Today is Father’s Day in America. Russia does not have such a holiday. For me, like many, there is some sadness. I went on Facebook and the “memory” was from 2014–my last Father’s Day with my dad. He was in hospice, and my oldest son and his family were there with us. Dad tried to hug his granddaughter but didn’t have the strength. Of course, being separated from my two sons in America makes it more difficult still. Holidays can be joyous, but they can also be quite painful—especially as one gets older. I am grateful, however, for my dad and for our relationship. He was not one to say, “I love you,” but he was the anchor in our family. I am glad I was there with him when he departed this life. I got to lean over and tell him goodbye before he left us.
There are other mixed emotions. We moved into our new house this week! It is probably less than two miles from our apartment so it was not like moving here from America. On the other hand, I have used my worn out phrase a lot this past week: “I’ve moved many times in my life, and the best one was still awful.” In my opinion, there is no such thing as a “good move.” I am not referring to the purpose for moving. I mean the actual move itself. This one was in some ways more difficult than our move to Russia. We didn’t move any furniture here to Russia, and we were limited in the amount of clothes and other items we could pack. Not so simple with this move.
In America most people usually call a professional moving company to transport everything. They’ll even pack everything for you if you can afford it. There aren’t any moving companies here in small town Russia. You can find guys who move people, but they usually have other jobs as well. We used the men who have been working on our house. We packed everything ourselves. Another difference here is that most of the furniture we bought here, e.g., wardrobes, the boys’ bunk beds, chest of drawers, etc., has to be taken apart to move. Then we wrapped everything in saran wrap. They sell big rolls of it here specifically for that purpose. Taking it apart is not near as bad as putting it back together, so we hired our friend Vadim who does that professionally. He’s amazing. We still have more furniture on order, but at least we’re in our house.
We now have what most Russians consider a large house. It is about 2,700 sq. ft. The downstairs was completed, and a family was living in it. They started the second floor, but then the husband and wife split up. So we bought the house when the second floor had only been “roughed in.” We were able to do the floor plan the way we wanted. Also, we have a rather large yard with a picnic shelter that includes a large, sturdy table and benches, fireplace, and a sink with running water.
Last night my wife’s parents, sister, brother-in-law and their two little girls came over for our house-warming party. Oksana’s sister and her family live in Germany, so it worked out well with them being here on vacation. Oksana’s sister is fluent in English and her husband speaks some English, so that makes it easier for me. It is so good to be in a home with plenty of room and a yard for our children to play in. We are further from “downtown,” but there are a couple of small grocery stores nearby that have the basics.
While we had a great time, I think Oksana’s dad asked me three times, “Now, you are going to stay here, right? You are settling down here?” I assured him that we are. Later, however, Oksana’s mom told her privately that she sensed a sadness in my eyes. Most Russians, whatever their profession, tend to be psychologists. They read every expression carefully.
Her mom was right. While I am glad we have moved and believe coming here was the right decision, buying a home did add a note of finality to our move to Russia. We have several friends, as I have often noted, who are considering moving to Russia. Most of them say it is a “no return” decision for them. For various reasons, they know once they move they cannot pick up and move back to America. It was not that way for us. We moved with the intention of staying, but we also knew that we had family in America who we could call on to help us get back. My brother told me when we left my old job would be waiting. Deep down I know buying this house makes the move final. We are now owners of a home in Russia. Before we could have just called the owner of the apartment and turned in a one month notice and left. We can’t do that now.
It is not that we harbor desires of returning to America. I have stated several times how much we miss our family and friends there, but we don’t miss life there. The political situation is poisonous. As I indicated in a recent blog, I have now seen how the world covers the news, and there is so much main stream Western news outlets do not cover. Americans are not given the whole story on international events unless they really search alternative news sites. Just this week I was reminded of this fact by three reports. First, back in July, 2014 the U.S. said Russia shot down a Malaysian aircraft over Ukraine. In a documentary just released the Prime Minister of Malaysia said there was no evidence that Russia did it. He also said they (the Malaysians) were not allowed to be involved in the official investigation. He concluded based on their government’s research that blaming the Russians was a narrative cooked up immediately by Americans.
Second, the U.S. blamed Iran for attacking a Japanese tanker last week, but the Japanese officials say the U.S. has gotten the story all wrong. Their people who were actually on the ship tell a different story. I didn’t see either what the Malaysian P.M. said or interviews with any of the Japanese crew get much play on the MSM in America. The third article is one I just saw today and have not had time to study carefully. It is about the media blackout on a report of Arab journalists and civilians who were beheaded by the “moderate rebels” America supported in Syria. https://bsnews.info/media-black-out-on-arab-journalists-and-civilians-beheaded-in-syria-by-western-backed-mercenaries/?fbclid=IwAR3x6tt6d9sh9vHZL27IIi_UodUi2zMgczNhqhVQeHrOmKZuBicIClazmus
Even after the lies were revealed years ago about the Gulf of Tonkin, which led to a war and the deaths of so many American military as well as Vietnamese soldiers and citizens, our government still fabricates stories that have the potential to provoke war. For them, war is good. Even a short war can generate a lot more income for some people than a long peace. The hardest truth for me to confront about my own country was the realization that there are people in powerful places in the U.S. Government who will knowingly send our men and women to die in meaningless wars if it means financial or political rewards for them and their circle of contributors. That was a tough, but unavoidable, truth I had to face. My patriotism took a big hit.
