Life as an foreigner in a foreign land is the theme of many books and short stories. They can be instructive and cautionary. One of the most common is “Burmese Days” by George Orwell.My most recent read was a short novel by Leo Tolstoy, “The Cossacks”. This is a brief synopsis but please read the book itself.
Dmitri Andreich (Olenin) a minor member of the Moscow aristocracy, finds himself mired in debt and ennui. He decides to get away and pay off his debts by accepting a cadet commission in the Russian Army in the remote Caucasus Mountain region. He is euphoric to get away from stuffy Moscow social life and live in a remote Cossack village. He is entranced by the simplicity of life in there. He rents a small cottage. He is befriended by an old Cossack, Daddy Eroshka. They spend happy days hunting, drinking and storytelling. He feels accepted.
Olenin falls for the most beautiful girl in the village, Maryanka. She is engaged to a local man, but nonetheless flirts with Olenin. He dreams of settling down with her and living a genuine Cossack life. After her fiancée is shot, Maryanka tells Olenin that he’ll never get anything from her. His acceptance into the community was illusory. Old Eroshka spent time with him because Olenin bought the drink he so adored. Others accepted gifts from him. Heartbroken he decides to return to Moscow. Eroshka tells him he did not fit in, feels sorry for him:
“It’s very hard, dear brother,
In a foreign land to live.”
As Odelin leaves the village, neither Eroshka nor Maryanka bother look at him.