“Because we have such a hectic life in Washington, we need a place to hide for awhile,” says Ushakova on a recent tour of the dacha, accompanied by Simon, her west highland white terrier. “This is the best spot for really being alone with your family. Of course, we entertain friends, colleagues and officials here but not as much as we do in the city. We prefer to host small gatherings where you can really talk, exchange opinions and enjoy each other’s company.”
Strolling the grounds of this park-like setting, lushly planted with magnolias, cypress and boxwood, it’s easy to understand why these diplomats treasure their getaway. It is located right on the waterfront with all the amenities of a resort. Within a short walk from the main house are a swimming pool and a cabana, a tennis court and a waterfront dock. While the 57-year-old ambassador’s wife likes the seclusion of the pool near the river, her husband, a fit 60-year-old, prefers swatting balls on the tennis court, boating on the river or cycling around the grounds with his grandson in tow. The couple can also be found browsing the antique shops in nearby Centreville, Chestertown and Easton, looking for the porcelains that Ushakova collects or the old books treasured by Ushakov, who also collects red wine.
Some of the finds from those trips, along with a phone from a Soviet submarine, adorn the one-room “hunting lodge” where the couple hosts special visitors. “No one really hunts but that’s what we call it,” says Ushakova with a laugh. This shingled shed with its outdoor fireplace, one of many outbuildings on the property, is tucked off the tree-lined lane leading to the house. Inside, a long wooden table under timber ceiling beams and glass beer steins hanging from a rack create the feeling of a rustic pub. A colorful mural of Russian and American sailors clinking their beer glasses decorates the back wall; the Russian wears a naval hat inscribed with “Ushakov.”