IT was impossible for 22-year-old Pavel “Paul” Sergeyevich Sebeikin to hide his surprise and delight when he received his South African permanent residency at a small and intimate ceremony held at the Highlander last Wednesday evening.
NO HIDING HIS JOY: Relieved at finally having received his South African permanent resident certificate from the Department of Home Affairs after years of trying, Paul Sebeikin can at last open a bank account and apply for scholarships to further his studies at university Picture: ROB KNOWLES
Sebeikin has battled to be recognised as a permanent resident since the time his mother brought him and his infant sister, Mary, from Russia to South Africa in 1995.
He attended Port Alfred High School, and although he matriculated as dux scholar with four distinctions in 2008, Sebeikin was unable to secure a scholarship to university. Now, four years behind his peers with whom he matriculated, Sebeikin is looking forward to making up for lost time.
“All the available bursaries were for South Africans, and I did not qualify,” he said after having received his permanent residency letter, signed by Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
“I couldn’t really do anything without permanent residence, even simple things like opening a bank account.”
In an attempt to pay his way, Sebeikin took a job at the Highlander as a waiter, work he has been doing since leaving school. It was while waiting a table in 2009 that Sebeikin’s luck took a turn for the better.
His patron was international philanthropist Jan Brummans, a Dutch citizen who had lived through the harsh days of World War II. The two got talking and Brummans offered to pay for Sebeikin’s tuition.
“That was very kind of him,” said a respectful Sebeikin, “but I explained what was really needed was my permanent residence. Without that, no matter what I did I would still be stateless,” he said.
He explained the Russian authorities had previously denied his existence.
There began a three year battle to secure Sebeikin’s South African residency, culminating in a private presentation ceremony at the Highlander where Sebeikin’s permanent residency letter was handed to him by Port Alfred attorney, Ivan Schafer.
“I want to thank everyone who has helped me over the years. I have had a lot of support. Now I can at last apply to Rhodes University and, hopefully qualify for a bursary there,” said Sebeikin, who wants to study computer science.