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If you follow this blog, you’ve probably seen my post describing the challenges of reuniting with my family who lives in Belarus. I’ve written about the logistical nightmare of complying with Covid restrictions, searching out a visa-free country that would accept them as tourists, as well as finding award availability for us. That’s how we settled on Montenegro.
At the time, I had no clue that things would soon get much more complicated. I’m talking, of course, about Russia invading Ukraine on February 24th. I’m sure that you are all familiar with the horrors that are unfolding there as we speak.
For many of us who grew up in Soviet Union, it’s personal. My sister’s best friend lives in Odessa and has to spend nights in her basement for fear of being blown up by a missile. My friend’s elderly father-in-law refused to leave Kyiv and won’t even go to a bomb shelter when the sirens go off. He is a tough old dude, as are most Ukrainians, by the way.
I also have a close relative (an 18-year old kid) in Belarus army, who may soon get deployed to fight Putin’s war in Ukraine. I know he desperately wants to get out of it, and his two options are prison (with torture) or possible death. His family came to see me every time I visited Belarus, and I basically watched him grow up. What a mess.
Anyway, needless to say, my family reunion is not a priority at the moment. I just hope my family stays safe in this rapidly evolving situation. All bets are off, and due to sanctions, we may not be able to communicate, much less meet up in Montenegro. Nevertheless, I hope for the best and continue with the original plan (for now).
Montenegro,Turkey or potentially both?
Since many Russian missiles are launched from Belarus, Turkish Airlines have cancelled flights through April 10th. And that was my family’s ticket to Montenegro. I’m assuming that this policy will continue as a long as the “hot” phase of the war continues.
As of now, the only way they can fly out of Belarus is via national airline Belavia. Apparently, it’s not afraid of no stinkin’ missiles. Bring it on! I have no clue what things will be like by the end of May, but that could be our only option to facilitate the family reunion. I certainly have no intention to fly to Belarus or Russia anytime soon.
I can tell that my mom feels a bit uneasy about dodging Russian missiles destined for Ukraine, but she is willing to risk it for the sake of seeing her grandkids. My husband, on the other hand, is not so thrilled. He feels that if the WW3 breaks out, it’s better for us to be in Florida than close to the epicenter. I’m pretty philosophical about it and feel that if the nukes start flying around, it won’t really matter a whole lot. But I do see his point. Plus, it’s not just my life potentially on the line.
But assuming we can get my family out of the country somehow, we have a choice of meeting up in Turkey, or having them overnight in Istanbul and continuing to Montenegro the next day. That would require purchasing two separate roundtrip tickets, one from from Minsk to Istanbul (on Belavia) and one from Istanbul to Montenegro (on Turkish Airlines). It’s more expensive that way, but we are literally running out of options. And no, I can’t use miles toward these tickets.
Another thing we could do is vacation in Turkey instead, but that would require changing all of our award tickets from US. Plus, I kind of have my heart set on Montenegro. I also like the fact that when it comes to geography, it’s further removed from Ukraine. It’s crazy that it has come to that, but I have to consider potential future “surprises” from Russia. Since Turkey controls the Strait of Bosphorus, an altercation between the fleets is a definite possibility.
An escalation can happen rather quickly, so I have to make future travel plans with that in mind. Either way, I have to make a decision soon. My family in Belarus and I have agreed that we will all discuss this thing at the end of April and figure out what to do. Incidentally, this will be the deadline on changing my award tickets on United free of charge.
In general, if you have a choice, I recommend postponing visiting Europe (especially countries close to Ukraine) until next year. Too much uncertainty. Unfortunately, this could be my last chance to see my family, at least for awhile. Last time I saw my nephews was in 2017. I can’t believe how long it has been and how much they have grown since then.
I regret not trying to meet them last summer, but hindsight is 20/20. Belarus is rapidly turning into North Korea, and this is no longer a figure of speech. Russia, of course, is in the same boat. In the meantime, I hope this horrific war in Ukraine is over as soon as possible. For the sake of the people living there, and not so much my family reunion.
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.