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Michele Russell writes...

Updated: Jun 11

Hi Everyone!


I left it too late to have someone write for this month’s edition, so here I am!

I hope you enjoy my story!


I found out about the IWO several months after my retirement and after I returned to Limerick in June 2014: many thanks to Christine and Keyna, two yoga buddies, who told me about it! I was proposed for membership and joined with great joy - and am delighted to be part of such a great group of friends and support system!


The Treaty of Rome was signed in my birth year (1957 ) and I have always felt that it was karma I go to work for Europe - which I did in January 1978 and remained there — totally committed to the idea of the European Union — for 35 years! More on this later!


My first experience in international travel occurred when I was 3 years old and I came to Ireland from New York, place of my birth and still very close to my heart! I believe this planted the seed for my love of travel which remains with me to the present day! I went to work in France at 17 and spent my summer holidays moving between Paris, St Tropez, Cannes and Nice - where the family I was working for had apartments (a lovely beach chalet in St Tropez!). I had a wonderful time, loved it there, made friends, grew up, learned to speak French and decided that my future lay outside Ireland!


I remained in Limerick until I was 20 years old, when I took the plane to Brussels to begin working for the EEC, nervously grasping my suitcase! It was a true adventure but one which has led to great enrichment in my life, bringing me to live in several cities and enabling me to travel widely throughout the years, meet my husband and give birth to my wonderful son.



I stayed in Brussels for eight and a half years, at which stage I decided that I was very comfortable and could easily stay there forever — or I could take the adventurous bull in my soul by the horns and move to the USA (a destination which had always been in my plans!). I had

applied for a job in the EC Delegation in Washington (which I believed I would get!) but it was not yet my time and I was not successful at that time! I had some American friends I knew from Brussels who had moved back to Austin, Texas. When my brother wanted to move to the USA, he went to join them in Austin Tx and was also living there. So, full of adventure, I moved to Austin and stayed with my brother and his roommate. I lay by the pool for the first month, and eventually I realised that I had no money coming in so I had better try and find a job. I wandered down to UT (university of Texas), did a typing/spelling test (ha ha: no comment - I obviously aced it!), and began to work for the Head of the Astronomy Dept and 12 professors. I loved it, loved Texas, made great friends and discovered margaritas!


I was there 10 months when my boss from Brussels called me and said that the girl who had gotten the job in the EC Washington Delegation hated Washington so much that she had decided to RESIGN from the Commission! The post was being re-advertised. I immediately got on the telephone to the Delegation, wangled an invitation to see the Ambassador, hot-footed it to Washington, turned on the charm and got the job! Went to Bxl for a month and then took the plane to Washington DC - arriving at Chinese New Year, so I discovered

Chinatown!


I loved Washington and spent five years there. I did the training and was a docent in the Smithsonian Institution, assigned to the National Portrait Gallery - and got invited to their cocktail receptions! I met my husband while in DC, and got married (in Adare/reception in Adare Manor) in 1991. It lasted quite a while and produced a wonderful son. My husband left his job as Manager in Citibank and moved to Prague with me when I was offered a posting there. He loved living in Europe (after a couple of months hiccups!), learned the language

and thrived, teaching golf and running a joint Czech-US energy firm. I got pregnant in my last year, came back to Limerick to have my baby (thus ensuring Irish nationality for his future children!)


We moved to Brussels, intending to go out on the circuit again after 2 years, but we were comfortable there, our son was happy and we stayed there. When he was 12, we separated. When he was 14, he was offered a place in one of the top ice hockey clubs in Helsinki, Finland, and told us he wanted to go there! I was devastated (did not expect my son to leave home at 14), and we both agreed that he could go. We took it in turns to go up every 6 weeks to help him settle in there, which he did. I am very proud of his independence and adaptability!



A post came up in EU Oslo Delegation, and I got it. I moved there in March 2013 (St Patrick’s week: i got an invitation to the Irish Ambassador’s residence and met a lot of Irish living there). I loved Oslo - still do! My son came to live with me and was offered a place in a top Norwegian ice hockey club there. After a year, at age 16, he decided

that the level in Oslo was not as high as the level in Helsinki, so it was time for him to move on: he moved to USA at age 16, finishing high school, playing hockey and taking up a place in Rutgers university NJ.



After 3 years in Oslo, my mother was not well and asked me to come home. I applied for early retirement (it was the last year I could do so at age 55 as a major Reform was

due to start the following year). I did not expect to get it - but I underestimated how widespread my contacts in Brussels were and they fought for me (not realising that I was

not 100% sure I wanted it!) and I was successful in my application! I retired on 1.1.2014, exactly 35 years since I had begun work for the EEC in Brussels!

I spent six months with my son during his last year in high school in New Jersey, and returned to Ireland in June 2014. Limerick had changed a lot since I had gone abroad. I cast my net far and wide, reconnected with school friends and was very lucky to find the International Women’s Organisation in Limerick. The IWO turned my life around and helped me

settle back into life in Limerick, in the company of a wonderful and remarkable group of ladies! I discovered how great you all are when I had chemo and you were so great to me - thank you! IWO and its members hold a very, very dear spot in my heart and always will — thank you! I am very proud and happy to be a part of you!



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