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12 января 2002 года.
Khavanov deals with a girlfriend, her visa and her tears // Post-Dispatch

By Tom Timmermann

Alexander Khavanov's (29) long distance relationship is trying for him as well as his girlfriend in Moscow.

It was 4 a.m. on a recent Blues road trip, and defenseman Alexander Khavanov was holed up in his hotel bathroom, talking on the phone to his girlfriend in Moscow while roommate Sergei Varlamov slept.

It was not an easy conversation for Khavanov. His girlfriend, Jenya Arjnikova, had just learned that the U.S. embassy in Moscow was not going to give her the tourist visa she needed to visit America. Khavanov spent more than four hours on the phone with a crying Arjnikova, trying to calm her down (she had college exams in the next few days) and figure out what the two would do.

"It's pretty hard to argue with a very upset girl," Khavanov said. "She was pretty upset. The basic thing was, I couldn't leave her like that. What she needed was compassion and understanding. I had to make her go to sleep, too. That's the only thing that heals that kind of wound."

It's not easy to carry on a relationship from 5,000 miles away, especially when you know that the chances of getting together are fairly limited. Khavanov is a hockey player, which pretty much takes care of all his time between September and May. Arjnikova is a college student, finishing up a degree in sociology at Moscow State University. And when one-half of a relationship is in Moscow and the other is in St. Louis, the potential for a weekend get-together doesn't exist.

That's why Arjnikova was hoping to come out on her winter break, which runs through February. But with no visa, Arjnikova couldn't come to America. There would be only more phone calls, more e-mails.

Khavanov is serious about his hockey, and he has played his best hockey of the season over the past few weeks, but he's also serious about his girlfriend. They've known each other for two years and have been dating seriously for one. "I don't see my future without her," Khavanov said.

Khavanov once spent two days at the U.S. embassy in Moscow waiting for a visa to join the Blues. "It's uncomfortable for her," he said. "She's 5,000 miles away. She thinks everybody in America is like that now. It's tough for her. I've dealt with it before."

Arjnikova said via e-mail from Russia, "I was upset. I think the woman (at the embassy) must understand how I feel and why I want to go to St. Louis. I'm all right now, but I was very upset."

Arjnikova said the only explanation she was given for the refusal was that she was a student and did not have an income.

"It's one thing to say you're not allowing someone in because of the Olympics or Sept. 11 or something is wrong with your paperwork," Khavanov said. "But to give no reason is ridiculous. . . . It was like they hit her in the face with a plaque."

The issue for Arjnikova is, most likely, what is referred to in consular business as "non-immigrant intent." In issuing visas, the consular officer assumes that the applicant wants to go to America and stay and the applicant has to prove otherwise. The U.S. embassy in Moscow, according to St. Louis immigration lawyer Barbara Bleisch, is one of the most conservative when it comes to issuing tourist visas.

"They're suspicious of young, single people," Bleisch said. "The assumption is you come to stay."

"The onus is on that applicant to overcome that assumption," said State Department spokesman Christopher Lamora, who could talk of Arjnikova's situation only in general because of confidentiality laws. "You could show that you have a job to come back to, school you continue to be enrolled in, property you own. There's no magic combination.

"The consular officer who interviewed the woman most likely looked at the situation and said, does she overcome the presumption that she's not going to return to Russia? What she saw was a young, unmarried college student, who is not employed and is traveling in a break between terms in school, whose boyfriend not only lives in America but is a highly paid professional athlete. You tell me what the decision would be.

"It's not that we're trying to be bad guys here. Our job is to uphold the law and it's her responsibility to show her intent to return."

Arjnikova has 1 1/2 years more of school to go and Khavanov says it is ridiculous to think she would leave before she finished it. "In Russia, if you don't have the final degree, you have nothing," he said. "She hasn't spent four years studying to throw it away."

Khavanov is working with an immigration lawyer in Washington to try to get his girlfriend a visa, though the window for her to come out on her winter break keeps getting smaller. She will reapply, this time hopefully armed with the information she needs to prove she will go back. If she doesn't get the visa on her second try, she won't be able to apply again until next January.

"You've got to try," he said. "There's no point in wringing your hands or screaming unless you try to do something about it."

"I do not want to see the Arch, I want to see him," Arjnikova wrote. "I want to see him :) very, very much. . . . He is a wonderful man."

Страничка Александра Хаванова на сайте "Звёзды с Востока"


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