(Third) Christmas at the Airport
Remember the movie with a passenger stranded in the sterile area of the terminal? Andrij’s story is different. Hes is not here to visit a music hall. He was born in the Ukraine and lived in the US for two decades, while during the past three years, his home is Kiev Boryspil airport (Ukraine), departures terminal area. Technically, if he wanted, he could go out to the city and live. Nonetheless, his story is not without complications.
As a part of my professional hoby, I document life around aviation, developing my travel’AIR project. While on a guided photo tour of the main airport of the Ukraine, I was taking portraits of the terminal staff. Many people were jokingly trying to deflect my focus to the far right corner of the departures hall hinting about mysterious things – “better go and photograph that Polish guy”, or “we have a real celebrity here. He’s local, but he refuses to speak anything but English”, or “he is here since 3 years now”… I asked my guide, Boryspil airport PR department representative Eugeny, who answered: “indeed, there is a person living in our airport, but we cannot kick him away. Without disturbing anyone, he’s living his own life, for three years now”.
I approached this corner of the terminal, between Fast Lane security check and bathrooms. From the first glance, I would have never told that an installation of two carts and a few objects, could be so permanent… In most air traffic hubs we often see people on waiting for their (next) flight with substantial amounts of baggage, sleeping on the ground, absolutely ignoring both the world around them and, sometimes, the general terms of respect to others or hygiene. Andrij’s “home” and “office” was incredibly compact, clean. Only the hand-made seasonal decorations, could indicate that the wait for the next flight has taken some time now.
After taking a few quick shots in the daytime, while he was resting, I returned to meet him on a different evening. Asked to be photographed, he did not mind. Addressed in Russian of Polish, he did not pay any attention and continued to handcraft the next Christmas decoration, a combination of paper clipping, drawing and sewing to become a crown of his festive objects.
Addressed in English, he slowly started: “My story is very complicated. My name is Andrij, or Andrey, depending on the language”.
Deported from the US, where, as he claims, he had been a permanent resident for two decades, he was working in a service provider business, even having had FBI among the clients, paying loads of taxes, owning a house in Tampa, Florida, and enjoying the American Dream by riding Camaros. One day he found himself in Poland, but later on, expelled from the country, or not accepted back – he never had an American Passport, neither he had a Ukrainian one… Consequently, he was landed in the Ukraine, and the „home“ country did not prove welcoming. After his mothers death, the waves of corruption washed away his hopes of inheriting her apartment, and the rest of legal matters were running down the hill.
Almost hopeless about the indifference and corruption of governments, he did not miss to say kind words to the employees of the airport, who bring him food and help him otherwise.
Now he writes emails to lawyers, and politicians, hoping that his matters gets resolved. Andrij hopes that the new Trump administration will review his case, and keeps on checking the weather in Tampa, Florida, and preparing some more Christmas decorations.
A little corner of Kiev Boryspil airport departures hall is ready for the Christmas Miracle.
Words & pictures by Mindaugas Kavaliauskas