Living with a Russian oligarch’s family.

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Not so long ago I spent some weeks with a vastly wealthy Russian family. I shall not identify them but suffice it to say that this family has more money than several countries and that is no exaggeration.

I had secured this gig through an agency. I boarded a plane at Gatwick on a day of sheer sunshine. I flew to Munich and barely had time to change. I reflected that I had not been to this airport since 2005 when I was there to visit the love of my life. I raced through this ultra-efficient airport and onto an Air Dolomiti flight. I was excited to fly on their airline because I had never even heard of it. I saw a white German couple well into middle age with three little black girls whom I assumed were their adoptive daughters. These lovable children were aged about 4, 5 and 6. They spoke flawless German so far as I could tell.

The plane buzzed off through the unclouded sky. I touched down in Olbia which is an airport in Sardinia. I was pleased to be in Sardinia since I had never been to this island but had long hoped to visit it. I broke the handle off my bag – or rather it has been broken off some weeks before on one of my previous flights. I picked it up and mulled raising the issue there. But I thought I had better not leave people waiting. I had not been told if the family would meet me or a driver. I was also unsure whether the driver would speak Russian, Italian or English. So I went out to the meeting area. There I saw a sign with my name on it – surname and then Christian name. The sign was held by a hefty in his fifties – his short white grey hair surmounted a serene and smiling face. His small moustache suited him. He wore shorts and a white T shirt. He at once exuded genuineness and a pleasing lack of sophistication. I greeted him, ”Buono giorno signor. Mi chiamo _______ . Come stai oggi?” He replied, ”Izvyentiye – ya ne govorit po Italianski.” His beefy mit pumped mine with great muscle power.

”magoo govorit po ruski ochin mala.’

”Ochin kharasho”’

Having established that he was Russian we conversed his native tongue. His name was Alexei. He did not speak English to any extent. He was decidedly strong. I inquired at a desk about seeking recompense for the damaged case – in fact Air Dolimiti had not damaged it another airline had long before but I was not going to out with that information. The chapess behind the desk told me that I ought to have taken it before leaving the baggage collection area but I could re-enter if I went through security. Bugger that for a game of soldiers – thought I.

Out to the car. It was a sturdy jeep and the even sturdier drive insisted on hefting the case up himself and throwing it in the ample boot. On the drive we chatted easily. I spoke all about my family and he smiled deeply. We relaxed in eager others company and my native garrulity and curiosity did the rest. I caught a glimpse of the cranes at the docks and thought that perhaps one day I would get the chance to look around this city.

We headed out of the city and through the dry country side. The odd patch of bare sand separated dark green and sharp waxy bushes. The topography was varied and untidy. The neat little Italian houses were pale and sat under red and pink roofs. The road wound left and right and rose and fell on the undulating land.

After about 30 minutes were turned right off the main road. We swiftly came to a grey palisade type fence about 2 metres tall. An automatic gate slowly withdrew to one side and the bulky car glided in. We got out of the vehicle. There were trees around the car port and a few SUVs were parked there. There was a security guards in a uniform and he had a holstered gun on his hip. He greeted me in Italian.

Alexei led the way down a stone path to the door. I was ushered into a room. There were cushions on concrete slabs. The floor was made of cork. The wall was bare concrete. In half concealed room a few metres away a Russian man spoke Italian to two Italian men. The Russian man was above average height and he had brown hair. His voice was a tight throat one. Alexei left my bags and went to speak to the man. The other man introduced himself as the boss. I shall call him the boss. He wore pale blue clothes-  shorts and a T shirt. He shook my hand and addressed me in English. He asked if I would like a drink. He had a uniformed Italian maid bring me coffee. He returned to his discussion. After a couple of minutes the Italian men were told they could leave. They had been discussing a building project.

The boss came to me. I was told to address him by his Christian name. He told me about his two sions Kirill and Nikita. They were from the first marriage. I was to tutor them a couple of hours a day but to come up with games and keep them amused.

I was shown to my room by someone. It was a in a space age concrete villa. I installed myself and then took a shower. After an hour the boss knocked int he cabin door. He was there with his son. The older one was blatantly severely autistic. He could function but had a monotone voice and vacant facial expression. He was intelligent except in the emotional sense. Nikita was the skinny younger one and he was normal. There were two little girls as well.

We had dinner al fresco – we always did. There were half a dozen maids – one was Russian. Apart from Natalya the others were all Italian. Natalya was a lanky Siberian who was in early middle age. Few spoke any English. I tuned into Russian as much as possible but could follow only a quarter of what was said. I spoke Italian to the other staff.

