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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

There's a Time For Everything Under Heaven

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven: A time to give birth, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot what is planted, a time to work in Russia, and a time to go to Arizona … ."

OK, so I’m paraphrasing "Ecclesiastes", but you get the idea. And, yes, it’s that time.

I’ve got my plane reservation. I’ve packed my trunk. I’ve got someone to take over the apartment. I’m giving away the clothes I don’t need. With one foot out the door, I’m finally meeting some contributors Saturday morning whom I’ve only known electronically for months. And I’ve got the cat passport for my feline charge, who goes from being a homeless street cat living in the wasteland of an abandoned building to one who will chase sparrows and lizards in the sunlight of the Sonoran Desert.

I will join my large family and significant other in Tucson. That latter worthy is of Ukrainian descent, and his parents fled Josef Stalin’s enforced famine and ravaging of Ukraine. His parents hailed from the western part of that nation, and it seems that my friend drank in Ukrainian nationalism with his mother’s milk. This is the only bone of contention in our otherwise placid relationship. When he lived here in Moscow, he looked around and continually asked me, "Why do you love this place so much?"

Good question. The answers, though, are highly subjective, as they always are when we try to determine the reasons we become attached to someone or something.

I love this place because it is like the homeless cat I stumbled upon: beautiful and lost. I love this place because I have found in it many remarkable people who have faced overwhelming odds in life — war, hunger, deprivation, repression — and still they have gone through the years with humor, grace and a determination to make the best of life.

I love this place because of its ineffable but famous dushevnost, that sense of spirituality that is often manifest in the simplest things, such as late-night sessions over tea in dimly lit kitchens.

I love this place because its culture is one of the world’s finest. Its musicians, artists, poets, novelists and craftsmen have taken ingredients from East and West and woven them into a cultural tapestry that is truly unique, uniquely fascinating.

Like so many Russia hounds, I know I will be back. I have seen so many of my colleagues leave over the years since 1985, only to return in some other guise, with some other job, months or years later.

Many of us shuttle back and forth; some finally make the break with Russia and stay in their native countries — or move on to adventures in other lands — but many find it hard to stay away for long. If the United States for me is husband — stable, known, comfortable, but often slightly dull — then Russia is lover — still mysterious, ever-changing, always exciting, never predictable.

For now, though, life in the States beckons. But I go knowing that Russia will be here when I return, some day. Or to paraphrase "Ecclesiastes", "A generation goes and a generation comes, but Russia remains forever."