Long Beach Press-Telegram (Long Beach, CA)
Posted on July 3, 2002
By Tracy Manzer, Staff writer
Long Beach - When Valentina Latypova learned her friend's 14-year-old daughter was among 52 Russian children killed after their chartered plane collided with a cargo jet over southern Germany, all she could do was sob briefly and hold her head in her hands.
Latypova is among five delegates from the Russian Republic of Bashkortostan visiting Long Beach as part of a program that will bring a total of 60 delegates from various areas of Russia to the United States to learn more about the American government's role in environmental issues, women's leadership, health and education.
Sitting in the office of the Press-Telegram's executive editor, Latypova and one of her colleagues, Tamara Pushkareva, said they immediately called their families in Ufa, the capital city of Bashkortostan, after they learned that a Russian Tu-154 jet carrying stellar students and athletes from their city of 1.2 million people had crashed on the way to Barcelona.
"This is a tragedy for our entire republic,'' Pushkareva said. "The most awful thing that can happen in your life would be losing your child.''
Initially, Latypova and Pushkareva said they did not know if any of the children killed were those of friends of family members. Pushkareva said, "We are praying that they are no one we know.'' However, as the news stories moved over the international wires that changed. An Associated Press report included the name Dasha Kozlova, a girl who was the daughter of a friend of Latypova.
At the sound of the girl's name, the woman gasped and cradled her head in her hands. Latypova's office in the regional administration's Department on Human and National Issues sits next to the girl's mother's office.
"She was a very beautiful girl, tall, with blond hair and blue eyes,'' Latypova said. "She was very open and a beautiful girl.''
Latypova said the 14-year-old had just graduated from the ninth grade with perfect marks.
Children from throughout Russia are chosen each year for the program, which takes them to different places for a holiday at the end of the school year, the delegates explained. It is reserved for the best and brightest Russia has to offer, and Pushkareva said the entire Bashkortostan region of about 4 million people -representing about 100 different ethnicities and cultures -- would mourn their loss.
Despite the shadow cast by the tragedy, the delegates continued with a whirlwind week in Long Beach, which included tours of government offices and a session with Mayor Beverly O'Neill. Sponsors of the Open World Russian Leadership Program 2002 are the Library of Congress, the Academy for Education Development in Washington, D.C., and the Long Beach/Sochi Sister City Program.
The delegates are scheduled to fly back to Russia on Sunday, but all will attend a Fourth of July parade in Huntington Beach and fireworks at the Queen Mary as well as a concert at the Hollywood Bowl before their return home. Asked what they have enjoyed most thus far, and several agreed it has been "the ocean.''
But Boris Suprenok, chairman of the Property and Land Committee, added he enjoyed seeing, "people who are smiling all the time, and their hearts are open.''
©Long Beach Press-Telegram (CA) 2002. Used with the permission of the copyright holder.
[Reprinted with Permission]