Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — Bill Beane, left, and his wife Rita Beane first meet in September of 2001 and have been married for 12 years. While living in Belarus, Rita worked as a software engineer and now works for Cathedral School as the information technology coordinator. Once a year, Rita travels back to Belarus to see the country and help take care of family graves.
Brittney Lohmiller / The Natchez Democrat — Bill Beane, left, and his wife Rita Beane first meet in September of 2001 and have been married for 12 years. While living in Belarus, Rita worked as a software engineer and now works for Cathedral School as the information technology coordinator. Once a year, Rita travels back to Belarus to see the country and help take care of family graves.

The Dart: Natchez couple creates life together from opposite ends of the world

Published 12:06am Monday, March 17, 2014

NATCHEZ — Rita Beane’s life is a tale of two countries.

More than 12 years after moving to the United States from Belarus, Rita said she sometimes still feels like she lives two separate lives.

submitted photo — Bill Beane, left, and his wife Rita Beane first meet in September of 2001 when Bill traveled to Belarus to visit Rita. For 10 days Rita showed Bill around Belarus and hired a driver to take them to see Kiev.
submitted photo — Bill Beane, left, and his wife Rita Beane first meet in September of 2001 when Bill traveled to Belarus to visit Rita. For 10 days Rita showed Bill around Belarus and hired a driver to take them to see Kiev.

When The Dart landed on her Pecan Way house last week, Rita had purchased an airline ticket for her annual pilgrimage to her home country in mid-June.

Rita moved to Mississippi after meeting, and later marrying, local photographer Bill Beane.

The couple met after Rita responded to a personal ad, mainly looking for a pen pal to improve her language skills.

“Mississippi was very far away, and I immediately thought of Mark Twain and Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn,” Rita said. “He was a photographer from Mississippi, and I thought he can show me his world, and I can show him mine.”

Bill, however, was looking for something more. He had placed the personal ad hoping to find someone to settle down with and had received nearly 50 letters.

Bill’s father was ill at the time, which meant Bill could not visit any of the women who wrote to him.

Rita’s letter arrived nine months after the flood of letters from other women.

“When the letters stopped, I honestly didn’t think I was going to get anymore,” he said.

After writing back and forth, Bill took a 10-day trip to Belarus in 2001 to meet Rita. The two visited Belarussian sites and traveled to Ukraine.

After Bill returned to the U.S., he and Rita spent the next year emailing every day and talking on the phone at least once a week.

“I have a whole binder full of emails that we sent that year,” Bill said.

Rita describes the emails as almost like a diary.

“We talked about what we liked, about books, art, politics, every day life,” she said.

It took six months and a trip to Poland for an interview at the U.S. Embassy for Rita to get a fiancée visa to come to America. Once she arrived, the visa stipulated she and Bill had three months to get married.

She was 42 and working as a software engineer for large companies in Belarus. She owned a house and an apartment and made it clear she was not “desperate” to get married.

But Rita left Belarus to marry a photographer from Mississippi and start a new adventure.

Once she got to Natchez, Rita set out to find a job to continue her career.

“I did not want to be a housewife,” she said. “I went to Natchez Regional (Medical Center) and asked if they needed help in the IT department. I was ready to volunteer.”

Rita worked with David Delaney in the IT department at NRMC for two or three years while also helping Cathedral School improve its technology part-time. Rita became the full-time technology coordinator at Cathedral in 2007.

She loves her job and is settled in Natchez, but after more than a decade here, Rita says she still feels as if she is exploring.

“I want to see the country, I want to learn about it and explore it,” she said.

Rita and Bill travel frequently, most recently they began a quest to visit plantation ruins in Mississippi and Louisiana, but their trips have been to Las Vegas, Utah, Arizona, New York, Niagra Falls and other places.

Rita says she has found Americans and Belarussians are really not all that different.

“As I live here longer, I see there are the same people here as there are in Belarus,” she said. “I don’t accept the conception that there are two different worlds. People here and there want the same things, to be happy, to love, to raise children, to have peace in their life and the world. They’re the same people.”

Rita has a passion for her job and enjoys her life with Bill, but has regularly asked herself the same question for the past 12 years.

“Did I make the right choice?” she said. “I have no regrets. Sometimes I even feel like I live two lives, and I feel like I return from one life to another every year.”