edited.
Переклад цього матеріалу українською мовою з російської було автоматично здійснено сервісом Google Translate, без подальшого редагування тексту.
Bu məqalə Google Translate servisi vasitəsi ilə avtomatik olaraq rus dilindən azərbaycan dilinə tərcümə olunmuşdur. Bundan sonra mətn redaktə edilməmişdir.

“The country simply didn’t show up for the protest”: Why a successful entrepreneur from Saint Petersburg decided on an unplanned move to the USA

In Sultan Albakov’s life, everything seemed to be falling into place smoothly: a successful business, a wife, and three children. He could have continued to live peacefully in Saint Petersburg, but at some point, he began to pay more attention to what was happening around him.

Photo from the personal archive of Sultan Albakov

According to Sultan, as a child of the 1990s, he was not used to waiting for help from the state and relied only on himself. And he succeeded - he built a business, children were born one after another. Yes, he saw that education, healthcare, housing and communal services in Russia were lame, but he did not attach much importance to this. It is clear that corruption is to blame for everything, but what can be done about it?

“The attempted murder of Aleksey Navalny was the final straw”

The first time he seriously thought that the country had taken a wrong turn was in 2012, when the elections were obviously rigged and protests were brutally suppressed.

“During that time, the suppression of protests was not widespread, and, frankly speaking, it looked quite shocking,", says Sultan. — I had not yet participated in the rallies, but I remember that it greatly upset me. And then the annexation of Crimea happened, which caused me definitely negative emotions, because I understood that this would not end well for the country. In 2015, Boris Nemtsov was shamelessly killed. Then I began to watch the investigations of Alexei Navalny’s team regarding Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin. These films also greatly influenced me. But the main trigger was the completely brazen attempt to murder Navalny. After that, when he had already returned to Russia, something clicked in my head. I realized that if there was ever a time when I needed to show my political will, it was now it's time!"

Photo from the personal archive of Sultan Albakov

For the first time in his life, Sultan joined a protest. Other protests followed, but the authorities succeeded in quashing the protest movement in Russia. The level of political activity in the country significantly declined amid government repression. Sultan immersed himself in work, and life returned to its usual course. And then, the war began.

“Twenty-four hours in an unheated police van without food and water”

"“When Russia invaded Ukraine, I stopped thinking about the consequences and generally didn’t care that the protests would most likely be suppressed by the authorities. I simply took to the streets to protest against the war. I was so infuriated that morning; it seemed to me that the entire country had to rise up and voice its disapproval. Honestly, I expected to see many more people at the rally. However, the citizens just didn’t show up to protest. People chose to look away, pretend everything was normal, and continued with their daily lives as if nothing was happening. I questioned the people I had known for years, but they either ignored me or claimed not to be interested in politics,”“, the Sultan is indignant.

At those February 2022 protests, he saw what happens to people who oppose the authorities. As soon as anyone tried to raise a sign or make a speech, they were immediately handcuffed. Those who were arrested later said on social networks that they could be transported for a whole day or even more in unheated paddy wagons without water, food or toilets.

"I began pondering what would happen if I were to be caught next time . As an entrepreneur, I realized that it would be detrimental to my business. Hence, I made an effort to steer clear of direct conflicts with law enforcement. I didn’t get into the thick of things. This went on for several days when it was still relatively feasible to join the protests. However, authorities swiftly began arresting everyone”, recalls Sultan.

On the subject: How to reduce the waiting time for political asylum in the USA: advice from an immigration lawyer

Then people began to be arrested simply for talking, drawing, or posting on social networks. The Sultan was not ready to remain silent, but he did not want to sit in prison either. It was then that he first seriously thought about emigrating. When he looked around and realized that people would not fight, he finally realized: his future and the future of his family were not in Russia.

Long way: Cuba - Mexico - USA

Sultan chose the USA because he believed it was the most democratic country in the world, where human rights were protected by law.

«At that time, I thought if I had to leave my country, I should go somewhere where our rights would be surely respected!” he explains.

"Initially, we flew to Cuba, spent one evening there, and left for Mexico the next morning. Upon arrival in Mexico, we registered in an online queue for crossing the US border. The waiting period was around 60 days, but it ended up being almost 100 days for us. I could say these were 100 days of reprieve. During this time, we explored the surroundings, the children attended online classes, and we focused on learning English and the traffic rules of the USA. Three days before our scheduled appointment, we arrived in Tijuana. Upon arrival, our documents were checked at the airport, taking about 10 minutes. Everything went smoothly, and we spent three days in the town. Our appointment was set for 5 am, so we arrived at the entry point at 3 am."

Photo from the personal archive of Sultan Albakov

“I got separated from my wife”

At the border with Mexico, all migrants are divided into two lines - families separately, and single men separately. They are checked more carefully. This happened with Sultan - since his eldest son was already 20, he was sent to a separate line, and Sultan went with him - so as not to leave the child, even an adult, alone.

"The wife and two younger children went to the family line. The conditions there are much better - they wait indoors. And the single men were all in a separate area on the street and awaited their fate there. This went on for several hours. From time to time we were called to various events: to fill out some documents or take fingerprints and do a DNA test. At first I didn’t have any fear at the border, but then I noticed that everyone else somehow passed faster, but we stayed. I even thought then: what if there is deportation right at the border? But finally an officer came to us, gave us forms to sign and escorted us to San Diego".

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“I love it when professionals take care of things”

Sultan and his family stayed in San Diego for just a couple of days to catch their breath. And then they went to Seattle. A friend was waiting for Sultan there, who acted as a guarantor for their family.

"We didn’t want to embarrass anyone, so while still in Mexico City, I rented a house on Airbnb, where we lived for a month and a half. All this time we were engaged in various organizational issues: opening a bank account, obtaining a driver’s license and a work permit. And in December we rented a house for a year and got seriously involved in our business. I found an immigration lawyer almost immediately - I love it when professionals handle everything,” Sultan clarifies. — There was no doubt in my mind about the need for a lawyer. I understood that I lacked the expertise to assess my chances of a favorable outcome in my political asylum application. Before settling on our current attorney, we considered about five candidates, had several consultations, and ultimately, chose Ekaterina Muratova. Thanks to this decision, I can now focus on settling into our new life, helping my children adapt, while my case is in the hands of a specialist."".

Photo from the personal archive of Sultan Albakov

In the meantime, the lawyer is helping Sultan prepare his case for trial, he has already begun studying the local market. In St. Petersburg, the entrepreneur worked in the bread production industry - and here he plans to start a similar business. He understands that in order to reach the level he had in Russia, he will have to work very hard. But he doesn’t see any other options for himself yet.

"I have a profound love for Russia, and especially Saint Petersburg, my home city. I miss the people I left behind there dearly. I won’t return, as long as the current political regime is still in power. I tried to make a difference while I was there, but unfortunately, I witnessed that the majority of my fellow citizens were unwilling to make any changes in their lives. Those who dare to express dissatisfaction often ended up in prisons or worse. So I made the decision to invest in my family, my children. and their future.“, summed up the Sultan.

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