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Couple Struggles To Reunite During Pandemic Due To EU Ban On American Travel


And now a pandemic love story. Two people, desperate to be together and yet kept apart by an EU travel ban on Americans, owing to the high number of infections in the United States. Joanna Kakissis brings us the story of one couple who defeated the odds.

JOANNA KAKISSIS, BYLINE: Kathleen Meyer and Dan Draper are chefs who work on charter boats. She's American. He's British. They met three years ago in the Caribbean.

KATHLEEN MEYER: Every month, one of us flew across the Atlantic - almost every single month, yeah. Between Boston and the U.K. - or last year, it was Greece.


MEYER: Yeah, Spain.

KAKISSIS: Early this year, they made a decision.

DRAPER: We can't do this long distance anymore. We want to be together. So in January, I quit my job.

MEYER: Yeah.

DRAPER: We'll be together, and we can continue the - a new kind of life.

KAKISSIS: He planned to move in March to Newport, R.I., where Meyer lives. Then the pandemic hit, and borders closed.

DRAPER: I got stuck in the U.K. And then I stayed an extra month for work. And then we decided that it would be best for me to come to Greece.

KAKISSIS: Draper was allowed to travel to Greece because he has a Greek identity card. He's half Greek and grew up on the island of Zakynthos. Meyer could not join him because they're not married.

DRAPER: I was arguing with the embassies. And I remember getting really angry because it's, like, you're either married and you're family, or you're tourists. There's no, like, in-between. And I thought, there's, like millions of people must've been like us, you know, who had the same issue.

KAKISSIS: When the EU talked about opening up to tourists in the middle of June, Meyer immediately booked a flight to Greece.

MEYER: And then they canceled it. There was just like a pit in my stomach. I was just like - the U.S. is now this, you know, global pariah.

KAKISSIS: The U.S. did not make the EU travel list, but Canada did. And Meyer was born there. She has a Canadian passport.

MEYER: As soon as I saw Canada, that's when I was like, oh, my God, it might happen.

KAKISSIS: She tested for COVID-19 and came up negative. She self-quarantined. And then she booked a flight to Athens for July 1.

MEYER: I was worried getting on the plane in Boston. I was worried getting on the plane in Montreal, clearing customs - you just don't think it's going to happen.

KAKISSIS: But when the plane arrived in Athens, the agents just waved her through. She saw Dan holding a bouquet of roses in the arrivals hall. A TV crew filmed them pulling down their masks and kissing.

MEYER: Our first kiss in five months, yeah - really corny - super corny.

KAKISSIS: The kiss did seal something special.

DRAPER: When you go through something like that, it's kind of - you know, shows how strong the relationship is. I think a lot of people in our position might have given up.

KAKISSIS: Now they are together on a Greek island, enjoying the near-empty beaches and trying not to worry about an uncertain future. For NPR News, I'm Joanna Kakissis in Athens. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Joanna Kakissis is a foreign correspondent based in Kyiv, Ukraine, where she reports poignant stories of a conflict that has upended millions of lives, affected global energy and food supplies and pitted NATO against Russia.