There were three Russian bodyguards besides the Italians. The Russian were also armed but wore no uniform. They carried guns in bags like hand bags. They were all former special forces soldiers. They kept a discrete distance. They were very muscular. They spoke little or in some cases no English. I addressed them in Russian.

There was Maria. This diminutive Italian was 36. She had a good body bar a bit of cellulite. I was tempted to try it on with her but she had a boyfriend Gianluca. She called him Jean Luc since he was from Corsica. She could not understand Corsu so she spoke French to him. Maria spoke good English. She was a Sicilian who had grown up in Ventimiliga. This is a northern Italian town and it means 20 000. 20 000 what?

There was an Italian Canadian whose English was almost there. She was 40 or so. They got rid of her on my second day. She was supposedly to harsh to the little girl she worked for. They kept sacking nannies.

Then along came Kaeen. Karen as a 46 year old British. SHE Arrived in a nanny’s uniform. She told us everything about her life straightaway. She told us about her diet in toilsome detail and the death of her father. She told us of her tug of love over a child. She had been in the media a lot and on documentaries. She was really into ”tell it all”. She had no idea how to be a servant and was not at all deferential. She even treated to us an in-depth elucidation of her diet.

On a later occasion I visited Karen in her room. She told me she had had an affair with a 19 year old sailor when she wasin her 30s. The media report back handcuffs was not true because she had lost her virginity through rape. This revelation of hers was too much 0 it gave me a fright.

There was Victoria. She was 50 something Russian grandmother who looked after he infant.

The mother was 39 so I was told but had the body and grace of a 21 year old. 6 months after giving birth fort he third time her body had snapped back into place. She was beautiful blonde with good English but no brains. She had had a double personality bypass.

The family always did everything late.

There was a bodyguard named Vanya. He was not tall but he was muscular. He had something lupine about him. He was soft spoken and his English was good. He had merciless grey eyes. He was always decent to me but I got the impression it would be a very bad idea to cross him.

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THE YACHT

There was a 60 metre yacht in the harbour. It was swimming distance off shore. This was a mightily impressive vessel – luxurious inside. The carpets were resistant to salt water. There were 13 crew. 9 were sailors and the rest were stewardesses. If I were the billionaire I would only hire stewardesses whom I could fuck – that would be spelt out to them.

I thought how differently I would do it. It would saik ar0und the world of course.

this yacht was registered in the Cayman Islands. It also flew a courtesy flag of Italy and of Sardinia. It was astonishing to see the four black men’s head son a cross of St George. I had seen this in books of flags but it there me to see it fluttering for real on the salt wind.

The captain was a sprightly and lean Australian named Gordon. He was at the half century mark but I had him down as older. He had a small moustache which somehow managed not to be contemptible. He ran a tight ship all right. He would not employ those who smoked.

I got on well with Francois the young Frenchman who captained the tender. The blond young half Serb and I got on very well. He had worked onboard boats all his adult life. He had cruised around the Aegean and mentioned the isle of Mykonos. I said this was a gay island. ”Tu es gay Georges?” / ”No pas du tout – j’ai les enfants.”

There was Kirsty – she was remarkably well-spoken for a Glaswegian. She has light brown hair and a permanent smile. She flattered me a lot? Did she fancy me? She definitely did not – she had an athletic boyfriend who was an engineer on board. She always flashed her nashers at everyone. That was her style. She used to be an estate agent. She was used to buttering people up. She was efficient and good at her job. Kirsty lived in Spain between times but was a monoglot. She especially heaped praise on me for having a smattering of seven languages. She used to call the woman ”madame” instead of ”madam”. I never corrected Kirsty on this. She did not realise that by pronouncing is ”ma DAM” she was insinuating that this woman was the proprietress of a brothel.

Her tall, bald fiancee had been a rugger player. He had much elan vital.

The other stewardesses were a New Zealander, a Pole and an Australian. They were all decent enough. I used my very few words of Polish on the Polish one – well who else? One of the stewardesses was an accountant. Why would she do this job? It involves cleaning rooms. But I looked up the pay and say why. The lowliest deckhand got 2 500 Euros a month, free board, no bills etc…

There was a young Kiwi deck hand. I got on very well with this plumber.

There was an Australian first mate who as axed and replaced by a Britisher. The captain insisted that the first mate be thrown overboard. Not literally! Not sure why the two Aussies had quarreled.

There was a South African named Cobus. This personable young Capetonian. He was the scuba dive man and addressed me as ‘sir’.

