Professor Leaves America, Takes Wife & Children to Russia - Here's Why (Interview With Hal Freeman)

On the phone one day, she said, "Why don't you just come to Russia?" We just couldn't get it out of our minds. We thought, prayed, talked to people that we trusted, and eventually concluded this is what we should do for our family — it gives me time to spend with my family, and to live in a culture that is not antagonistic toward our Orthodox Christian beliefs. So we made the move.


[Dr. Herman Middleton]: My friend Hal Freeman is a retired professor and lives with his family in a small city south of St. Petersburg in Russia called Luga. While there, he started a blog called Between Two Worlds where he chronicles his adventures and experiences as an American living in a small city in Russia. This  summer, the summer of 2018, Hal and his family returned to the States on vacation, and I had the opportunity to catch up with them and to conduct this interview with Hal. I think you'll find it quite interesting. I hope you'll enjoy this episode from my interview with Hal Freeman. 


[Hal Freeman]: Well, that's a very interesting and difficult question in some ways. I had gone gone to Russia the first time in 2002 with a friend who had adopted an orphan young man as a child, actually, from Russia, and he would go back and support orphanages and churches there. So I got to go. I went in 2002, 2003, and then I went back in 2005 on my own, and eventually moved there late in 2005. So I lived in St. Petersburg and taught English in St. Petersburg at the Linguistic Institute. I married my wife, Oksana, there, and we moved to America (back to America for me; first time for her) in 2008. 

We lived in America, and in 2012 I realized I was losing what little Russian language I knew. I started working on my Russian language. I started reading Russian history. Still no thought of moving to Russia, but I . . . When I order from Amazon, you know, they put books up, and I got one called The Art of Prayer, which was an Orthodox book. I read that, found it extremely rewarding. 

So my interest in Russia . . . I kept working on my language. I got Pimsleur and went through three levels, still with no intent of going. We hosted some children from Belarus in our homes in the summer who had been near the Chernobyl disaster, and they got out of the radiation in summers, and we hosted them. And I felt very comfortable. They were speaking Russian. Just things began to trigger my interest in Russia. 

Orthodox Church in Luga, two hours south of St. Petersburg

And then when I discovered my wife was going to have a baby again unexpectedly, I knew I wanted to stay home with that baby. I knew I didn't want to . . . I'm too old a father to ride off to work while she's growing up, and I didn't want to miss that. I began exploring avenues for how I could do retirement, semi-retirement, something to make a living and yet stay home or be close by and spend more time with my family.

The other factor that really got us thinking about Russia, however, was the cultural trends that we saw happening. And this was not the only thing. There were just several other things that began to bother me about the culture of America. 

And on the phone one day, my mother-in-law said, "Why don't you just come to Russia? You've taught Russian students English before." We just couldn't get it out of our minds. And we thought, prayed, talked to people that we trusted and confided in for months, and eventually concluded this is what we believe we should do for the best of our family, give me time to spend with my family, live in a different culture that we don't feel is as antagonistic toward our Orthodox Christian beliefs. So we made the move. 

And that was . . . So, it was several of those factors, not just one thing, and it certainly was not made overnight. It was a long process that we evaluated family conditions, financial conditions, all of those things. They kind of came together, and we moved to Russia. 

Transcript provided by Dormition Professional Services

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