Ilonna Pozharskaya, a 30-year-old mother of two children, lived without a passport for most of her life. “My mother moved to Kyrgyzstan when I was a child. I didn’t ask her why we had moved from the Amur Region. We settled in Issyk Kul region. At the age of 17, […]
Ilonna Pozharskaya, a 30-year-old mother of two children, lived without a passport for most of her life.
“My mother moved to Kyrgyzstan when I was a child. I didn’t ask her why we had moved from the Amur Region. We settled in Issyk Kul region. At the age of 17, when it was time for me to get a passport, I came to my mother and asked for copies of her documents, but she replied that she did not have a passport, she had lost it somewhere. This was how I was left without a passport”.
It was impossible for her to get into higher education without documents. Instead, Ilonna enrolled on sewing courses and started working in various sewing workshops in Bishkek. She says that her employers would ask her to show at least a copy of her passport at the beginning. Ilonna had to explain that she could not do this yet for various reasons and the employers reacted with understanding. However, this was not the case with everyone. At the age of 20 she became pregnant from her first common-law husband. According to Ilonna, the first serious difficulties to arise due to the lack of documents occurred during her pregnancy. In one Bishkek hospital, the doctors openly laughed at her. Moreover, she had to leave the maternity hospital with her first child without a single paper.
“I wanted to register at a local clinic and immediately the health care staff sneered at me: “You are already 20, and you still don’t have a passport?” they asked. After the birth of my son, they did not give me any document that stated that I really gave birth to him, never mind a birth certificate. I provided them with his father’s passport but it didn’t help. When I collected all the necessary documents again and went to a passport office, they told me to find my father. It turned out that I needed his details too, because I had a Soviet birth certificate. I haven’t seen my dad since I was a baby, I had no idea where to find him. I got angry and threw away all the documents right there. I said that I couldn’t do it anymore, and if they wouldn’t give me a passport, then I didn’t need it. Two years of efforts had led me nowhere.”
Soon after that, Ilonna separated from her partner, with whom she lived in a civil marriage for about three years. They could not officially formalize the marriage due to her lack of an identity document. After a while, Ilonna decided to gather all the documents needed for a passport again.
“I convinced myself that I must do this not only for my own sake, but also for the future of my children. I got married for a second time in 2013 and gave birth to my second child. My elder son should have already started kindergarten by then, but he would not been accepted without a birth certificate. Both children needed to be registered at a clinic, and I hoped that this time I could manage it.”
As part of the global #IBelong campaign to end statelessness, the Adilet legal clinic – together with the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and government agencies – helped Ilonna and her children to obtain citizenship.
“When I came to the lawyers, I explained that I was tired of wasting time and – most importantly – money on something that did not bring tangible results. I got tired and lost hope of getting a passport. They replied that I didn’t need to collect any more papers. The only thing they asked for was a certificate from the hospital proving that I had really given birth to two children there. In 2017, I was given a passport and then my children’s birth certificates. It was the most important thing in the world for me.”
Ilonna Pozharskaya obtained a passport for the first time at the age of 28, when she already was a mother of two children. Now her elder son Arseniy is going to school, and her younger son Danila to kindergarten. Ilonna dreams of learning to play the piano professionally and teaching at a school.
“For the first time in years, I can really let myself dream of something other than getting a passport.”
Kyrgyzstan has made significant strides in addressing the problem of statelessness over the past five years. The achievements of Kyrgyzstan in this area are being noted not only in Central Asia, but also globally. In July 2019, Kyrgyzstan became the first country in the world to have resolved all known cases of statelessness.