Georgian WWII veteran fights red tape to become Russian

Sixty-five years after World War II ended, one ex-Soviet soldier is fighting a battle on another front. A man in Georgia is trapped in a bureaucratic quagmire, trying to get a Russian passport to be closer to his family.

The 1942 battle for the North Caucasus was fierce and vital. A stronghold of the Soviet Union, this region was the key to the country's oil reserves.

Infantry soldier Vairad Zoroglyan survived it and the whole inferno of the World War II. Now, at the age of 88, he is fighting a battle of a different kind.

He automatically received Georgian citizenship after the collapse of the USSR, but now he wants to become Russian, as he is suffering from ill health and needs his family’s assistance.

However, due to a mix-up with his old Georgian papers proving his identity, getting Russian citizenship has become almost impossible.

“Just one letter differs from his son's name," explains Vairad’s relative, Vera Zoroglyan. “We had to fight a battle in court to prove that he's our relative.”

Georgia broke all diplomatic ties with Russia two years ago, and bureaucratic formalities have become a serious obstacle for the elderly veteran and his relatives, who are also pensioners.

“I'm also a war veteran. Grandpa and my husband are both ill. I had to quit my job to take care of them,” Vera Zoroglyan says.

The Zoroglyan family got trapped in an international bureaucratic morass. To apply for Russian citizenship, first you must get a residency permit. Having a valid visa is a primary requirement for both.

However, if your visa has expired, or you have mistakes in your papers, like Vairad Zoroglyan, you have to renew it at the Russian Embassy in Georgia, which is closed because of the diplomatic dispute.

Instead, you have to contact the Swiss embassy, which represents Russia’s interests in Tbilisi – a further bureaucratic hurdle for an elderly man.

But following months of hardship, suddenly there was a breakthrough. The Russian immigration service finally agreed to renew Vairad’s visa without making him travel thousands of kilometers, bringing the veteran closer to his dream.

For several years, Vairad Zoroglyan felt totally forgotten by the authorities. The saddest moments for him were on Victory Day, when he would wait every year in vain for the arrival of a letter of congratulations from the government, which is supposed to go to all veterans. His relatives even started writing those letters themselves, in order to make those days special for their grandfather.

Following months of uncertainty, it is now hoped that Vairad's application will be reviewed in a few weeks’ time.

And as a result, he could finally get a chance to live in Russia, a victory that cannot come soon enough for him and his family.