The young lady in the middle, in the denim, is Jenya Guseva, a young friend of mine. The picture was taken in a Russian classroom in St. Petersburg when I was invited to speak to a class learning English after she asked me if I would. I was nervous, but Jenya had asked me so I went. I think it went okay. I drew a map on the blackboard and showed them some of the places I had lived.
I first met her years ago in St. Petersburg when I was there for the winter, and she was a little girl and a friend of my wife’s daughter. She was funny and spoke English, which was a nice treat for me, and she was always coming over because her home life left much to be desired.
Jenya had had a tough life. Her mom died unexpectantly when she was about 13, and she was left to live in her dismal, dark apartment with her alcoholic father who did absolutely nothing as far as being a father went, including working. But she was always smiling and she was my favourite friend in Russia, even with the age difference.
My wife and I were going to buy her a plane ticket so she could visit us in Canada. Show her some real life for a change. Maybe some day she could immigrate.
It wasn’t to be.
Several months ago Jenya developed a rare blood disease and entered the hospital.Yesterday, Thursday, March 25, 2010, she passed away. She was just 23.
My heart is heavy and I’m not feeling very good right now. Sometimes life is very unfair.
Rest in peace, Jenya.