I have also recounted the cultural changes that have occurred which also run counter to what we as Orthodox Christians believe. Patrick J. Buchanan recently wrote a very perceptive article on abortion and gay rights in America. The article went beyond those two issues themselves, however. Buchanan analyzed how the phrase “American values” is being used by the candidates for presidency. They don’t just disagree over how to preserve and protect those values. Their understandings of American values are mutually exclusive. Even during the War between the States the division over values was not as deep. Furthermore, there seems to be no way to solve the issue. So many different “groups” differ so widely, and there are no grounds for compromise. Diplomacy, both domestic and foreign, is dead in America. http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/political_commentary/commentary_by_pat_buchanan/are_abortion_gay_rights_american_values
I have not said and am not saying now that everyone who agrees with me should move to Russia or to any country. There were a variety of factors that went into our decision. As I mentioned in my last blog, I frequently get psychoanalyzed by readers who think they have figured out THE motive. I was at the age I could start taking Social Security, and the cost of living is low enough for us to live on it comfortably here. We still could have moved without SS, but we would have had to teach full time or make money in some other way. And I have been interested in Russia since I lived here the first time. I started studying the language, reading the history, and attending an Orthodox church years before we even thought about moving here. All these and other factors came together, and we concluded this move was right.
That does not mean I still don’t think about what life back in America would be like. We look at old pictures or see a Facebook memory of our life in America, and both Oksana and I get tears in the eyes. So what do sentimental ex-pats like myself do? Sometimes I think of the downside of life in America. The photos and memories we look at are of loved ones or good times of course! We didn’t take pictures of mortgage and car payments, credit card notices, taxes, and medical bills. America is, in general, a country that lives on debt. The national debt is bigger than the country’s budget. The most recent poll I could find on personal debt in the U.S. was sponsored by CNBC in 2018. They concluded:
“Credit cards, student loans, mortgages, car loans, personal loans: Most Americans have a combination of these sources of debt. And despite their best intentions, Americans are digging themselves deeper into a hole each year. The average American now has about $38,000 in personal debt, excluding home mortgages.”
Excluding home mortgages is excluding a lot of debt for most Americans. I have already been asked how much we paid for our house here more than once. Of course, that is a private issue for most people, but a part of the purpose of this blog is information. First, I can’t give an exact figure because Stepan, our friend whose small company did our expansion, would just use my credit card to buy supplies. He wanted it that way. We would know when he bought something and how much he paid for it. I am not going to go through all those receipts to get an exact figure. Oksana and I both estimated the total cost at just under $75,000. We have, as I said, a 2,700 sq. ft. home on a good size lot (0.4 acres). We live at the end of the road (literally), so it is not paved all way to our house. We have a neighbor on one side and one behind us. There is a forest on the other side, and the house across the street is a “dacha” type house which is empty. It is very peaceful and quiet here.
I miss Father’s Day in America. Getting together with all my kids and grand kids for a big meal and enduring the humor which usually had me as the intended target leaves an empty spot in my heart. But life is seldom exactly as we would arrange it in this world. Last night we grilled shashlik [kebabs] and bratwursts. The shelter, as I said, has a built-in fireplace. It was built up high, so that it is easy to put in charcoal and grill over it. Svetlana made a delicious olivier salad, and we had other veggies and fruits. The adults ate, drank, chatted and watched the girls play. Roman and Gabriel went for a long walk to explore the new territory. I don’t believe Oksana’s parents could have looked more contented.
We now have a perfect spot where we can all gather. I have my own study with built-in sturdy shelves for books—lots of shelves which provide the convenient excuse for buying more books! And people here treat me well. I don’t know how I could go back to living in an America that seems to blame Russia for almost every problem and division. I am sure I could not keep quiet while others are lying about “the Russians.”
People here still debate politics, religion, and the economy. They don’t all share the same personal values and morals. Nevertheless, there are basic cultural values which a clear majority of Russians share. After 70 years of Communism, Russians have rediscovered their history and what they consider to be “the good life.” It is not the uniformity that the Communists insisted on, but there is real unity.
I agree with Mr. Buchanan that America has lost its cultural consensus and presently has no means for recovery. There are not just divisions, there are chasms between what different groups of Americans call virtues. And no one seems to know how to build bridges across the chasms. Oksana’s mom was right. There is a certain sadness in my eyes sometimes. Despite the sadness in my eyes, however, there is a genuine and deeper sense of contentment in my soul.