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«Sometimes, it seems that a little can surprise me at work, yet some impossible scenarios may arise from time to time. When I speak with our beneficiaries I just don’t understand how they manage to endure and overcome the obstacles that were artificially created by the state.»

says Ruslan Bereteli, a lawyer of the Charitable Fund “Right to Protection” (R2P).

The story of our cooperation with Maria began in the winter of 2020, when a woman came to the Kurakhiv office of the CF “Right to Protection” (R2P) with a request for help. For almost an hour, she, a native of Donetsk city, told how she studied and worked in her hometown, how she got married and gave birth to two daughters. At first, it seemed like a usual life of an ordinary person. Yet there was one moment: for all this time she did not exist legally – in her 31st year, she did not have a passport or any other relevant identity documents. She couldn’t receive birth certificates for her children, couldn’t get an official job, or buy train/plane tickets.

Руслан Беретелі про становище та права ромської спільноти в Україні

«First of all, we had to confirm the fact that Maria lived on the territory of Ukraine as of 1991. According to my own legal experience at R2P, I have never seen such a motivated client before. Each instruction regarding the collection of evidence was carried out almost instantly: a relative of our client in Donetsk searched for evidence in the school where our beneficiary studied, and in the hospital, where she was registered since childhood. We also were able to receive certificates from the company where Maria’s mother worked. She managed to find the student’s personal file, medical card, certificates, and much more.»

– says Ruslan Bereteli.

The evidence of Maria’s residence in Ukraine as of 1991 was indisputable, and therefore the woman had the right to be recognized as a citizen of Ukraine. However, in court, despite the obvious evidence, a representative of the State Migration Service (SMS) opposed establishing this fact. Leonid Serafimovych, a lawyer of the CF “Right to Protection” (R2P), argued and insisted on the beneficiary’s position, and the court supported our side.

For several months, the Migration Service did not comply with the court’s decision: Maria was not provided with the application form, demanded to provide some non-existing evidence, offered to wait for the head of the service, and so on. The difficult issue of legal support to the State Migration Service of Ukraine department could not be resolved, because once again it was advised to “wait for the SMS head”…

So our lawyers did. CF “Right to Protection” turned directly to the head of the State Migration Service of Ukraine. The case was immediately taken under control, and the documents were accepted. Within three months, Maria received a certificate of belonging to Ukrainian citizenship and later – a passport.

Until now, the woman had to use copies of recently received birth certificates. Now she was able to pick up the originals. Maria also reissued her lost registration number of the taxpayer’s account card. There is a lot of work behind, yet no less ahead – now a woman will have to deal with making a comfortable life for herself and her children: get an official job, apply for social benefits, and more. But, as Maria says: «The passport opens all doors. A truly universal key»

You can also watch the Story of Maria in the video