After living in Wiesbaden, London and Kyiv for 15 years, my husband Ihor and I moved back to Concord, Mass., to resume our life. Except that we had unalterably changed. And I was about to discover new dimensions of gratitude for reconnecting with Wolodymyra Tesluk. From the time I was about nine, she was my Ukrainian school teacher. As we lived on the same street in the south end of Hartford, Conn., she and I would march, two evenings a week, to the school about a mile away. I could hardly keep up with her brisk pace.
When I began visiting her at her home in Hartford, beginning in 2007, she was in her mid-80s. She had hardly changed, still elegant, stubbornly vigorous, bursting with ideas. As I walked into the living room, a cat lounged on the couch, a vase of red carnations and a stack of books sat on the coffee table. I would be ushered into her kitchen, where a pot of split pea soup simmered. It nourished my entire being, her no-nonsense recipe for life.