- Valentina Koonooka and her four daughters waited four days in an airport terminal in Nome, Alaska to take a less-than-two-hour flight across the Bering Sea to visit family in Russia.
- For generations, residents in the area routinely crossed from island to island, moving freely across the US-Russia border.
- However, in 1948 the border officially closed. In 1987, the “Ice Curtain” thawed slightly, but for transnational families, travel remains hard.
- For Indigenous people crossing the Bering Strait, governments offer some initiatives, like the visa-free travel program — but it requires a formal invitation from a family member on the other side, and both Russia and the US must formally review it.
- And travelers can only pass through specific entry points: Anadyr or Provideniya in Russia and Nome in Alaska. A visit is limited to 90 days.
After spending four days just waiting in the airport terminal in Nome, Alaska, Valentina Koonooka decided to return to her friend’s apartment in Nome and cook a big, steaming pot of borscht.