Woman holding USSR passport stuck in Turkey

Woman holding USSR passport stuck in Turkey

Aziz Özen - ISTANBUL
Woman holding USSR passport stuck in Turkey

A woman born in Ukraine in 1961, who was illegally residing in Turkey when the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) collapsed in 1991 and Ukraine declared independence, hangs on to her USSR passport after failing to get a valid one from the authorities in Kiev.

Aleksandra Dravetskaya was trading goods between Istanbul and Kiev in her late 20s. Then, she started working at two jobs, as a caretaker and an employee of a carpet washing company.

When she applied to the Ukrainian consulate in Istanbul in the mid-1990s, she was told that there was no documentation of hers in the Ukrainian archives. That response probably made her the last person on Earth still living with a passport issued by the USSR.

She has been living with a Turkish man, Doğan Yelkenci, with whom she performed a religious marriage ceremony in Istanbul.

She got into touch with her family in Ukraine seven years ago. However, she could not travel to her home country and her relatives came to Turkey to see her after many years.

“Since I do not have a citizenship ID, I could not legally get married, and I cannot leave Turkey to see my children and grandchildren,” Dravetskaya said, adding that she wanted to be naturalized in Turkey.

“I have been here for 23 years and I really want to be a Turkish citizen,” she said.