Posted by Dan on February 08, 2003 at 05:49:14:
In Reply to: Marriage in Ukraine/I-130 in Warsaw? posted by Claddagh on January 15, 2003 at 22:29:06:
Getting hitched in Ukraine can be the ultimate cross-cultural experience. It is the equivalent of a lifetime of those oft-advertised home-stays for exchange students or volunteers, a dozen or so ‘Green Card’ and ‘French Kiss’ induced déjà vu experiences, and one or two misunderstandings about the difference between American and Ukrainian forms of engagement
The most apparent aspect of getting married in Ukraine, besides simply being in love with someone, are the papers that must be stamped and signed, and the offices that must be visited.
It began for Natasha and I with a visit to the friendly neighborhood U.S. consulate, pleasantly located off Artema Street near Lukianovska Metro. We immediately felt very important there, because we went to the start of the line ahead of the many Ukrainians waiting at the gatehouse to file their visa applications or whatnot. I felt guilty too. I wanted to take all these people inside with me. “They’re all with me,” I’d explain.
The guard was not going to let in my cassette tapes of Eminem or my Sony Walkman, nor was he going to let me take in my water bottle. I don’t know what the reason was, but maybe he thought it might contain vodka. After he made sure that I could not possibly be concealing any weapon in my overalls, we passed through another guarded doorway in our entrance to the building.
Inside, there’s one side for Ukrainians, and one side for Americans. The side for Americans has chairs, toys for children, and a water cooler. The side for non-citizens has, guess what? Nothing of the sort! They just have to stand there without water or toys. How nice!
We were there first that afternoon, with the mission of getting a ‘letter of non-impediment to marriage’ notarized by a consular official. After I paid my $35 at the bursar’s window, a sudden rush of people came in with all kinds of requests and problems. I was suddenly stuck at the end of a long, unruly line. Someone had lost his passport. Another man from Iran was inquiring about getting a visa to the US. My heart sank as I heard the consular officials flatly tell him to go back to Iran and apply there. Hah, not likely!
But finally I swore an oath with my hand held high in front of a nice vice-consul that I was not, and had not ever been married. Natasha thought that was pretty funny I think, because Ukrainians don’t usually have to swear an oath for anything. And then we were on our way!
Not so fast, dear readers. Marriage is still more than a hop, skip, and a jump away.
The rules state that this letter of non-impediment to marriage (can I say, LONITM?) must be authenticated at the Foreign Ministry of all places. No problem, I thought. I’ll go there myself. It’s not so easy though, and nobody who only speaks English should try this alone.
The Foreign Ministry is a picturesque building on a bluff above the Dnieper River. I rode Kiev’s funicular trolley to get there, and went to the entrance in the back of the building. There were tons of people there already, sitting outside on benches.
At 9 a.m., just as I showed up, there was a rush to go inside. I went with the flow into a large hall and stood there feeling very helpless until a very nice lady suggested I go take a number. I was number 78, of 78 people. I started filling out a form in Russian, using my pocket dictionary. I was determined to get this done.
Two and a half grueling hours later, I finally made it to the window, and turned in my documents. The lady gave me a receipt to take to the cashiers, and I somehow managed to make the 25 hryvnia payment without understanding hardly a word of what I wrote or what the cashier was saying. There are instructions on the wall, and I just copied everything down letter for Cyrillic letter.
Documents are returned on a next-day basis, after 4 in the afternoon. There is only a 45-minute time window on Fridays, and we were back at number 83 in this line. Natasha came with me this day to share in the fun. Why we were 83 is beyond me, because we were one of the first 20 or 30 people there in line. I was on the verge of having a brain aneurysm from stress, and Natasha was sure we would have to come back another day. Nonetheless, our turn finally came with only a few minutes to spare.
However, as luck would have it, they couldn’t find my documents. They looked and looked, and just about gave up. A supervisor joined the search as we were holding up the line of fifty of more people also anxiously waiting for their documents. You could feel the desperation in the air. And just when we thought all hope was lost, the stamped and doubly notarized Letter of Non-Impediment to Marriage appeared under a stack of nameless forms.
The next step, according to US Embassy instructions, is to hop along to the 1st Notary Public Office on Mykhailo Kotsubinski St. and get the LONITM as well as my passport translated and notarized. So, in other words, the LONITM must be notarized twice, and authenticated once. The Notary Office has strange hours and looked like another long wait, so Natasha and I decided to take up a private firm’s offer to have this service done for a fee. It turned out to be 90 hryvnia, but they had it done in a day without any hassle.
Our final step, or so we thought, was to go to the central ZAGS, or Wedding Palace, on Prospekt Peremogy. It turned out that we had almost everything we needed; except for my little ‘immigration card’ Ukrainian customs gave to me at the border, and a photocopy of my Ukrainian visa. The cost of the marriage would be about 90 hryvnia, and we can set the date in a month’s time.
So we’re within inches of signing those final papers, before Natasha and I actually seal the deal. Then the big questions of where we’re going to live, and how we’re going to live as a Ukrainian-American couple in a not quite Unionized, but still European Ukraine. We’ll let you know what happens!
April Translations Bureau 35 B. Khemelnitskogo St. Suite 5
Ministry of Foreign Affairs 1 Mykhailivska Ploscha
1st Notary Public Office 12 Mykhailo Kotsubinski St.
Printed in http://www.ukraine-observer.com/archive.php?section=STREET_TALK&issue=152
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