By definition and default expats are interesting people. How can someone who has moved to another country, another culture and frequently another language not be? Today I’m delighted to introduce you to an even-more-interesting-than-usual expat, Grigory Ryzhakov. Our paths crossed when I edited Grigory’s very original novella Usher Syndrome which an Amazon reviewer has described as “an excellent example of short fiction that packs a punch without unnecessary fluff … Ryzhakov is without doubt an upcoming writer to watch!” I couldn’t agree more.

But now, over to Grigory:

My English Adventures

I have never really felt as an expat, I consider myself a cosmopolite, a man of the world.

I was born in the Far East of Russia, on an island called Sakhalin. Japan is just across the strait from there. At the age of 16 I left my home town to go to university in Moscow, over 5000 miles away from Sakhalin.  It felt like a different country there.

Nine years ago I moved to the UK (to do a PhD in molecular biology). For the first two weeks after my arrival in Cambridge, I had persistent headaches because I couldn’t comprehend British English. Funnily enough, I could understand with no problem American or European accents.

My English speech perception adaptation didn’t take long, because I’m an extrovert and can’t talk less than 10 hours a day. Eventually, it became a problem. Very few people can tolerate me talking for so long. Those who can are probably deaf or have a masochistic inclination. Imagine being subjected to a company of a skinny Russian dude emitting words fast in a heavy accent, defying the laws of grammar and joggling ten topics ranging from celeb gossip to quantum mechanics. I’m joking; I don’t talk about celeb gossip much.

Anyway, being a compassionate creature and also wanting to have some friends left, I decided to regulate my talkative nature by throwing my energy into writing prose and composing music.

Being a Cambridge scientist means not only dining with Nobel laureates almost daily but also having a score of other social duties like attending infinite house parties and pub crawls. This side of British culture only appealed to me for a while. I was always a bookish person and  spent most of my free time reading modern English literature (e.g. Stephen Fry) and listening to British music (e.g. Radiohead, Muse). So I became more secluded in Cambridge. I started writing my debut novel (in Russian) and composing songs (in both languages) in my college room. Instead of wasting my time on chatting and drinking, I had put my energy to a better use. This boosted my science too, perhaps because I started developing a balanced vision of the world around me as an artist.

Grigory as a film extra

Almost four years ago I moved to London, where I live now, and continued my scientific research on the molecular basis of immune defence against pathogens. London with its vibrant and exciting culture doesn’t let me become a complete hermit. I’m a regular at West End, since I like musicals and comedy nights. Also, I’m a devoted cinephile. In fact, so devoted that last autumn I even made a background appearance in the upcoming Anna Karenina film, based on Leo Tolstoy’s novel and adapted for screen by Tom Stoppard (screenplay) and Joe Wright (directing). Watching Keira Knightly in character, exquisitely dressed as a Russian aristocrat, was a treat.

A scene from Grigory's play

London is a city of infinite opportunities.  Two years ago I rewrote my debut short story Usher Syndrome into a play and it was staged at a West London theatre. Recently, I’ve joined a film club and now I hang around with indie filmmaking crowd.  Maybe I’ll even produce a film score, who knows.

What I like about London the most is that it’s full of cosmopolites like me and together we enrich London’s culture by bringing in national memes from our countries.  I feel home here.



Grigory has a website here. He still has a lot to say!