Book Excerpt

Moscow 1993

I always checked the bulletin board at the US Embassy and one day I saw an ad for a position at the British Embassy.  I called them up and went in for an interview.   This was 1993 and there were still very few expats in Moscow.  The first guy I met used to live in Nigeria so we hit it off.  Then he drove me to the Commercial Section, as it was in a different building in a different part of town.  I met with three or four people over there.  They had just purchased a Windows computer and needed somebody to learn how to use it and to type letters, do formatting and transcribe dictation for them.  I could type and I had played around a bit on Windows so they hired me on the spot.  I don’t think Nicholas was too thrilled because they didn’t pay much, but I was excited to have a job.

My first pay from the Brits was all in 5 dollar bills!  What a wad I came home with!  I felt really rich.  I was paid in cash so we had money without having to write a check and any extra went to American Express in Moscow.

I enjoyed working with the Brits.  In some ways I think I felt more comfortable with them than the Americans as they immediately grasped my humor (or sarcasm). The British Embassy was on the river, directly opposite the Kremlin in an old, beautiful mansion.  However, I didn’t work there.  The Commercial Department was in a separate building on the other side of town.  I would get a ride in the morning from one of Nicholas’ drivers and then I would take the metro home.

Soon after I started, I went to a reception at the British Embassy and met Ann, the Princess Royale and her new husband, Commander Lawrence.  We all stood in groups (assigned “clumps”) in a semicircle and the Commander and the Ambassador’s wife (who was an American) started at one side and Princess Ann and the Ambassador started at the other so they spent about 2 or 3 minutes talking to each clump.  The Commander seemed a little nervous but he was nice and Ann had on a bright green straight silk skirt and a fuchsia silk top. She carried a black silk purse with matching black shoes and sported long white gloves.  She was prettier in person than in her pictures and was very relaxed and charming. We drank Pimms out on the lawn and it was lovely.


Note:  photo and story are about the old Embassy.  They have since built a new one.  Pretty different, eh?


  1. curious about the backstorey regarding your trip to moscow that began your whole us embassy journey alison.

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