If you have ever been through a acrimonious divorce, you may feel like you’ve been sent to a (metaphorical) Siberia. But according to a fascinating article in the Daily Mail, divorce really did drive one British man to Siberia 20 years ago.
It particularly interested me because I too have a client who decided to do exactly the same and move to a remote part of the world, where she too has made a new life for herself. She had instructed me to divorce her husband and I am pleased to say we were able to do so without much hassle.
Every year she comes back to the UK and every year without fail she always calls in to see me with my Xmas card, even though it’s a long journey from where she stays. It’s a great pleasure – now she is well into her 80s and yet she still makes the effort to drop by. Everyone in the office knows her and she is always is made very welcome.
The Daily Mail article is about a man called Michael Ware, now 55. After a break-up which reportedly left him “suicidal”, he moved from Exmoor in Somerset, where he worked as farmer, to a tiny village three whole time zones east of Moscow in 1992, months after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Seeking to escape from the misery of the bitter divorce, he joined a group of farmers visiting the country to share their expertise as Soviet-era collective farms began to break up.
“After my divorce, I wanted to do something to help people. I felt I could be useful here.”
In Dubinka, which lies 110 km south of Novosibersk, at the end of 50 km track which is impassable for a large part of the year, he met Tanya, then aged just 18 and a single mother.
She was 17 years younger than him. He recalls
“She was living very badly. She was on her own with the child and the family was one of the poorest in the village”.
Mr Ware returned to the UK, sold his farm machinery, returned to Dubinka and married Tanya.
She told the Siberian Times:
“He was a fire in the night arriving in the village. I had no idea he would propose, but he did. I felt so lucky because he was so different. He likes to cook, which is rare for men here – and doesn’t drink as much.”
The couple could not get married officially as Mr Ware’s papers were back in the UK, so they had an informal – and vodka-fuelled – village wedding instead.
The couple run a farm and 20 years later, Mr Ware has no regrets. He and Tanya have had two children and he has also adopted the son she had before they met.
Despite the fierce winters, continuing struggles with the Russian language and long hours labouring on the farm, Mr Ware says he is happy in Siberia and has no plans to return to the UK.
“There have been some hardships, but I’m happy here. It’s beautiful, a long winter with lots of sunshine and a nice mild summer. Plenty of clean fresh air.”
He has, however, lost touch with his three children from his first marriage, two daughters and a son, all now in their 20s. Letters have gone unanswered and even internet searches have proven futile.
He told the Siberian Times: “I have no information at all about my family I left in England. I tried to find something out about them in the Internet but failed. I don’t even know what they look like now”.
It’s quite a story and a vivid illustration of just who affected some people are by divorce. I would never condone losing touch with children from previous marriages, and my client certainly has not, but I cannot help but admire her and Mr Ware’s willingness to up sticks and move to the other side of the world. It is so easy to fall into a comfortable groove in life and forget that you can change your life if you wish – and change it drastically. I think there is a lesson for everyone there.