“…of course I would choose French nationality”.
PARIS, FRANCE – October 20. Victoria was born in 1989 in Tikhoretsk, in Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, USSR where she stayed until 1991, which is when she and her family moved to Kazakhstan. She has been stateless for all her life and is now studying law in Paris, hoping that one day she could become a French citizen.
After the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, her parents did not manage to ensure citizenship for her. Her mother obtained a Kazakh passport but did not start any procedure for her children to obtain their own. Moreover, then the practice in Kazakhstan was that children under 16 did not have their own passports.
In 2002, the family left Kazakhstan to go to France and stays there. Victoria was 12 years old. Her residence permit stated ‘nationality: undetermined’. The family chose France because they had a history with this country. As a matter of fact, Victoria’s great grandfather escaped from a concentration camp in Germany and went to France where he fought within the Foreign Legion.
When she started the procedure in France in 2007, the Kazakh Embassy in France informed her that she was not a Kazakh citizen because she had never been registered as such. The Russian Embassy, on the other hand, considered that she was not a Russian citizen because she did not meet the deadline to apply for nationality.
For a long time her status was ‘nationality: undetermined’. She was recognized as stateless by the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA) only a year ago.
She is currently studying French and Russian Law in Paris. When she enrolled at university and the administration saw her residence permit they asked her what does ‘undetermined’ mean: “And what should I write as your nationality?” Life of stateless persons is full of these kinds of stories. In the end, she was registered as Russian.
She feels half French and half Russian. But if she was given the choice of a nationality, she would have chosen the French one.
Her main motivation to have a nationality is “to belong to a country […] when you do not belong to any country you cannot feel complete […] you feel as if you are rejected from society”. She also wants to live the life of a young woman and travel without worrying about her permit. ‘I have not left the the French territory since 2002, so for 14 years, and I want to see the world’.
“I am exhausted of explaining my story to every person I meet and to the authorities each time, the story of someone ‘without a nationality”’.
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