Making this marriage work is a much difficult task.
According to statistics, more than 90 percent of European marriages with Russian women end in divorce. There are numerous reasons for this.
The main reasons are based on different perceptions of family values among Russians and Westerners. However, if there is mutual affection, children, and common interests, it will almost certainly work out to overcome the differences in cultures, traditions, and family life.
This is how it works for Elena from Rostov-on-Don and her Swedish husband Magnus, who got married over ten years ago in a small town called Eskilstuna, where they still live today.
Elena had to overcome many challenges as a result of her move to a foreign country, where she had to fit into an unusual life and develop relationships with such disparate family clans.
“We first met in 2007 at a beach disco in Turkish Marmaris,” — Elena comments, — “I’m still perplexed as to how they managed to spot each other among the throngs of vacationers. At the time, I didn’t speak English, and Magnus didn’t speak Russian; someone then assisted us in exchanging contact information. We corresponded for four long years; he wrote me in English, which was then translated into Russian by a translator; I had to study English, and he began to learn Russian as a result. We spoke on the phone for the first time two years later, but the conversation was made up of separate phrases that we had learned by then. Later on, we began to pay each other visits.”
To be honest, leaving my hometown to begin our lives together in Sweden was a difficult decision to make. It seemed that my whole life was left somewhere far away, and a new one starts from scratch. I had no idea what awaited me in this mysterious Scandinavian country where I didn’t speak the language and had no relatives or friends. At work, I rewrote my resignation letter 15 times before making a decision.
The first two years following my relocation proved to be the most difficult. I had to learn a new language and adjust to a different way of life, laws, culture, and mentality. We struggled with some stupid misunderstandings as a result of having completely different ideas about some simple things. In Sweden, it is called “kulturkrack” — a clash of cultures. Perhaps it was after the birth of our first child, Alexander, that I realized this was my new home. Then, almost imperceptibly, I learned the language and got a job. But it was a trying time. A new life necessitates numerous investments: in studies, in relationships, in children, and in comprehending your goals. But I clung to the hope that everything would work out in the end. Fortunately, my husband supported me in everything, I am grateful for his patience and for his support.”
In many ways, Russians and Swedes have opposing views on marriage and parenting.
To begin with, getting married legally is not required in Sweden, and it is not a “fad.” This, I believe, is because if the marriage ends in divorce, all property is divided in half. A woman with children will not be left on the street, the state will provide housing and financial assistance. Second, there is a strong concept of “fifty-fifty” in Sweden, and both spouses share their expenses equally. Men can take six months of maternity leave and do household chores on an equal footing with women: cook, clean, and care for children. A woman, on the other hand, can do a man’s work. Change a wheel on a car, for example. I always tell Magnus that I will not change the wheels because I am “too Russian” for that. Finances in the family are typically divided in half, as are bills and so on… Of course, there are exceptions to the rules, and I believe they are unique to our family. It appears to me that there are still more of my chores around the house, but when I mention this to my husband, he flatly denies it: “No, no, we have everything equally.”
My Russian family consists of three people, including my husband. As a result, our three children — Alexander, Maria, and little Filippchik — are carrying on the family tradition. I want to have more children, but my husband laughs: “Then everything won’t fit in the car,” — Elena says, smiling.
“Swedish fathers play an active role in their children’s upbringing, changing diapers, playing with them, preparing food for them, and taking them for walks, just like mothers. The dominance of fathers in playgrounds was the first thing that struck me when I moved to Sweden, but where are all the mothers? But now I’m content because my husband can cook dinner (he bakes well and frequently spoils his family with pizza and cinnamon rolls), read a book before bed, or play hockey or snowballs with the kids.”
According to Elena, her children have close relationships with their Russian relatives.
“I often tell them that they are half Russian and half Swedes, and to clarify, I say: “this is your Russian cheek, and this is your Swedish cheek,” — they laugh. I tell children that Russia is a very large country and that our first cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, was Russian. I promise to show them many of the most beautiful places in my homeland when they grow up. Kids know about many relatives in faraway Russia who miss them much. We talk on the phone a lot, and Alexander and Maria talk on the phone with their grandparents, cousins, and brothers. My mother enjoys conversing with Magnus and teaching him new words. Magnus takes pride in learning new Russian words. But before we met, my husband knew nothing about Russia, let alone Russian culture and people… He is now a direct expert on Russia and speaks Russian fluently. I am overjoyed because he will be able to communicate with my relatives and friends when we visit the country and will not feel like a stranger. And when I speak Russian with our children at home, he understands every word.”
“Our children are dual citizens of Russia and Sweden. We think it’s great that they’ll be able to choose which country they want to live in when they grow up,” — Elena says. “To help children learn Russian, we take special educational programs, read Russian books, and have a large Russian library in our Swedish home.”
Of course, this prosperous and long-lasting union of two such disparate people can be counted on for a lucky star, good fortune, a divine gift. However, it appears that it is founded, first and foremost, on simple human qualities such as dedication and hard work, the ability to hear each other, and the ability to share warmth, care, and love.