Two Decades, Two Continents. A Journey.

As I fill out my passport application on a sunny Bay Area weekend, I think back to the fifteen-year-old adventurer with her first, and only, passport picture (Азаматтығы/гражданство/nationality: Kazakhstan) taken for the first time in Uralsk in preparation for her travels. In May, 1997, this fifteen-year-old had seen the rolls of perforated paper tape but had yet to touch a computer keyboard. She was excited to see the world. She spent her school years learning two languages besides her own, quoting an encyclopedia, diving into mathematical formulas and graphs, and absorbing the contents of her home and town library because learning everything she could about the universe around her made her very happy.

Making Change

A while back I spoke with a group of young men and women from San Francisco International High School as part of Changemakers project organized by their teachers. How I wish I had been given a chance to learn the same lessons at fifteen: that making change in our communities starts with someone unafraid to speak out. Our meeting was extraordinary not just because it happened in my lifetime, but because it took place at all.

Five Things I Love About Bay Area

Sunshine. There’s so much sun and warmth to wake me up from Midwest winter hibernation, though the weather in Silicon Valley is refreshingly cool, all year around. I am still getting used to seeing sunlit sky every single day and not having to worry about winter clothes. Air. The air here makes me aware of each breath I take. It’s dry and cool, and invigorating. Nothing beats that fresh morning breeze from the lake, with the scent of pine and blossoms of the season.

Love Without Borders

“Why can’t you just go to Russia?” an immigration officer asked, after I explained in detail that I would be in danger as a member of persecuted minority, if I were to be separated from my U.S. citizen partner of over a decade and deported back to Kazakhstan. In 2010, my experience at the USCIS offices in downtown Chicago was surreal. My wife was in the same room, but was not allowed to speak.

Surviving Winter

Mandarin orange peel, cinnamon sticks, candle wax form a new candle. I am a firebug at heart, especially in December. Winter is not my favorite season. My childhood was spent far too close to Siberia, so I had enough snow to last me a lifetime. But there are ways to fight the cold. Ambient sounds of a fireplace, as well as spicy, roasted smells and tastes do bring imaginary warmth to alter the perception of the weather outside just enough.

McDonough Voice has published the story of our fight against DOMA

Disputed DOMA provision struck down Local couple feels impact of federal law “MACOMB — Sveta Apodaca and her wife, Andi, had been at the forefront of fighting the Defense of Marriage Act for years, but on Wednesday, the Macomb resident said the couple could in a way finally breathe freely.” Thank you to Jackie Smith for doing a wonderful job with the article. Read more at

Growing Pains

Onward, Brave Gardener. As far as gardening goes, my thumbs completely lack even the subtlest shade of green. The only things that do survive and sprout against all odds are usually those that aren’t supposed to, like potatoes in the cupboard or carrots in the refrigerator. Once, Andi came home from a trip, to find the house plant replaced with a sprouting onion. It outlived the plant without any light or water, so it was only fair to give it a better chance.

Our Green Card Interview: A Chance for One Lesbian Couple to Share Their Story and to Address Harm Caused By DOMA

The account of our green card interview, originally posted at The DOMA Project. A milestone is one of a series of numbered markers placed along a road at intervals of one mile that serve to reassure travellers that the proper path is being followed, or a single date during which a certain phase of the project is developed. Thursday, May‭ ‬24, 2012, was a milestone for us. Sveta & Andi in Chicago (Photo: Lavi Soloway)     On the evening before,‭ ‬my wife, Andi and I boarded a train in our town near Peoria to travel north to Chicago:‭ ‬a quiet three-hour ride,‭ ‬past the corn fields,‭ ‬the wind farm,‭ ‬the small communities of rural Illinois, some familiar down to the layout of their streets and others only vaguely known.‭ ‬We watched the sunset through the Amtrak window,‭ ‬and our mutual nervousness was,‭ ‬for once,‭ ‬only the excitement on the eve of an important event and the anticipation of meeting fellow activist, Brad, and our lawyer, Lavi Soloway.

Victory for Sveta and Andi in Chicago

Victory for Sveta and Andi in Chicago, originally posted at The DOMA Project What’s in a name? I’ve asked myself that question, comparing civil unions in our state, Illinois, to full equal marriage just across the river in Iowa. We know the answer. We are living it. The day after the ruling     When my wife and I crossed that river to marry in Iowa, I took her last name.

Sveta & Andi: Together for 11 Years, Married Lesbian Couple in Illinois Faces June Deportation Hearing

Originally posted on April 26, 2011, at The DOMA Project. Hello, I am Sveta. I was born in what is now Kazakhstan. I came to the US when I was fifteen; this year I will be thirty. I like Linux and painting. I love a wonderful woman named Andi and I have loved her since we met eleven years ago. We met online, on a web forum dedicated to a show called Xena: Warrior Princess.