The Road to Rostov, Russia

15589929_10100300437304866_300152824651412269_nHow did our family of ten make the decision to move to Rostov, Russia? As with most decisions, there were a lot of prayers, asking for advice,  a lot more prayers, and waiting for God to open or close doors. The following are some of reasons we started exploring a move to Russia.

The “road” actually started when we became Orthodox. We lived in a small town, and attended an Orthodox Mission Station. The congregation was made up mostly of our family, and a few other families. Our children made up the majority of children in the congregation. As parents of eight, one of our main concerns is to find good Orthodox future spouses for them. The nearest Orthodox churches were at least an hour away. Meanwhile, there are more Orthodox churches and Orthodox people in Russia, than just about anywhere.thb3ti196e

My husband, Fr. Joseph, has been drawn toward Russia for a long time. He struck up a friendship with a couple from California who had lived in the United States for a number of years, and who had moved to St. Petersburg, Russia. The wife was a Russian citizen and American citizen, and the husband was an American citizen. As time went by, my husband asked lots of questions about life in Russia, possible employment, learning the language, moving experiences, etc. Eventually, he decided to take a trip to Russia to see it for himself. His pictures, videos, and experiences intrigued us all.

The downward spiral of the American government and culture played a huge role in our eventual decision to actually move. When the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage, we knew it was time to speed up the timetable. We figured it would just be a matter of time before the government would be cracking down on homeschooling and forcing our children to be indoctrinated with immoral teachings. While America is going downward morally and spiritually, Russia has consistently been going upward. Russia has been making progress in a number of areas: cracking down on the gay agenda, limiting abortions, building and restoring thousands of churches, rewarding families who have several children, outlawing GMO products, and encouraging local sustainable agriculture in order to feed their own people in a healthy way. These are just some of the positive things that caught our attention.

After my husband’s first visit, we all began studying the Russian language. We added it to our homeschooling curriculum. My husband began making contacts with people in Russia, and very quickly became acquainted with several people in positions to help us. About this time I became pregnant with our eighth child. Once he was born, the children and I applied for our passports. It took about six weeks to get them back. In the mean time we continued studying the language, and my husband kept meeting more people who could help us with the transition. We put our house on the market, and began purging away our many belongings. Because he is a priest, my husband had to get our bishop’s permission to go to Russia. He also had to get permission from a bishop in Russia. All of this took time, and for a while it seemed like it wasn’t ever going to happen.

Then suddenly doors started opening, and we applied for our VISAs. Originally, we thought we would move to Moscow and live in an apartment while we immersed ourselves in the language. Then, eventually, we hoped to move away from Moscow and purchase some affordable land, so that we could live in the country and have a small family farm.

d0bad0b0d180d182d0b0-d0b7d0bed0bbd0bed182d0bed0b3d0be-d0bad0bed0bbd18cd186d0b0.pngHowever, before we ever got to Moscow, a new door opened in Rostov, a wonderful town in the famous Golden Ring of Russia. And though we just found out about Rostov recently, it turns out this particular door started opening a quarter century ago, long before we had even converted to Orthodoxy.

25 years ago, Father Boris was a gifted priest and spiritual father in Rostov, Russia. He was greatly beloved by his spiritual children. He would give them spiritual advice and direction. Sometimes he would also provide revelations from the Lord, regarding future events.

To one particular man named Roman, Fr. Boris gave him three bits of information. He said that Roman would become a priest. (He did.) He said that Fr. Roman would have exactly eight children. (He and his wife did.) And he said that the day would come, when Fr. Roman would lead a movement, restoring Orthodox farming communities to the area around Rostov, just as they had formerly existed for hundreds of years. Interestingly, Fr. Boris said that the communities would not mostly be made up of native Russians. Rather, he said that people would come from all over the world to participate in this renewal of Christian community.

Fr. Roman, along with his wife and eight children, invited us to work alongside them to help build the first community. We were very happy to accept the invitation, and we look forward to purchasing land in this area. With the help of other friends who move to this area, we hope to form a warm and inviting Orthodox farming community, with an Orthodox church at its center. Since the community will have many English speakers, it will be an inviting place for people who have not yet become fluent in Russian. Our goal is for other Orthodox families who are wanting to leave America to have a place to come to where they will feel comfortable while learning the Russian language and culture.

So on January 1st, we flew away from America, and on January 2nd, we arrived in Rostov, Russia. This is our story. You are always welcome to visit us, and to join the adventure. Maybe you’ll decide to stay!









