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Lyudmila I. Gunnison's Story

As Remembered by Mark E. Gunnison

Lyudmila loved to tell stories. She had a gift to remember every little detail. A short story would sometimes take one half of an hour for her to tell. I was always amazed by her memory. Unfortunately, my memory is not as good. Following is a quick summary of her life as I remember her telling it to me. I hope I don't have many errors:

Lyudmila was born in the former USSR republic of Kazakstan on January 20, 1966. She was the fourth child of eleven in her family. Although she was the fourth child, she was the oldest of four sisters. This fact showed through in her personality. She was not afraid to give advice or let someone know if she disagreed with them. One of the things I loved about Lyudmila was her stubborn older sister's personalty. At the same time she was extremely passionate and caring. She loved babies. She would hold a baby for hours if its mother would allow. She had a way of seeing into people and making them feel at ease when she was around.

One of my favorite stories that show how stubborn she was happened several years before we met. Lyudmila was attending a Russian church in Portland, Oregon. One of the pastors was preaching that married women should always ware a head cover, such as a scarf, when in public. He stated that the Bible requires married women to cover their heads. Lyudmila was sure he was wrong - she didn't remember reading that in the bible. She was so upset that she stood up in the middle of his message and walked out of the church! Needless to say, I didn't ask Lyudmila to ware a scarf in public once she was my wife.

Her father, a devoted Christian, rased the family as Christians in the midst of communist Russia. In one of Lyudmila's grade school pictures all of the students are warring neckerchiefs except Lyudmila and one other child. Lyudmila said that Christians were not allowed to ware the neckerchief - only Communists. She said it was hard being a Christian child living in an atheist state. At about the age of seven the family moved to Estonia, another former republic of the USSR, to escape religious persecution. The family was informed by the government in Kazakstan that one of their children would be taken away if they did not stop practicing Christianity. Lyudmila's father also spent several years in jail due to his Christian beliefs.

Lyudmila lived in Estonia with her family form the age of seven until 1991. She always thought of herself as an Estonian even though she once described Estonians as having blond wavy hair, blue eyes and light skin. She said they were kind of ugly and not as attractive as the dark straight haired, dark-skinned people in Kazakstan. I have wavy blond hair, blue eyes and pail skin. Lyudmila had dark hair and she always looked like she had a tan. I always wondered what she saw in me.

To supplement the family's income, while in the USSR, they raised small livestock and grew flowers. They raised chickens during the summer and saved them for winter in glass jars full of salt. Lyudmila said she hated being around when the chickens and pigs were killed. And that plucking feathers from chickens was one of her least favorite chores. Whenever we would visit a place with the smell of manure, she would take in a long deep breath and comment how great it smelled. They also raised flowers. Lyudmila loved flowers. Whenever we would pass a field of flowers, she would pleasantly comment about how it reminded her of when she was a child.

When Lyudmila was young, she wanted to be a ballerina. She was even accepted to a special school for ballerinas but her father said it was not a job for a Christian. In addition to getting the equivalent to a U.S. two-year college degree, Lyudmila attended a special music school to study the violin. She loved music. She always heard music, even when it was berried in the background. I can remember many times while the two of us were watching television and she would comment how she loved the music that was playing in the background - I doubt most people are even aware of background music most of the time. I love music more than most people and I think Lyudmila loved it even more than me.

After college, Lyudmila stayed at home working as a bookkeeper and price fixer. She loved to work with numbers.

Lyudmila told stories about her family spending all day selling flowers at the farmer's market only to have the mafia take their money at the end of the day. She said we are lucky to have police we can trust in the US.

Once wile riding in a car with some friends returning from an out of town youth group function, another car pulled up behind them and fired a bullet through their car. Lyudmila believed they were trying to steel the car. She said their car was able to outrun the other car and they were not hurt. However, the next day someone was found murdered along side the highway - probably a victim of the same car thieves.

On another trip, Lyudmila was riding with someone who was driving at about 80mph on icy roads. The car got out of control and flipped several times before coming to a rest. Lyudmila ended up with a gash in her face that ran from the tip of her nose up between her eyes and across one of her eyebrows. She spent many months in the hospital recovering including reconstructive surgery. After moving to America, the U.S. government paid to have additional reconstructive surgery to make it easier for Lyudmila to breathe through her nose. She was always embarrassed that her nose was no longer perfect. She said it would sometimes turn red and look funny. I don't think anyone who didn't know what had happened to her would notice. It is noticeable when looking at pictures taken before moving to America but not after the second surgery.

In 1991 when the USSR opened its boundaries, Lyudmila's family moved to the USA. They moved in December close to Christmas. Lyudmila would tell how beautiful America looked as they flew in with the many Christmas lights and decorations. She said it was like a paradise. She felt that is one of the reasons America is so blessed. We are a country that does not restrict religious freedoms. God has blessed us for slowing our reverence for him. When they moved, Lyudmila spoke four languages but no English. She said they would make shiver motions on the plane to ask for blankets and flap their arms like little chickens to ask for chicken at meal time. I can just see her with her shy smile flapping her arms asking for chicken. Their plane flew from the USSR to Germany then to New York and then on to Portland, Oregon.

Lyudmila lived with her family when they first moved to the USA. After a few years, Lyudmila got a small apartment in downtown Portland. She said she loved having her own apartment although she thought the area she was living in was a bit noisy at night. I think I would have described it as scary at night! She worked in the basement of a sowing factory where she said they would work her fingers to the bone. She then got a slightly better job at Daisy Kingdom also working a sowing machine. She then got a job assembling electronic medical equipment. Once she was making a little more money she moved from Portland to the suburb of Tigard. Her Tigard apartment was a typical one bedroom apartment. The sliding glass door would not lock so she would quite often leave it open a bit to let fresh air in. When I bugged her about her safety, she would say that God would protect her and that I should not worry. Her next and last job was working for a bank processing bankruptcy notices. She also helped me from time to time in my accounting practice. Her face would light up whenever I would give her an old hand posting ledger to work on.

On November 13, 1999, she became Mrs. Gunnison.

Last modified 9/01/02