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Russian family heads for Europe

by Robert Hirtle

 LUNENBURG - Vitaly Bondarenko's stay in Lunenburg appears to have come to an end.

 Sources say the Russian engineer, his wife, Marina, and their two children left Lunenburg harbour June 12, heading for Europe.

 Mr. Bondarenko, who has been trying to obtain Canadian citizenship since arriving in Nova Scotia on his 37-foot yacht, Viajero, in the summer of 2004, said in May that if his request was not granted by early June, he would attempt to sail back to his home country.

 According to Capt. Doug Himmelman, who befriended the family when their immigration troubles first came to light four years ago, those plans have apparently changed.

 The family is now planning on sailing to Brest, France, where Mr. Bondarenko told Capt. Himmelman he was welcomed to immigrate "with open arms" during a visit there a number of years ago.

 Before they can depart Nova Scotia, however, the family has to deal with a number of issues regarding their boat which came to light during their passage from Lunenburg.

 "They had some problems with their sails, they had a problem with the engine and the toilet," Capt. Himmelman explained. "They had a heavy wind. They left here on a Thursday morning at five o'clock and it was blowing about 30 or 40 knots before he got to Halifax."

 Those problems forced them to seek shelter in Halifax's Northwest Arm, near the Armdale Yacht Club, while repairs are being carried out. It appears, however, that Mr. Bondarenko's efforts will be focused on repairing the sails as that has historically been his preferred method of propulsion.

 "He doesn't pay much attention to the engine and he needs that sometimes," Capt. Himmelman explained, addingthat "he bought himself a good life raft, so at least he has a little bit of peace of mind."

 While Capt. Himmelman admits there are two sides to every story, he said he is disappointed in the way in which Canada's bureaucracy treated the family and believes the 2006 federal election, which saw a change in power from Liberals to Conservatives, may have played a role in his immigration delays.

 "He's four years now with two governments," he said. "They told him to come back and that he was just about in and then the government changed, and here's all these new guys."

 The latest hurdle the government requested from the family was for each of them to undergo a third medical examination, something Mr. Bondarenko refused to do, which ultimately resulted in their decision to leave Lunenburg.

 "He said, 'if they come before I leave here with my little green card, I'll be glad to stay.' He's frustrated," Capt. Himmelman said.



posted on 06/24/08
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