Polina, 1986-2008

by Steve
(Iowa, USA)

Polina, autumn of 2002

Polina, autumn of 2002

Polina was born in the Soviet Union in 1986. At about the same time, her father left, leaving her mother to raise a newborn baby girl and an eight-year old son. Never remarrying, Polina’s mother took great care to raise her children well and, despite the tight bond she felt for them, to encourage them to reach out in ways that would strengthen their future.

Like her brother before her, Polina was enrolled at an early age in a school that put great emphasis on learning the English language and studying British and American traditions. At age 15, Polina applied for a scholarship to spend a year studying abroad. After rounds of essays and interviews, Polina was granted the scholarship and her application was sent to America, so she could be placed in an American home. That’s when I first learned of her.

As the time for her travel approached, Polina became increasingly nervous about leaving home and her mother to spend a year studying in America. Adding to the nervousness, she now knew that she would be in a home that had a father present— something she had never experienced. Though tempted to withdraw from the study program, she didn’t.

In the summer of 2002, a few weeks before her 16th birthday, Polina arrived in America and came into my home, to live for a year as a part of our family while enrolled in an American high school. Besides living daily with a foreign language, Polina was now living with two parents, three sisters and three brothers. It was very different from living alone with her mother. (Well before then, her brother had grown and moved out on his own.) But, within a few months, Polina felt comfortable enough in our home to declare that she and my children were “international siblings.”

As the end of the school year drew near, Polina realized that the life she had come to know here was nearing its end. Before circumstances would force a separation, she began to separate emotionally from her American family. After the school year ended and Polina returned to her home in Russia, she stopped all communication with us, her American family.

Back at home, Polina put great effort into her studies. After finishing high school, she moved from one end of Russia to the other, to pursue a degree at one of the country’s top universities. Even while studying, Polina would tell her mother that someday, when things get back to normal, she wanted to renew her connections in America.

In the spring of 2008, Polina graduated with honors (earning a Red Diploma), and with that she was granted the right to pursue a master’s degree free of cost. That fall, she began her graduate studies— and started to reach back across the ocean. Through the internet, she invited my oldest daughter to become friends again with “your Russian sister,” and made similar connections with many of the people she had befriended while in America.

In December of 2008, Polina was killed when hit by a car. (Go to my posting in “Yourspace” for events that followed.)

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