The following year, we were asked if we'd like more students. This group was Ukrainian. And somehow by some stroke of luck, Yurii and Oleksii stepped into our lives.
|Yurii and Oleksii|
Are they not just the cutest things? These boys had energy to spare. Nothing was too difficult, too heavy, too demanding. Those smiles were always in place. We spent the summer working their tails off, too. They built the benches for the wedding cove (along with Larry, Dick, and Nicholas), they treated the hemlock trees, built in shelves for Larry's office, painted, stained, set stones, built steps, re-engineered the creek (Larry's favorite pass time) to make prettier waterfalls, they worked and worked and worked.
I wish I could tell you how much I loved having these boys here. Those two summers were such special times. They really were a part of the family. And it was hard to see them leave in the fall. The first time, Larry and I realized we were sending our boys back to Siberia, for heaven's sake! We just wanted to keep them forever. When Russia started fooling around in Ukraine, our hearts were in our throats as our boys' safety was at risk. We embedded ourselves into the 24-hour news cycle until tensions finally broke, but we still worried.
Facebook allowed the occasional peek every year or two into Pavel's life in Russia, and Oleksii in Ukraine. We routinely posted the annual 'happy birthday'. We learned of marriages, jobs. But only tiny bits of random information, a handful of notes over the past decade or so. And then. Out of the blue: messages from Oleksii! How are you, life is good, are you in Florida, Yurii is there - I had to break the news of Larry's passing to this boy who responded, "Larry was the greatest man I ever knew." They had forged an unbreakable bond, and it grieved me to have to bring sadness into his world. But he'd brought serendipity to mine. I was indeed heading to Florida, and soon.
So. Fast forward to yesterday morning, when a text message came from Miami - it was Yurii! We began to plan how to meet and before you knew it, I was in my car and heading to Jupiter, Florida, to meet this 30-something year old man for seafood at a waterfront restaurant. Yes, that's right. I made a five hour road trip to have lunch, haha! Worth every moment. Yurii told me about the work he's doing in Miami, a little about the company he works for, and how he's having to relearn English. (We always found it vastly amusing that these boys came to the Appalachian mountains to practice English. Honey, I've lived in Maggie Valley for the past 21 years, and there are times even I can't understand the language. So. By all means, let's take folks who use a cyrillic alphabet, give them English classes in college and send them off to the land of yep and y'all. But they did it!) These days, Yurii is practicing his English in Miami. I'd like to point out that precious little English is spoken there, either. And his coworkers are Russian... which presents a certain tension of its own, given the political landscape. But there is more news. Yurii's been married to Olga for seven years. He was quick to show me a photo - she is lovely! And if his business progresses the way it seems to be, she may be able to accompany him on a future trip. I'm imagining meeting her - Larry said "our boys" so often, can she be my daughter-in-law? I'd like that.
I have this image running around in my head. I hope you'll enjoy it... Yurii and Olga, renewing their vows on their 10th wedding anniversary... at Timberwolf Creek... in the wedding cove the boys built. Love in the air.
|Yurii & Sandee at U-Tiki Beach Restaurant, Jupiter Florida|