Funny things in Russia

Colorful Russian Toilet Paper

When we arrived at our new home, we discovered they had left us toilet paper in the two bathrooms. It was green. Fr. Joseph had also stopped at a store and bought some white toilet paper. img_68681A few days later on another shopping trip, he returns with orange toilet paper. Fast forward a couple of days later, and it is yellow toilet paper. Now we also have white toilet paper with purple designs on it. Best part of it all, Kelsey, our 6 year old, comes up to me and says, “Mommy, the toilet paper is turning the toilet water pink!” She thought that was just great! The orange toilet paper was the culprit. I asked Fr. Joseph what the deal was with the toilet paper, and he says he just buys the cheapest! I’m totally on pins and needles waiting to see what kind he comes home with next.

Scented Russian Kleenex

I witnessed this one with my own eyes. This time I was along for a shopping trip, on Christmas Eve no less, and was looking for Kleenex. We found them, but they only come in the little “purse size” packages. Okay, I will work with that and just buy 10 packages. Best part, when I got home I actually looked at the packages. They are FRUIT scented!  img_68711Kid you not! I asked the kids if they liked the smell of them, and they said they couldn’t smell them, because their noses are stuffed or runny. I love it!

Frozen Items

So this year (just because we decided to come in the dead of winter of course), it was the coldest Christmas (January 7th) in over 100 years. Want some proof of it? On the window seat near the front door, we had boxes stacked up from unpacking. One of the boxes was up against the window. A few days after the “cold snap”, I was rearranging the boxes and moved the boxes underneath this one box. The box didn’t fall down on to the window seat. It was still FROZEN to the window. It was on the same window seat where I had laid the kids’ hats. You guessed it! They were frozen to the window seat too.

It gets better. In the dining room/hallway at one end I had put the empty suitcases out of the way up against an interior wall. Oh yes, the suitcases were FROZEN to the wall. Even better, the kids’ coats that were laying on top of them were FROZEN to the wall too! I didn’t get pictures of this one, because the camera was frozen. Just kidding!

img_68561Russian Ice Cream Packaging

Our daughter Kelsey celebrated her 6th birthday on January 14th. Fr. Joseph went to the store for groceries and “birthday stuff”. The kids and I are emptying the bags, and we come to this cold roll of mystery stuff. At first, we thought it was hamburger. Turns out it was vanilla ice cream! Who knew you could package it this way!

Tricky Russian Sheets/Covers/Pillows

Let me start off by saying I’m VERY thankful that when we arrived, we already had beds put together, with sheets, comforters, and pillows.

That being said,  what is up with the sheets? In the sheet/pillowcase sets, there is only a “flat sheet”. No fitted sheet at all. IMG_6873[1].JPGThe flat sheet REFUSES to stay tucked in. So after about five minutes of someone moving on the bed, the sheet is off, and you are on the plastic covering of the mattress.

The pillows are wonderful; they are just BIG and FLUFFY!

On to the blankets and comforters. I finally figured out the bamboo blankets go in the “blanket covers”.  Then my problem was how to put them on the bed. There are two twin size blankets, but we have a queen size bed. I tried them vertical; I tried them horizontal. Either way looks funny to me.  Finally, I just folded them up at the end of the bed. At least, we don’t have to fight over anyone stealing all the covers. We have “his/her” covers!

We really like it here, and we have enjoyed getting settled in. These funny little differences between cultures just give us something fun to chuckle about.

Now I just have to wonder . . . what color of toilet paper will Fr. Joseph bring home next? And what special Kleenex scent?




Our First Week in Rostov, Russia

img_2468Our journey to Rostov, Russia began with a VERY LONG road trip to New York City. There were 14 people, including 9 children (one was a 7 month old baby) in a 15 passenger van.  We were also pulling a small UHAUL trailer containing all our bags. The trip began about 4 p.m. in the afternoon of December 30th, 2016, and finally ended about 12 p.m. December 31st, 2016.  Along the way we stopped in Hershey, Pennsylvania.  Fr. Joseph picked up a newspaper that was very fitting for our trip.