The crew treated me as a guest at first and then got used to the idea that I was an employee. I was on a par with them. It was good to have some normality and to chat to them.

______________________________

Igor was the young bodyguard. I got on well with him. aT FIRST he had been evry standoffish. I felt that this bullnecked youth looked down on me for not being a muscleman. I am not small but this boy was nothing but sinew. His chest came out several inches packed with sheer muscle. He eventually mollified. He relaxed into a goofy gappy smile. I was the only foreigner who spoke Russian. So he came to like me and I saw him for what he was. He warmed to me because I cracked many jokes. I commented on Maria’s pert buttocks. We found we had a common interest. He was an amiable bloke of about 28. He was timid and lacking in self assurance. He was married but had not children yet. He wore a crucifix around his beck. As we slid down the waterslide I would cry ”let’s go” and he would gleefully imitate me.

I had decided not to compete to him – not to stand as tall as I can and puff out my chest. I bore myself modestly – in a relaxed posture. I could not outman him. I was to become very fond of him. I would tell he liked me. Russians are never false about their emotions. We really hit it off when I made a lascivious remark about Maria’s arse.

They changed body gaurds every few days. There was a private plane

The dad felw back to Russia for a meeting-  hew was away for only a few hours

The last couple of days they went to Geneva for a wedding. I was glad to be shot of themI worked 8 in the morning to 10 at bight

It was not hard work but I had to be three steps behind the boss’ sons. Nikita would even say it was ok to go away.

I would follow Kirill since he was less trouble.

My work consisted of swimming, or jet skiing , using the sea bob etc… I spent so much time in the water I thought I might develop gills. I certainly got wrinkly fingers/

There were board games. I used to like monopoly when I was little but found it enormously tedious this time. I played it a little. I tried to do as badly as possible to get knocked out. there was also a Russian game called anti-Monopoly.

I did animal noises for the boys which they liked. Their father was not so amused. He had no sense of fun. When he was away I did them a lot for the toddlers.

Everyday we awoke at 8. I would go to the main house. There were light exercises led by me. Then retire to our rooms. Breakfast at 9. The parents got up much later – often at noon.

The food was superb. It was all freshly prepared. There was a wide choice. For breakfast there was toast, croissants, scrambled eggs , yoghurt, fresh fruit.

Dinner was mainly Italian food. I was able to avoid fish.

i was not allowed alcohol – no one but the parents was allowed to drink. No one was allowed to smoke.

_________________________________________________

THE HOTTEST NANNY

Eventually a very desirable young nanny came along. Just to really get me excited – she was a nurse. Fiona was a 24 year old Briton. I had no idea bout her. I saw her at dinner one evening and I greeted her in Russian – Dobra Vyecher. She replied, ”No, no I speak English.” She was a winsome Scottish accent.

Later she was crying on the yacht. The airhead mum had said to her – you have no childcare experience. The head stewardess asked why the young nanny was silently sobbing. I went to speak to her wearing only my trunks. I consoled her but did not touch her. I told her what was what and tried to boost her morale. Seeing me in my swimmers must have been a real treat. I do not know how she could control herself – from vomiting. As I gave Fiona a thrill she decided to repay the compliment. Next day she was by the rectangular pool in her bikini. She has a marvellous body – slender yet bulging. Her boobs were large  but not humungous. They were shapely and I could tell they were firm. Her bottom was pert and pinchable. What a sight! Nurse – I feel my temperature rising. I should have told her how she was making me swell up.

I had a chat with her at her room. She told me she had two boys she was kind of seeing. A few days later I inquired if she would be up for getting to first base and she declined.

________________________________________________________

There was Phaedra. She was a British Italian about aged 30. In fact the British side was half Czech. She had pale skin and a good body – not as ravishing as Fiona. She used to smoke a pack a day and I could just about hear it in her mildly accented voice. But she had to go cold turkey without a ciggie for 10 days. I asked her if she had a boyfriend and she did not. She did not seem to realise this was a come on. Should have pressed my suit.

The mum let the girls eat ice cream at breakfast. The tiny girls spoke excellent English and Italian as well as their native Russian.

__________________________________________________

THE BOSS

The boss was not easy to please. One does not amass a fortune of several billions without being a stern taskmaster. He was choleric. He showed some autistic traits himself. He was a creature of habit but one of his was to be late.

There was not a pinch of flesh on him and he exercised obsessively.

