Since this website also serves as my personal home page,
Iíd like to share some things about my life.
Like many who have grown up in a country that split
apart, my background is a bit complicated. By bloodline, I am a 25 year old
proud Ukrainian girl, despite only spending some summer vacations in Ukraine
visiting my grandparents and soaking up sun on the Black Sea.
My parents were both teachers. In Soviet days teachers
were assigned places to work throughout the nation. My parents were assigned to
Grozny, Chechnya where both my older brother Dima and I were born and raised.
1994 was a year that would affect our family in so many
ways. It started so promising. After studying English for 8 years, I
participated in and won a contest that enabled me to travel to the United States
as a High School exchange student. I still have my Bear River High School
diploma in my scrapbook. There I lived with a large Mormon family that accepted
me as one of their own and to whom Iíll forever be indebted to for their
hospitality and kindness.
The Former Soviet Union was going through a period of
tremendous turmoil and religious fundamentalists in Chechnya attempted to
declare independence from the now separate Russian Federation. The results were
tragic, and my familyís apartment was destroyed by artillery shells only 3
days into the conflict. It was horrifying to be separated from my family and not
know if they were OK or not. There was no way to communicate.
My familyís belongings were reduced to one suitcase
and my Mom, Dad, and brother made their way to St. Petersburg where we had a few
relatives, even though we had had very little contact with them in our lives.
They helped arrange us housing in a communulka apartment. Communulkas are
community apartments where individuals or families each have one private room
and share common entrances, bathrooms, kitchens, etc. They can be very dreary
places and ours was no exception. Our relatives also helped arrange a low paying
security job for my brother for a foreign director at a TV station.
Unfortunately, teachers from Chechnya were not in high demand in St. Petersburg
and my parents were unemployed.
Despite strict rules about duration of stays of
exchange students, because my home was a war zone, I was invited to stay another
year. While I was happy to receive the offer, nothing could keep me away from my
family a day longer.
Oddly, despite terribly cramped living arrangements in
a dirty apartment, and barely enough money from my brotherís job to feed us, I
think everybody in our family would agree: Those were the best days of our lives.
We were together, we were safe, and we were happy.
Through hard work and perseverance, our familyís
prospects improved steadily. In part because he spoke decent English, my brother
was given more and more responsibility and rose to Sales Director at his
television station before recently moving to a smaller station and assuming the
role of General Director. My mother obtained a job as an economist in Russiaís
largest bank, and my Dad taught Accounting and now works as an auditor. He also
recently opened his own Accountancy School where he teaches different automated
accounting programs and accounting as a science. My momís bank helped us to
find a new apartment, and later allowed us to purchase it. Today, this is home
for all four of us and Alzira, my deceptively villainous cat.
With my family working hard, I was left to complete my
University Studies in St. Petersburg. After graduating, I took a job as a
personal assistant to a Director, only to feel bored and underemployed. I
reentered the university to get a second higher education and began to work as
because of my parents influences, but probably more because of my desire to make
some extra money, I also tutored English
on the side to a few students. I
continue to do this today.
Last year, life took another twist when I met and
started dating an American living in St. Petersburg. Though he is too chicken to
ballroom dance with me, and seems less inclined to visit museums with me the
longer we date, I have grown quite close to him. Slowly but surely, Iím
molding him into the ideal boyfriend. He needs a little work on helping me with
my coat and offering his hand when I get out of a car, and a lot of work keeping
his shoes cleaner, but we are two of a kind and canít seem to stop laughing or
smiling when we are together.
While dating him, he seemed to have countless friends
and friends of friends that were visiting St. Petersburg and needed help with
apartments, or whatever. And thus, the idea to start my own business was born.
Officially, he has a role in my business.
is my ďEntertainment DirectorĒ since his is much more familiar with
nightclubs and bars than I am. You can see some of his contributions to this
website in the nightclub and restaurants sections.
Today, I have no time for ballroom dancing, embroidery
or even reading because I am working. When Iím not buried in a book teaching
me about HTML and website design, I am either negotiating with local apartment
owners to get the best possible prices for my guests, arguing with local
authorities about visa registrations, or answering your e-mails. I love my new
work and have already made new friends around the world.
2007 Update: The text above was originally
written in 2002. I only edited my age a few times over the past 5 years. I
left the original text because I received a lot of comments over the years on
this and I think itís useful to understand the origins of my company. But a
lot has changed in 5 years.
