From Russia with love

Roman-LarinonovRoman Larinonov,
moved from Moscow to Hilton Head

When people think of immigrants, it's usually Hispanics that pop to mind. However, locally and nationally, the number of Russian immigrants is growing.

About 409,000 Russian-born immigrants live in the U.S., and about 18 percent live in the South. It is estimated that at least 100 Russian immigrants live in the area, although that number could be greater.

When reflecting on his bold move from Moscow to Hilton Head Island in 2006, Roman Larinonov said, “Conquering fear and taking calculated risks takes courage, guts. Looking back, you earn a feeling of self-respect.”

Larinonov’s business, PCSaved is a thriving IT support service in Bluffton.

Immigrants are well-represented among America’s business founders and innovators, according to a 2012 Small Business Administration report. The study shows that immigrants tend to be entrepreneurial and innovative. In fact, about 10 percent of immigrants versus 9 percent of native-born Americans own businesses, often creating job opportunities for the people around them.

Roman, his wife, Veronkica, and two young daughters stepped off the plane in America wearing heavy winter boots and “Ushanka” fur hats. They immediately felt a sense of wonder about their foreign, semitropical surroundings.

“You know the moon is out there,” said Larinonov, “but you’re not really sure it exists. That’s how I thought about America before I arrived.”

His family has settled in and now attends St. James, a Russian-Orthodox Church in Beaufort.

Other Russians immigrants have also settled in.

Victoria-ZeiglerVictoria Zeigler,
moved to Hilton Head Island from Vladivostok

In 2001, vivacious and tall Victoria “Vica” Zeigler married an American and moved to Hilton Head Island from Vladivostok, the largest Russian port on the Pacific Ocean. Although she has adjusted to the American lifestyle, one of the irreplaceable things she continues to miss is Russian bread and butter, specifically dark Borodinsky rye bread with creamy Slivochnoe butter. 

Vica also misses her Russian friends.

“It’s the biggest challenge," she said. "I need to fly back to Vladivostok at least every year.”

But as the world’s greatest chess player, Garry Kasparov, once said after leaving his homeland, “It didn’t take long to recognize the shortcomings of the Soviet regime and to see the value of the free world.”