Elena Harrison is a woman of many talents. Author, linguist, belly dancer, wife and mother of three — the Russian native-turned Brunswick resident fully believes in embracing life.
And hers has been a wild ride. Harrison first visited the Golden Isles as a foreign exchange student in the early 2000s. There, she worked on Sea Island and met a local musician, Chris, who would soon become her husband.
“Chris is originally from London but grew up here on St. Simons,” she said. “He moved here with his mom and dad when he was 7. He was was my trainer at the Beach Club.”
It was a whirlwind love affair with a string of events that seemed to pop out of the pages of a rom-com. Their story was so incredible that Harrison decided she best write it down, mostly so that the couple’s children would have an account of how the unlikely match happened. The writing process flowed so well that Harrison compiled it into a book — “My Journey to the Ocean.”
“I wanted to write the story of how we met so that our son would know,” she said. “Our son, his name is Liam Ocean, so I called my book ‘My Journey to the Ocean.’”
The book details how she met her husband and how the romance unfolded. But, of course, that wasn’t the end of the story. There was much more to be told — the immigration process and eventual move to the U.S. was equally intriguing. So after publishing her first work in 2015, Harrison, who publishes under the pen name, Lena Mikado, followed it with “A Year in the Sky,” which was recently released.
“The first was about meeting your true love ... being crazy or courageous enough to follow your heart,” she said. “This one is about after I went back to Russia. But it’s about when Chris also came to Russia, and it has a lot of funny stories.”
The couple also had to travel extensively to keep their newly minted marriage intact — which is where the name – a “Year in the Sky” comes from. It is also, coincidentally (or not) the middle name of their second son, Maxmillion Sky.
“We were traveling a lot — he was coming to see me, and I was coming back to see him,” she said. “We also traveled to Prague, the Czech Republic, Cypress, Spain and France.”
The book also deals with topics more serious than new love and travel.
“It really deals with a lot of jealousy and fear,” she said.
And for Harrison, that also links back to the title in a literal way.
“I really don’t like flying,” she said. “I’ve always had a fear of flying, but there was a lot of flying then. And you go through turbulence and darkness to come out on the other side.”
She will be sharing her thoughts and experiences with readers during her first book signing, which will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at Sawgrass Market, 1422 Newcastle St., Brunswick. The event will offer refreshments and books for purchase
“It’s a really cool place. All of their things are from local artists,” Harrison added.
When she’s not holding book signings and meeting fans, she keeps pretty busy. In addition to raising her three children, she and her husband own a translation business. Most of it, she notes, is reworking video games from her native Russian to English or vice versa. But she also expands out, as she is fluent in multiple languages.
“It is mostly video games, but I do contracts too. I have to do a German contract today,” she said.
Harrison has shared her love of language with her children — Liam, Max and Chloe. In fact, she started a Russian language club at their school this year.
“I wasn’t sure how it would go, but I had 22 students this year,” she said.
Harrison has also built up another local club for one of her longtime passions — belly dancing. She trained in Russia years ago and has enjoyed sharing it with the Golden Isles. She currently teaches under the moniker Golden Isles Belly Dancing on Friday evenings at Studio South Performance Arts Center, formerly Golden Isles Ballet, 1312 Newcastle St., Brunswick.
“We just started a new session. It’s really grown a lot ... we have a lot of fun,” she said with a smile.
Coastal People appears Tuesdays. Contact Lindsey Adkison at email@example.com or at 912-265-8320, ext. 346 to suggest a person for a column.