This content was published on January 21, 2019 4:03 PM Jan 21, 2019 – 16:03
Many Russian men aspire to one of the influential sons of the Soviet scientist, Nikolai Grammatov (1918-2000)
Two months ago this newspaper published an interesting insight into Russia, the life of one of the greatest Russian scientists of all time, Nikolai Grammatov (1888-2000), and his wife Natalia’s life in the US. Now we turn to Moscow to see what life is like for the Russian emigre couple in their adopted homeland.
It is the summer of 1988, and the Lady Grammatov is still waiting to come home from New York. She is coming to travel back to Russia to deal with her mother’s affairs and to prepare herself for her move to the US. Now 45 years old, Natalia Grammatov is considered to be the most important woman in Russia. After her family has completed their studies, Natalia and her husband Nikola have joined the prestigious Marshal’s Company as an active member.
While Aleksandr and Natalia have made their mark in Russian culture, the repercussions of the Soviet Union’s collapse are felt by millions of Russian citizens: there are huge difficulties in the labour market, mass migrations, and employers who do not want to hire workers from their native countries. Out of pragmatism, Aleksandr and Natalia, as well as their fellow Marshall’s Company members, decided to join their husbands, and in 1987, in the wake of the Soviet Union’s breakup, they began travelling the world in search of a better life, especially one where they could experience new things.
After nine years, most of whom were spent at the American Embassy in Moscow, Aleksandr Grammatov was persuaded to return to Russia and his wife to move to New York. They settled in Hollywood, on a block filled with people from around the world, and set up their house. For a while, they were content, and at one point they even found some work. But things had changed: in 1987, you could rent a small apartment in the basement of the US Embassy, and with the liberalization of Russian labour laws, it was possible to find work. It meant that Aleksandr was able to work part-time for a tiny restaurant while Natalia earned the equivalent of $40 per month as a part-time housekeeper. But there were only two other people employed at the restaurant, and its owner discovered they were married.
Natalia, then 34, was forced to accept the low-level job. For a while, the couple tried to maintain their normal lives, going to the gym and attending Chinese New Year festivals in Hollywood. But their situation soon deteriorated: starting from $40 per month, Natalia was down to about $100 per month, and Aleksandr found it impossible to manage. At the beginning of 1988, Natalia’s father was very sick, and she was unable to make any effort to compensate him. Aleksandr, who was gradually falling behind on the mortgage payments, understood that the situation could not continue, and decided to return to Russia. It was then that his wife left Russia with only the clothes on her back. With the American Embassy in Moscow as his first port of call, the legendary Marshall’s Company offered a new life to a proud emigre from Moscow. Natalia and Aleksander paid $12,000 for a two-year lease on an apartment, which they rented immediately.
Many Russian men aspire to one of the influential sons of the Soviet scientist, Nikolai Grammatov (1918-2000), such as his younger brother Viktor, who was at times described as the richest son of the Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev. Viktor has become a successful entrepreneur.
Numerous Russian wives of Marshall’s Company members have achieved a little bit of a middle-class existence. A few have fought to stay in the US against the odds. However, Natalia Grammatov is considered an exception: her husband made a second visit to the US in 1990. On this occasion, they travelled for several months to build the yard they planned to build next to their house. However, this new dream project was put on hold and she returned to the US in 1991.
Swiss migration journalism on the press website Grzegorz Dilewski is the author of Front line for Moscow’s Technological Advancesexternal link. He left the Marshall’s Company in 1987 and has lived in Russia since 1990.