DRIVING into the bright white bungalow in front of Garryvoe Beach, it is easy to see why Igor Meleshchenko, his wife, Anna, and their sons, Mike aged seven and Alex, aged five, love to be beside the seaside. There are many perks.
“I have two teachers in school,” says Mike. “I like both of them.”
How did the family, who lived and worked in Moscow, come to live in the beautiful haven that is east Cork?
“Back in 2019 I was offered the chance to relocate for work in either California or in Ireland,” says Igor, who works in IT.
“Anna and I had discussed the possibility of moving abroad, and Anna had always wished to visit the United States,” adds Igor.
“My company organised a trip to Ireland so we took the opportunity to visit. We toured West Cork and we loved the scenery there and the people.
“We travelled to California on our own, because Anna had never been to the USA - so to make a better decision, Anna needed to go there. She made a huge effort for that to happen.
“You know, it was a period when the USA partially closed an embassy in Moscow, so to get a visa you had to wait for half a year or even longer, so we had to fly to another country to get a visa for Anna.”
The Cork visit didn’t start very well initially; but it got better.
“The boys got ill on arrival and Anna spent most of the week in the hotel looking after them,” says Igor.
“But when the boys were feeling better, we rented a car and drove around West Cork. There were amazing views,” says Igor.
And what about sunny California?
“I always wanted to live in the United States,” says Anna, who has her own time-management business aimed at busy mums like herself. “My sister and her family live there.”
But the couple decided it wasn’t for them.
“Anna thought we might prefer to live there and I thought it was the ideal country to live in, a type of heaven, but after a month we decided to relocate to Ireland,” says Igor.
“We realised California wasn’t for us.”
It was difficult to access necessary medicines for their sons in California.
“I was so confused that I couldn’t find a nebuliser in local pharmacies at all,” says Igor. “When I started to contact specific companies who distribute such devices, I was refused as I had no prescription from any US located GP.”
Shopping wasn’t great in other areas either.
“In big stores like Walmart, many things like cosmetics are behind glass,” says Anna.
“An assistant has to come to open it if you wanted to buy anything. It all took a long time. Small things became many things.
“During the month we spent in California we did do some sight-seeing with the kids, we went to a modern science museum and to a fair-ground. The boys enjoyed that.”
But the couple felt good in Cork, and especially in east Cork.
“We realised that the USA wasn’t an ideal country,” says Anna. “For me, it was all about how I felt about a place and I felt good in Ireland.”
It was decision time, after experiencing both California and Cork.
“We decided on Cork, but we had to put our relocation plans on hold because of the pandemic,” says Igor.
“We eventually arrived here in Cork in September, 2020.”
They had to quarantine in a hotel room for two weeks.
“It gave us time to think things out,” says Igor.
“And it gave us time to look for a house.”
It gave them a breather before their new life began in Cork.
“There were lots of things we needed to resolve,” says Igor.
“We had to find a house suitable for us, we had to get a bank account and a PPS number. Being locked in the room gave us a break to get things moving.”
Things began to look up for the Meleshchenko family.
“We saw this house on daft.ie and we were amazed by the locality and the beauty of east Cork. We had seen other houses in Blackrock and Ballincollig in Cork, but we wanted this house.
"The boys loved the big open spaces and being so near to the sea. Schools were nearby and my company have an office in Cork.
“Also, travelling to Europe and to Russia to visit our families and friends was easier from Cork, so everything seemed to be in place for us to relocate to Garryvoe.”
It felt right.
“The most important thing was our feelings,” says Igor. “And this felt right.
“The atmosphere felt calm and comfortable. We were very lucky to find the house here.”
The bright, modern house is perfectly positioned, poised opposite the beach. The big windows look out to the sea with the lighthouse on the horizon.
Igor’s office is located at the perfect vantage point; front of house.
“I don’t have far to commute to go to work!” says Igor, laughing.
How did Mike like going to ‘Big School’?
“Mike had no English, but being so young we felt sure it wouldn’t be long before he picked up the language,” says Igor.
“He was a bit nervous and scared at first.”
How did dad feel?
“It was the worst day of my life!” says Igor.
The day got better.
“A few hours later, the very nice principal rang us and she said Mike was doing great.”
Alex settled in well to playschool and then in Junior Infants at the same school as his brother.
“People here are very friendly,” says Anna.
“You don’t have any doubts leaving your child with them.”
The restrictions were re-imposed just one month after Mike’s school term started.
“Home-schooling was difficult,” admits Igor.
“We talked to Mike about school and we found an online tutor in Russia to help him with his English and with his homework and for the things we couldn’t do.”
Anna has a tutor too.
“The most difficult thing is, I still don’t understand a lot of people,” says Anna.
“My tutor, Steve, is my hero. He helps me very much. I like our lessons,” says Anna, who previously worked in publishing.
Steve had good things to say about the school system in Ireland. He said they are like ‘one big hug’ for the kids.
“We found this to be true. We are so happy Mike and Alex settled into school so well.”
Anna set up her own business in Moscow after Alex was born, advising parents with small children on how best to manage their time. She has a regular blog offering valuable advice.
Igor and Anna love their haven by the seaside.
“We have a beautiful view,” says Anna.
“We see rabbits in our garden almost every day.”
Travel was on the cards.
“We visited family in Moscow and I felt I wanted to come back to Ireland.”
What is Moscow like?
“It is a huge city with lots of people, noise and cars,” says Igor.
“It is a bit like New York.
“Moscow has its own charms and rich culture.”
Is there any downside to living in east Cork?
“You know, I’d say it is a benefit that there’s no pubs nearby,” says Anna, laughing.
“When we lived in a hotel for the first month after we arrived in Cork, there was a restaurant nearby, more than one actually, and every Friday and Saturday, and sometimes working days, you could hear people talking and laughing, singing and drinking until late. So that’s a benefit!
“And look, there is a pub in the Garryvoe Hotel. We haven’t visited it yet; but we’d like to.”
Shopping isn’t a problem for Anna.
“It is only 20 minutes to Midleton. I shop online to save time! You can try on clothes at home and send them back if they are not suitable, sometimes for free!”
Anna has a lot of things on her hands.
“While I’m managing the ‘outside’ things, (job, school, some document-related things, etc), she is taking care of the kids and our home, which is the most important thing, especially when you are settling into a new place,” says Igor.
“And now, when the kids are back to school, she has more time to develop her business, which is very important to her.”
Igor has a copy of the school timetable on the notice-board in the kitchen.
“It’s in Irish!” he says, laughing.
The sun doesn’t always shine in Cork like it does in California.
“I still find the weather confusing,” says Igor. “But it’s fine, not too cold not too hot. You never tire of the sun, it could disappear at any minute!”
A year on, the Meleshchenkos know they have made the right decision relocating to east Cork.
“The fresh air, the freedom, and the playground is right across from us. We are very happy here.”