The little business I started in my parents living room has
grown every year and now includes 9 full time employees plus some part time
people. Weíve evolved into a property management company and now have over 25
apartments under management, plus many apartments that I still occasionally rent
as an agent directly through owners. Managing apartments instead of being an
agent has allowed us to improve the quality of the apartments we rent out
without raising rates. The effect has been tremendous. Itís been an
unbelievably exciting experience to start and grow a business. We still work
often with the independent travelers that were my sole clients when I started,
but more and more often, we work with companies, hospitals, adoption agencies,
universities, embassies and others that have many regular repeat clients.
Over 75% of our business is either repeat or referral, so I like to think that
we are doing something right.
On the personal level, the boyfriend I wrote about is now
my former boyfriend -- and current husband. He's working with me full
time on our business, although his definition of full time and mine are
slightly different. When work and family leave me time, I've become a fitness
enthusiast and will soon participate in my first body fitness contest.
I'll see if I have the courage to post a photo of me on stage once I see them.
Wish me luck. During the winter, my brother introduced my parents
and myself to skiing, and it's one of my favorite things now. We
still visit an occasional concert or ballet, and enjoy our time with friends.
All in all, married life has been pretty good.
One of the most exciting things about operating a travel
business is that we have had the opportunity to travel quite a bit ourselves.
We almost always look for services on the internet most similar to ours to help
us with our trip. The knowledge learned from seeing how people in other
countries approach their similar businesses has been a great help in improving
our service and avoiding problems. Below are some photos from our
St. Petersburg remains our favorite city (though Sydney and
Rio have some big advantages during the winter). We are anxious to
see more of the world and hope we will see you also.
Eiffel Tower on our honeymoon
The Grand Palace
Rio De Janiero
View from Sugarloaf Mountain
This photos is more about the shoes :-)
Ivano Frankovsk, Ukraine
Visiting family in Ukraine can interesting flying experience (or 48 hours on train each way)
Rio De Janiero
Botofogo beats Vasco for the Rio state championship 5-3. Chuck is mesmorized by Brazilian football passion. I get a lot of sun and nice photo before the game. :-)
My brother and me pretending we know how to fish.
Typical Russian b'day party
Chuck's turn to drive
In front of the Glockenheim.
The other side of Munich
Rio De Janiero
Body surfing with my brother
Aiya Nappa, Cyprus
reminder to self: Next time posing on beach, take website friendly picture. :-)
A rainy day :-(
We broke the all time record for fastest visit to Pisa, but got a good photo.
In front of the famous Ponte Vechio.
Admiring Michael Angelo's David
Wondering where the lions are
We visit the town Chuck's distant relatives came from. We didn't meet any relatives, but we did eat pizza and shop. :-)
Rio De Janiero
Important note for ladies. Always wear sunglasses in Rio because there are many many handsome men walking by.
Kuala Lampur, Malaysia
passport - check, visa - check, photo in front of Petronas Towers - check.
Required harbor photo.
Blue Mountains, Australia
I can't find Koalas in pet stores in St. Petersburg :-((((
Preparing to snorkle at the Great Barrier Reef
Kings Cross, Australia
A long way from home
Fulfilling required cultural tour before anxiously returning to beach
My family toasting our guests. In Russia every 5th birthday is a big event.
Some trips are far too short
Fog de Igacu, Brazil
In need of a shower
St. Petersburg, Russia
In case you were wondering why I like the beach so much
Sharm El Sheik, Egypt
When in Egypt, do as the Egyptions
I was dared to put a photo of myself with this hair color on my website.
Forgotten Island Name, Thailand
Tried for an artistic picture, but mostly just got wet.
In front of the Duomo
Red Square, Moscow
Working from my living room the first week on the new job.
My US diploma
I guess technically, it's only an honorary diploma. But nobody needs to know.
I'm a Godmother!
I didn't do anything, I swear!
Mom and I after a 14 hour bus ride
The Czech President is safe. I'm on duty!
Prague Old Town Square
My brother takes a break from his wedding to dance with me.
St. Petersburg Body Fitness Competition
2 years of training, starvation, and very understanding husband leads to my wearing almost no clothes on stage and covering my body in what seemed like paint.
Body Fitness Competition
I realized that I really like food!
Las Vegas, USA
The only gambling I did entire trip was at the airport to pose for picture - and I won $273.00 (No lying - I swear!!!)
San Diego, USA
Chuck takes me to my first baseball game. The San Diego somethings against the Boston somethings. I don't know who won, but I know in bars afterwards the Boston fans were much louder.
Grand Canyon, USA
Spectacular views in the desert of Arizona. I want to go back to hike to the bottom, or as Chuck fears die trying.
Very fun weekend, plus I get to wear a great outfit (Thanks Sveta!)
Our friends invited us to go hiking while visiting in Germany. They failed to mention that we would be climbing to the top of a mountain. Chuck and I are plotting our revenge!