Vitaly and Kiryl: love, freedom and comfort
World Tourism Day 2021 | #TimeToEmbrace #TimeToBe
We are celebrating the World Tourism Day. Over the last years, the tourism industry has seen an enormous expansion and growth, so it's important to underline how openness and inclusion play a crucial role in improving social, cultural and economic relations. Now we would like to let others talk about their life in Portugal.
Meet Vitaly and Kiryl, a couple from Minsk, Belarus living in Almada.
Sitting on a terrace with an endless view over the Tagus River, a Lisbon that looks at us from a distance and a sun that won’t stop shining. That's where we meet Vitaly and Kiryl. Imagine two serene people, curious looking and undeniably happy. That’s them.
The meeting took place at Casa da Cerca, in Almada, a place that Vitaly and Kiryl visited on the first day of their life together in Portugal.
Coming from Belarus, they chose Almada as the place where they would start from scratch. They have been together for 11 years, almost half of them lived in Portugal. They got married in the beautiful town of Sintra and because of how much they travel throughout the country, one can say that Portugal is an honorable witness to this relationship.
“We visited Portugal for the first time in 2013 and spent two weeks on vacation in Cascais. We toured the entire Lisbon region and we had a blast. We came back on holidays yet another time. Portugal clearly had marked us in some way. In recent years, some difficulties have started to arise from a political and LGBT rights point of view in Belarus and we decided to look for another place to live. Portugal came to our minds because of its calm atmosphere, friendly spirit, feeling of comfort, safety, good climate and… "food", said Vitaly and Kiryl in unison.
In 2017, Vitaly and Kiryl settled down permanently in Almada. A few years after working in Portuguese companies, they launched their own business: organising weddings for same-sex couples from countries of the former Soviet Union. Portuguese law not only allows same-sex marriage, but also allows tourists to be married.
When asked about the difficulties, Vitaly kindly replies:
“We arrived here with a lot of love for the country. It was a heartfelt choice. All difficulties were seen by us as a natural part of life. Nothing scared us, we were always calm about our decision. We were prepared for everything, so our experience was pretty easy. We interpreted everything this way.”
Here in Portugal, whether because of our work or the number of people we've met over the years, we believe that the Portuguese know how to welcome those who come from abroad. Our mission is effectively this: to welcome others in a kind manner. We asked Vitaly how his integration process was, especially coming from a country with a very different culture and language.
“It took me about two years to get that feeling of belonging. To feel at home. There was no ‘click’, it was a gradual process. After that “tourist filter” effect had passed, it came the natural ease of someone who’s a local. I was relieved and happy for never feeling disappointed at any point.”
Kiryl shares a slightly different experience:
“When I received the residence permit, I couldn't wait to visit my family. I returned to Minsk for a few days and loved this trip. But when I returned, I felt like I was coming home. That Portugal was home!"
In a natural and organic way, this friendly couple found their space in our country. They learned the Portuguese language [this entire interview happened in Portuguese], because they consider it a form of respect for the country, the people, culture and history.
“Our life is very laid-back and peaceful. We like to start the day at the neighborhood café, we like having an “abatanado”. We don't care much for trendy restaurants, we like “tascas” and typical places. We love to walk along the riverside, by the river, and around the city.”
In between, as they say, they have travelled a lot.
“We've lived here for 5 years and all the trips we made, except once to Seville, were in Portugal: Azores, Madeira, Amarante, Braga, Porto, Serra da Estrela, Coimbra, Zêzere, Costa Vicentina, Algarve. Each place is unique. It's amazing how such a small country can contain so much diversity. We don't feel the need to leave the country, that's the truth.”
May Portugal continue to be a continuous source of inspiration and comfort. Everything seems to point in that direction.
Photos by @nashdoeswork