After checking into our hotel, we ate lunch at a nearby Applebees. Our service could have been better, but we were all thankful to get out of that van. IMG_2483.JPGWe returned to our hotel rooms, took showers, watched The Two Towers, and The Return of The King.  Supper that night was pizza and soda. Yes, the children picked the menu!  The next morning we packed up, and headed to church at St. Nicholas Orthodox Church.  Trying to park a 15 passenger van with a UHAUL trailer attached was rather interesting.  In the end, Subdeacon Jeremy and Fr. Joseph ended up dropping us off in front of the church, and parking a few blocks away.  We all thoroughly enjoyed worshiping together, and they were very friendly and encouraging about our impending journey.

After church we walked a few blocks to a small café, and had a delicious lunch.  Next we walked several blocks back to the van, and went sight-seeing.  The World Trade Center and Memorial, Empire State Building, and the Statue of Liberty were among the attractions we saw.

St. Nicholas Orthodox Cathedral in New York City

High praise goes to Subdeacon Jeremy for driving the van and trailer in New York traffic!  Next, we headed to JFK airport.  All total we had to check in 10 people, and 22 pieces of luggage (not counting our carry-ons).  Thankfully we were able to get it all checked, receive our boarding passes, and then head on to security.

On a side note, I called the airline to ask if we could check an umbrella stroller at the gate, and was told this airport didn’t allow that. As a result, I had to carry Kenneth all through the airport (along with my backpack, laptop back bag, purse, and camera). The lady at the check-in said that was wrong, and that we could have checked an umbrella stroller at the gate. We all made it through security without any pat downs (such a wonderful blessing), and waved goodbye to the Conrads and my brother Jon.

Another side note, I had fingernail clippers, and scissors in my purse and backpack, and Andrea had scissors in her purse, and none were taken. I intentionally bought chewable medicine for the kids, and had that in my backpack. We were able to board the plane first, because of having children.

The flight went very smoothly. The kids that were 10 and under were given a small bag that had games, crayons, and stickers in it. We flew out about 8 p.m., and arrived in Moscow about 12:30 p.m. their time. This worked well for our kids. They served us dinner, and then the kids watched a movie. Shortly after, they lowered the lights and everyone went to sleep. About an hour before we landed, they served us breakfast. The flight was about 9 hours long.

When we arrived in Moscow, we had to go through Customs. They looked at our passports, and stamped them. We headed to baggage claim to collect our 22 pieces of luggage.  Another HUGE blessing was free carts to move our bags out to where Fr. Roman and a couple of other people were waiting for us. Fr. Roman and the other two men were very friendly, and loaded our bags into a van.

Then we began the 3 hour drive to Rostov. It was fun to see how many of the signs we could understand on the drive. Before we got to our new home, we stopped at a grocery store.  Fr. Joseph shopped for some food to hold us over for a few days.

When we arrived at our new home, those same three men carried all those bags up the stairs to our house. Each bag weighed about 50 lbs. After supper, we said our evening prayers and went to bed. We made sure to try to switch to the time zone we were in right from the start. This has made it so much easier to transition. It is a little harder waking up in the morning, because the winter sun doesn’t rise until about 9 a.m., but we are trying.

Before we arrived, Fr. Roman had purchased and put together all our beds. All we had to do was make them with the new sheets, pillows, and comforters. This was such a blessing.  Everyone loves their new stuff.

Within a couple of days all the bags were unpacked and put away. It was like Christmas every day leading up to the real Christmas. Fr. Joseph would leave with Fr. Roman and come back with more stuff we needed (dishes, silverware, more food, etc.) It was very interesting remembering all the things we didn’t bring or have, like a screwdriver, hammer, clothes hangers, tape, glue, etc. We just keep a running list, and whenever we get a chance to go out we try to pick up as much stuff as possible.

Since we don’t have a car yet, we are relying on other people to pick us up and take us places. They have been very friendly and accommodating. We also had a very nice translator with us, named Anna, and she made life so much easier.

Our First Christmas Tree in Rostov, Russia

A couple of days after we got here, this area experienced the lowest Christmas temperatures in over 100 years!
Fr. Joseph said, “If we can survive this time of year, it can only get better!” Fr. Roman and his son have been checking on us regularly to make sure we are warm, and to see if we need anything. They even came on Christmas Eve and Day to check on us. They brought extra heaters to help keep us warm, and gave us hats and boots. They also took us shopping on Christmas Eve, so that we could buy a Christmas tree and presents.

We really enjoyed the Christmas Eve service, and our first Christmas in Rostov. (Most Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7, instead of December 25th.) The temperature has gone back up (not negative anymore), and we have settled in pretty well!