March 4, 2021

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Enduring Miles and Months Apart to Keep the Love Alive

2 min read

Ms. Pancochova, a three-time Olympic snowboarder from the Czech Republic, was in the United States training and Ms. Barley, an American, had flown in from Portland, Ore., to visit her. With the United States and Czech borders mutually closed to each other, the women briefly considered walking down the aisle.

“For Sarka to get her green card and not worry about if she’s going to be able to come into the States or not because of Covid — it was definitely on the mind,” said Ms. Barley of the potential benefits of getting married.

Yet Ms. Pancochova has publicly pledged to abstain from marrying — in any country — until the Czech Republic legalizes gay marriage. A marriage-equality bill has been languishing in Parliament since June 2018.

“Covid has tested our commitment to that vow,” said Ms. Barley, who works in marketing and is the mother of an 8-year-old daughter, Khayla. In June, when Ms. Pancochova left the United States because of an expiring visa, the couple was unsure of when they would next see each other. However, the Czech border reopened to the unmarried partners of citizens in July and in September, Ms. Barley flew to Prague for 20 days.

The couple was again reunited in late December, when — after one failed attempt to get back into the United States — Ms. Pancochova, a professional athlete who trains and competes in the United States, was able to procure a B1 business visa.

She plans to return to the Czech Republic for the Snowboard World Cup in March. With no United States competitions on the horizon for the spring and summer off-season, the two women aren’t sure what’s next. But, for now, the pair remains committed to not marrying.

“There are moments when you’re really over it, but there’s no quitting,” Ms. Pancochova said. “You love the person and you want to be with them, so you push through.”



Sarah Firshein

2021-02-13 10:00:16

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