From Bobby McMasters, our correspondent in Romania! Read this and please get back to me if you can help!
First of all, I hope all is well with you. I'm straight chillin' here in Romania, bracing myself for the winter.
Second of all, I wanted to ask you to forward a message to your readers:
My first BJJ student, long-time friend and training partner, Sandu, is trying to make it out to the European Cup in Portugal this January. The trip out there, including the entrance fee should be paid for, so I am not asking for money. What we need, however, is a visa. Those of you who have seen my mini-documentary understand what these guys are up against within their own country, so you might be able to guess what they face internationally as well.
What we need:
A short-stay European visa of any variety. As I said before, we don't need money. We need someone from the EU (preferably from Portugal) to do whatever paperwork is necessary for your country to get our guy into the Schengen zone so he can compete. Sandu has a visa for Romania but as all Europeans know, Romania isn't in the Schengen zone, so he can't cross into Hungary and thus enter into the Schengen zone. Romanians are allowed to cross this zone but Moldovans are not.
Many Moldovans, up to 25% of the population in fact, work abroad, and many times illegally. Obviously there is a huge incentive from other countries to keep illegal Moldovans out of their countries, so sometimes even if one has all the necessary paperwork, they are regularly denied legal entrance into Schengen participant states. Here's one story from my own experience:
I got married here in Romania almost a year and a half ago. Three of my Moldovan friends planned to come out for the party, and they took the necessary steps to secure a 10-day visa for Romania. While I was on the train, headed to the destination, I got a call from one of my friends.
"Robert! We have a problem at the border!"
"You need to tell the border guard that we're going to your wedding".
"Alright, well you have all your paperwork in order, right"?
"Of course. Here talk to this guy".
My friend puts the Romanian customs officer/border guard on the phone with me and the conversation goes like this...
"Hello, I have three Moldovans here and they claim that they are going to your wedding".
"That's right", I say
"What are their names?"
I give their names, no problem. The guard then asks, "I see that they have a 10-day visa, can you assure that they have a place to stay and that they will be back in Moldova after ten days"?
"Where will they be staying"?
"With me, in a hotel".
I give him the name of the hotel.
"I see that you are getting married on Tuesday. This is very strange. In Romania, we get married on the weekend, so why is this?"
I continue to answer inane questions for another 20 minutes or so, until the border guard agrees to let them in after they give him 2 liters of their wine as a (presumable) bribe.
In any case, this is one of many stories I have about things that come up on a regular basis. It's ironic because I've been regularly passing over the same border ILLEGALLY for almost 2 years now and rarely have run into a problem. It's just my passport that lets them think that I am not here to work illegally since I'm American and not Moldovan. Oh, the irony.
SO, to make a long story short, Sandu is not the guy you have to worry about. He will come back to Romania, and then Moldova. He will not stay in your country and take your jobs. I promise. Let me know if you can help out, and I will do what I can to help with what I can. I would do it all myself but as a US citizen, I can't really do much. Help be a part of making it work for the first Moldovan to ever compete in the European Open.
Thanks for your time!