The Foreign Service Journal, July/August 2018

108 JULY-AUGUST 2018 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL REFLECTIONS When the Going Gets Tough: Moscow BY ANNE GODFREY T hings have gotten tough in Moscow—again. In early April, we had the second mass expul- sion of American diplomats from Russia in eight months. I could write a book about the resilience and sheer bloody-mindedness of those of us leading this Foreign Service life. It’s difficult to describe the shock we felt as the names rolled in one at a time. Neighbors, friends, senior diplomats, bright young officers, families—whole sections of the embassy, all given seven days to pack up and leave. I sat in a neighbor’s house wearing, I’m sure, the same expression of dazed disbelief as everyone around me at the implications for us as a community. Many outside the community asked me how we got through this for a second time in less than a year. Sixty percent of our embassy and consulate employees were kicked out in August 2017. How would we manage to keep going again, after the loss of so many more?There is no easy answer to these questions, but one thing I can say for sure—the extraordinary community we have here, both profes- sional and personal, is one I have not experienced anywhere else in 20 years of Foreign Service life. Anne Godfrey is a teacher at the Anglo-American School inMoscow. She and her husband, Embassy Moscow’s deputy chief of mission, have three children. Anne is Irish, and has lived and taught elementary school in seven countries. She has been a Foreign Service spouse in Croatia, Armenia, Turkey and Russia. A Bureaucratic Miracle In the week that followed the announcement of names on the list, as the community considered the enormity of the loss—60 of the finest officers and their families—we faced a staggering task. To get everyone packed out on time, the community had to perform a bureaucratic miracle. Departing diplomats continued to do their jobs while they completed a to-do list, one that is usually spread over months, in just one week. That list included never-ending check- out requirements. We set up seven desks in the community room, staffed by every available officer and volunteer. Paperwork was completed by four or five different departments, keys and radios turned in, packouts scheduled, seats on the charter flight confirmed. The list included checklists for export- ing pets: certificates of health, up-to-date rabies shots and airline-cleared pet carriers for 39 pets. The list included explaining the situation to the children—some with just 11 weeks left in the school year, including high school juniors immersed in their first year of the International Bac- calaureate diploma. None could be given a satisfactory answer to the ques- tion of how they will complete the year, or where they will be next school year. Those of us who would be staying behind cooked for friends and arranged play dates to get little ones out fromunder the chaos. We walked dogs. We sent our teenagers to carry bags and boxes. We made things up as we went along, dealing as best we could with a situation for which none of us had a frame of reference. On the morning of departure, the com- pound stirred earlier than usual. At 4 a.m., suitcases were stacked outside. Pet carriers stood ready. People moved around in the freezing morning—some with purpose, firing off orders through walkie-talkies; others anxious, waiting for the buses. Departing military officers in dress uni- form almost undid whatever composure we had left. We held it together until the buses appeared, signaling our final moments Deputy Chief of Mission Anthony Godfrey stands alone on the tarmac, watching the plane pull away with 60 diplomats, their families and dozens of pets aboard. CHARLES STARR