The Search for Sanctuary

Liza and I have been living a bi-continental life since 1995. I was an American professor and consultant working on education and entrepreneurship projects in Russia for my university and for the U.S. government. Liza was working for a consulting office in Dubna Russia which was part of a project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). We met in November 1995 when I was asked by my USAID contractor to do some consulting through Liza's office for local businesses in Dubna for a week. I agreed. I then agreed to do a one month repeat of consulting and business seminars in March of 1996. It was near the end of the second trip when I realized that I was attracted to Liza. I opened our dialogue over dinner on my last weekend in Dubna. A year later, in April of 1997, we were married in Moscow. I had taken a volunteer position as Entrepreneur-in-Residence for a USAID project based in Moscow. I was able to be there on a one-year visa for business reasons. We chose to live in Dubna and commute during the work week.

The project changed in 1998 and I was hired as Chief of Party for another project. That lasted until 1999 when I moved to a project in the Caucasus countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. We moved to Georgia and stayed for just over a year. Then I was hired in late 2000 to be Chief of Party for a $13 million higher education development project in Central Asia. I was to be based in Almaty Kazakhstan and I moved there in January 2001. We moved our family there in the summer of 2001.

In the summer of 2003 I changed positions again. It was best for the children to return to Moscow to finish their education or to attend universities where their futures would be better served. I remained in Kazakhstan for a few months to complete my work there. Then I returned to Moscow in early 2004. I did some short-term teaching for the same project in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan during the 2003-2004 school year. I retired from the Navy and started my Social Security in 2005.

Liza meanwhile had taken jobs with Price Waterhouse Coopers and then moved to the law firm of Cameron McKenna in Moscow as their Marketing Director. I began developing an outline of a business plan for an online university. This developed into a fundable project and I got deeply involved in doing the 'ground-work' in the U.S. I traveled to the U.S. in 2005 to speak with education department officials in California, Utah, Wyoming, Montana and Alabama and with the Government of Saba Island in the Caribbean. The results were that by late 2005 I had completed the research, knew the details of what to do and where to do it, and had found an investor to start. In March 2006, I moved to Alabama, alone, to start Omniversity, with online degree programs in entrepreneurship.

Being alone in Alabama and Liza being alone in Russia was no joy for either of us. I flew back to Russia frequently. Liza and I were able to arrange several businessprelated trips to meet in London and Glasgow. The cost was high, but the opportunity to be together was great. Sadly, the failure of the U.S. banking and securities industry in 2008 led to premature death for my university - just three weeks before we projected our first profits. Thankfully, the closure had happened before we had completed arrangements for, or taken full payments from, our first large group of students.

With the closure, I moved to Utah. I had hopes of restarting there, but the sustained depression in funding made that impossible. I was also trapped by a change in the Russian visa regime. I could only get short-term visas and had to leave after a 90-day stay for at least another 90 days before returning. That meant I could no longer do without a permanent address in the U.S.....So, I 'fixed' myself to a rental situation in Logan Utah.

My situation was becoming untenable and Liza was also feeling forgotten. We met in Utah in late 2008 to try to talk our way through the options facing us. We agreed that we should resolve our living arrangements in Moscow. Liza owned an apartment there. Our two sons were still living with us, but attending university. Our daughter was married and living in St. Petersburg. Moscow was, and still is, badly polluted. We wanted to sell the Moscow apartment and try to buy two others, one for the three children and one for ourselves. We first thought of buying both in the suburbs, but that was two costly. We settled on one in Dubna, about 120 kilometers (70 miles+/-) from Moscow and one in Lobnya, about 15 miles north of Moscow, on the same train line as Dubna. We agreed that I would start looking for some land in the western U.S. to build a small house to meet my need for a 'base'. I would still make the journeys to Russia and stay there for 3 to 6 months, depending on the visa regime.

Go to the "Quest" section.


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