Efforts in high gear to bring Russian emigre back

Almost a month after Russian Jewish emigre Yana Slobodova was deported, local efforts are continuing to bring her back to the Bay Area.

Meanwhile, her husband, Alexander Makarchuk, returned Tuesday, March 16, after spending almost two weeks with his wife in St. Petersburg.

A popular piano teacher who taught at an arts school in Mountain View, Slobodova, 30, was deported on Feb. 29 for entering the country with faulty paperwork. She was in the United States eight years. Her husband, originally from Ukraine, is a naturalized citizen, and their almost 2-year-old son, Nikita, is also a citizen. Her parents, who live in San Mateo, are eligible for citizenship soon.

A worried Makarchuk, 33, flew to St. Petersburg three days after his wife left because she began experiencing heart problems as soon as she arrived. She saw a doctor there but because an expired Russian passport was her only form of identification, she was not covered by the Russian medical system. The tourist prices she paid for her medical services almost rival what out-of-pocket medical care costs in the United States, Makarchuk said.

Slobodova’s father, who accompanied her when she was deported, was set to return to the Bay Area on Thursday, March 25.

Makarchuk said that his wife’s condition got a bit better once he arrived, and it improved further when her mother brought Nikita for a visit. Slobodova’s mother and Nikita have a one-month visa and must soon leave Russia.

But his wife is hardly well, he said. She is depressed and barely leaves her apartment.

Makarchuk, who worked as a plumber until a back injury disabled him, said he is worried about how he will earn enough money to support his wife in Russia. He was doing administrative work, but he quit to fight his wife’s deportation. He gave up their San Francisco apartment to save money and now lives with his wife’s parents in San Mateo.

The family is further broken apart as Nikita will live temporarily with Makarchuk’s parents in Florida because both of Slobodova’s parents have health problems.

A fund to help the family has been set up through the Bay Area Council for Jewish Rescue and Renewal, 459 Fulton St., Suite 104, S.F., CA 94102. Donations, which should be made to the Yana Slobodova Fund, are tax deductible.

Meanwhile, the family’s attorney, Marc Van Der Hout of Van Der Hout, Brigagliano & Nightingale, believes that asking for humanitarian parole is the best shot at reuniting Slobodova with her family.

“We’re hopeful that with fresh eyes looking at this in Washington … more reasonable minds will prevail and she’ll be paroled back in,” Van Der Hout said.

Humanitarian parole can be granted by the Department of Homeland Security for an alien outside the United States while an appeal is being considered. Although it is only for a one-year period, it can be extended and, if granted, would allow Slobodova to return to the United States.

Lawyers are working now to put together testimony explaining why the separation is causing undue hardship on the family. Expected to be ready in a few weeks, it will then be submitted to the Department of Homeland Security. A decision could take up to 90 days, and several legislators, including Rep. Tom Lantos (D-San Mateo) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-S.F.), the House Democratic leader, have indicated they will do what they can to help.

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."