Once, I showed up at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport without a visa. This was in 1992, a time of tumultuous change in Russia. Fortunately, no one was is pursuit.
On previous visits, I had been a guest of the Russian Government and was met at the plane, led past immigration and customs, and whisked away in a limousine. This time, the Olympic Committee asked me to attend a reception held by the president, Boris Yeltsin, for athletes that had competed in Barcelona. My company had been the main sponsor and made it possible for Russia to participate, so I was considered an honored guest. When invited, I explained to my host that I had no visa and was told not to worry.
When I arrived, I could tell that my escort was nervous, not a trait displayed in the past. He stammered something about having to visit the immigration office, before we could proceed. I watched as this high government official, who in the past had been able to pull every kind of string in Moscow, argue with a bored-looking immigration official in an office near the arrival gates. At some point, he approached and, with an embarrassed demeanor, explained that an entry visa would cost $20 US.
I knew, at that moment, that things had changed in Russia: the old guard had lost its power to make and shake. The amount was no issue for me, but a great embarrassment for my host. I shrugged, pulled out my wallet, and handed him the money, which he accepted with chagrin. After that, everything progressed as before: no waiting in the immigration line or for luggage, rather in a lounge, and then being escorted to a waiting limousine. Road traffic had yet to become a feature of Moscow.
There is much more to this story, but I’ll save it for my book “I Never Wanted To Go To Moscow”, which I hope to write before I die. to prove my point, I have many interesting photos from that time.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.