His hair was always sculpted. He was always immaculately turned out BUT HIS clothes were simple. The villa was remarkably spartan. I could even call him miserly. What was the point in piling up shedloads of cash if not to enjoy it? There was no football at the villa. There was no telly but this could be  good thing. The boys were not allowed to play computer games much.

He was a man of outstanding intelligence. He was full of questions. He wanted to get to the bottom of things. I was warned not to lie to him because if an answer was not convincing he would ask more and more until he uncovered the truth. I grew to admire him. He was unpretentious.

I remarked that I had met David Cameron and he was the same in private as when on display mode. The boss had met him and concurred.

He had come from nowhere. He was an only child but maybe that was why he had five children of his own. He had made a staggering amount of money without being suspected of being in the FSB. He avoided the limelight and kept aloof from politics.

He played chess against his lawyer. It was a real battle of the titans. I could tell the boss was putting everything into this. It was no mere game. His lawyer used to play semi professionally. I do not think the game finished.

____________________________________________________

GUESTS

Guests came. Vladimir was an obese lawyer with flawless English. His wife had had so much work doen that she had no facial expression. She spoke perfect English too despite being Russian. They had a chubby 4 year old daughter. The porky little girl and Nastya – the 3 year old daughter of the boss – had a fruit off. They were saying ”A t’ye  arbuz” / ”A t’ye applesin” /”A t’ye yabloko”  and so on – saying fruits to each other. Nastya was a divinely beautiful baby.

Volodya came with a nanny called Oxana. She was a hefferlump of a woman aged 40 or so. I spoke Russian to her. The first night when Volodya and his crew were there we dined in round tables by the rectangular pool. The boss, his wife, Volodya and his wife were on the other table. The children, the nannies and I sat at another one. Then Volodya said that Oxana was from Moldova. He had heard that I spoke Romanian. Oxana spoke no English so she and I were to converse in the Romanian tongue. I had been listening to Russian and Italian all day as well as speaking some English. I occasionally spoke German to the boys. Now my mind was whirring. I struggled to summon up the Romanian words. What were the Romanian words for good evening? I dredged them up. ”Buna seara”. They came fitfully at first. Little by little the words came. It took me some minutes to get into my stride. Then I was in command of the language and we babbled away in our language uncomprehended by all around us. I asked her if she was not stunned that an Irishman spoke Romanian. She said that she was not. I was deflated.

Later there was another guest with long hair. This Russian lived in Cyprus with his wife – also Russian. They had a 7 year old daughter who was full of beans. The man had a 21 year old daughter from  a previous marriage.

__________________________

The toddler girls liked to listen to an album called ‘Baby Dance’. It included numbers such as tac a ta. It also included Felicita. There was ”bambino, destino, canolino.”

I would address the Italians servants as ”Gentile donne d’Italia”. I established a good relationship with them. There was Rita the reasonable looking 30 something. There was Selene the obese 40 year old divorcee. I gallantly said I thought she was 26. What a kind lie. There was Franca who was 5- something and pouted behind her pink painted lips. There was the boss one.

I later vouchsafed to these women that I had a child and showed them the photo. They called me professore. The Russian one was the only one who could sustain a conversation in English. She called me professor in English. I had to tell her that this is only for someone who teaches in a university. She spoke reasonable English on account of her having had an American paramour. She now had a Senegalese boyfriend. Down by the beach I sometimes saw Senegalese chaps selling counterfeit Louis Vuitton bags. These men were probably illegals. I ungenerously reflected that the two sets of rejects had gone for each other – the Russian and the Senegalese were shunned by Sardinian society.

____________________

We went swimming in the sea daily. We would do 200 m in all. It was frightfully good for my health and athleticism. The sea was as clear as can be despite the engine oil. There were many beige rocks littering the sand seabed. Occasionally we spotted jelly fish and I discovered that the Russian word for one of these is medusa like the hag of Ancient Greek myth.

We sailed to the north of the island for luncheon one day 0 La Maddalena. Igor had to stand guard outside for two hours. How incredibly dull. But in his line of work one must get used to it. I suppose it appeals to the empty headed.  I wonder if the house had a gym for the guards to build up their biceps.

We sailed to Corsica. We went to Bastia. Then we sailed around to the east of Corsica to PORTO Vechio.

On another occasion we sailed around Sardinia. We went to Porto Torres and Alghero.

