by David McWilliams, David McWilliams:
Many years ago, I lived in Russia and tried to learn the language. I lived with a Russian family, in what could be described as a Russian Gaeltacht, for three months. There was school in the morning, using a Russian method, which relied on speaking and listening with little or no written work and then, in the afternoons and evenings, the idea was to hang out in the local village.
The place was called Ruza, about 60 miles west of Moscow, not far from Borodino, the battlefield where Napoleon suffered his first defeat on his march to Moscow. This huge and bloody battle represented the beginning of the end for the Grande Armée. The ancients in the village, never having heard of Ireland, were convinced I was German because the last foreigners they had seen were German soldiers retreating through the village, when they too were held up outside Moscow.
The family was lovely and we spent hours chatting about all sorts of stuff. Four years later, I discovered that, at the first chance, they emigrated to Israel almost overnight. I had lived with what turned out to be quite a religious Jewish family – but of course I had no idea of this at the time.