The odyssey is almost over for a West Kootenay couple that was under lockdown in Spain earlier this month.
Greater Trail’s Garrett Kucher travelled to Europe to play in Spain’s Evolve Pro Golf Tour. While at his apartment in Murcia on Mar. 14, he and his partner Victoria (Tori) Apostoliuk, of Castlegar, were caught in a mandatory quarantine due to the outbreak of the coronavirus.
Efforts to contact the Canadian consulate proved futile the weekend the lockdown started, however, with the help of South Okanagan-Kootenay MP Richard Cannings, by the following Tuesday the couple reached the consulate by phone. They were subsequently emailed a letter in English giving them permission to travel and leave the country … if they were able.
“We had to prove that we had outgoing flights, and they didn’t guide us saying which airport to go to or anything like that,” said Kucher. “It kind of made Tori and I realize that we got this letter and either we look for flights and give this a go, or we just accept the fact that we’re stuck and going to stay.”
As the couple scanned through overpriced flights, they eventually booked two tickets from Valencia to Frankfurt, Ger. and then to Canada. They quickly stored their belongings in a locker, and got packed.
About a three-hour drive on army-patrolled roads led them north to Valencia and the airport, with ample time to check extra bags and board the flight to Frankfurt.
But they weren’t out of the woods yet.
“When we arrived, we looked up at the board and every flight said, ‘CANCELLED’,” said Kucher. “But lucky our flight wasn’t up there, and we just looked at each other and said, ‘Really? that’s a good sign, right?’”
The next challenge was checking extra bags and his golf clubs, which almost didn’t make it, as hazmat-suited workers sprayed the waiting area, and others swabbed their palms, and checked each passenger for signs of COVID-19. The hopeful couple made their way through security and to the boarding area, where the airline attendant noticed that the flight from Frankfurt to Canada departed more than the mandatory 24 hours after their arrival.
“They asked for our passports and boarding passes, and scanned it, then said okay, ‘Step aside please,’” explained Kucher. “They wouldn’t let us get on the plane, because our flight was greater than 24 hours apart. Our flight left Valencia at 12:30 and left Germany the next day at 1:30.”
As they watched their bags unloaded from the plane, an anxious Garrett and Tori pointed out that by the time they arrived in Frankfurt it would be more than two hours later, and so less than the proscribed 24 hours.
“Finally she goes, ‘Okay, okay’ and lets us on the plane, 10 minutes after it was suppose to be in the air. But honestly, I didn’t care if the plane did somersaults into Frankfurt, I was just happy to be on that flight and leaving Spain.”
The rest of the journey home went pretty smoothly for Garrett and Tori, as they were checked and rechecked for any symptoms at every turn and step of the way.
The couple was picked up at the airport by Garrett’s mom, Nona, on Mar. 20 and are now staying at her house in Castlegar, all three currently under a self-imposed, 14-day quarantine.
Spain continues to be under lockdown, with it’s coronavirus numbers among the highest in Europe.
Garrett and Tori were exhausted from the ordeal and the jetlag, but relieved to be back home, where family has been dropping off meals at the door and reconnecting from a safe distance.
“We want people to understand how serious it really is,” said Kucher. “We landed on Canadian soil and we will not leave our house for two weeks. It’s a real thing. The quicker we take the precautions that the health authorities are telling us to take, the quicker it’s going to blow over, and, really, it’s not up to anybody else, it’s up to us.
“If it was a month of quarantine, we’d do it in a heartbeat, we’re just super happy to be home.”