In Porto Torres. We spoke Rooski on the street as we climbed the winding narrow streets up to the tiny cathedral. The promontory commanded the most breathtaking panorama over a a gorgeous expanse of azure sea. The Mediterranean stretched as far as the eye could see. A light breeze rolled in off the brine. The sky had barely a spot of cloud. It was an idyllic scene. Here was natural beauty worth the breath under my ribs. How fortunate I was to behold such splendour and be paid for it. An old woman asked me in Italian where I was from. I replied that I was from Ireland. She asked which language we were speaking – so I told her Irish.

In Alghero we walked around the sea walls. The city was scintillating and packed with history. It is very well preserved. I enjoyed it a lot but we had to stand up a lot. I spoke to the boys as much as possible to fill their minds with information.

I was astonished to see so many signs in Catalan. I had known that Catalan was spoken in Sardinia but here was the proof. I had once thought that it was spoken throughout the isle but no only on the west coast.

Sardinia Piedmont was the fiefdom of the house of Savoy. This became the royal family of Italy. It was odd to think that this rocky island had in a sense united Italy and dominated it for almost a century.

In Porto Vechio we had a walk around. Igor accompanied us. He was no longer a gorrilla towards me. He had me keep my eyes out for Kirill. Igor told me to behave as a bodyguard.

We saw a pick up truck go by. Some me in pink shirts and capes were in it. I was explaining that they were priests in ecclesiastical purple marking the Feast of the Assumption. Volodya cut me off and said they were gays celebrating the passing of same sex marriage in France. He smiled benignly. Few Russians have such an indulgent attitude to towards this orientation.

On the water slide I would have to go down first. Igor said no one must get into the water without him – he meant the children. He would ask me how to say things in English.

____________________________

What did I glean from the plutocrat? I learned lessons in life that every fable tells  – that we already know. Money does not guarantee happiness. He was fairly happy but he was  not 1 000 000 000 than me as his wealth would warrant. He can afford anything he wants. He could pay to have me killed. He has more money than many small countries. What did he get his glee from? He derived his gratification from family life, from good food and from exercise. perhaps the only costly thing that gave him satisfaction was his yacht. Time is the only factor limiting his enjoyment because like all men the grave stalks him. So why waste time being pissed off? He went out of his way to find problems. He got hacked off over fluff on the carpet. He had no patience. Why should he be forgiving? He could afford not to be. As mortality was his only problem why dream up more?

I was very glad to be driven to the airport. I left a few hours earlier than necessary. It was great to fly out of there. As I said farewell to the beautiful Fiona I said, ”I would be your boyfriend any time you want.” She invited me for a hug.

This was a trial in a sense. They did not ask me to go permanent. If they had offered it this would have entailed living with the boss’ ex wife because she had the boys most of the time. They were planning to bring the yacht up the river Moscow for the eldest boy’s birthday in the autumn. They would sail to the Caribbean at Christmas. Russian Christmas is after ours. Gordon had often had to work over Christmas. The family told him very little. I had to feed him scraps of information. There was a lot of last minute chopping and changing.

I was glad when the parents were away. I could work unsupervised. I was not kept on for several reasons. My Maths was not up to it. I committed a faux pas at table. They did not think I was energetic enough. Playing games – but there were no balls or anything.

The eldest boy liked to watch that film with those blue creatures.

The kindly old guard had laughed to hear me speak Romanian with Oxana. He was mightily impressed. He never got to swim poor chap.

It was bewildering for him and Igor to be in with the crew. They had no common language.

The first mate had told me it was very well paid but hard work. They did not get a day off for weeks sometimes. He could only walk into his cabin side ways. But when the family were away they were tied up in port. They were paid and had very little to do. It seemed horrendous for some crew members not to get to swim. The stewardesses had a hard job. Cleaning lavatories. But you could be 18 and stupid and still land the job. Very well paid it was too.

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About Calers

Born Belfast 1971. I read history at Edinburgh. I did a Master's at UCL. I have semi-libertarian right wing opinions. I am married with a daughter and a son. I am allergic to cats. I am the falling hope of the not so stern and somewhat bending Tories. I am a legal beagle rather than and eagle. Big up the Commonwealth of Nations.

2 responses »

  1. Ventimiglia does not mean 20.000. That would be “ventimila”. Ventimiglia translates, nowadays, as “Twenty Miles”… however, that is not what this ancient town’s name means.
    The name is actually derived from ancient Ligurians, Who gave the town the name of “Albium Intemelium”, meaning capital city of the Intemelii (ancient Ligurian coast).

    • I stand corrected. Thanks so much for your comment. What is the Italian word for thousand? Milia? I thought miglia. Mile is derived from the Latin word ”mile” meaning thousand – as in the height of 1000 men. So at root milia and miglia are the same thing/

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