Wednesday, March 28, 2012

#8 ~ 1971 ~ Glimpse into adulthood

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Previous Post:1970-1971 ~ Now What?

Right after the New Year we had a guest coach from Kiev, Elena Vasilievna. She was fabulous! We trained 6-7 hours at a time and still it was not enough. She was strict, fare, knowledgeable and made us laugh at our own mistakes. I fell in love with her style of teaching. Elena asked me what were my plans for next year. And I said that I am going back to Leningrad to try again. She looked into my eyes and said:” Why? You definitely have talent to be a fantastic coach. If you change your mind, come and apply to the Kiev State University of Physical Culture. That's were I am teaching." I was very touched, thankful and said that I will think about it.
Elena Biruk, one of the best coaches in the World

My very first coach, Ida got married and moved to Kiev when I was 7 years old. (That's one of the ways to move from one city to another...) I knew that she had a son, Felix. Why is this important?
Well, at the end of January he called me and asked if I could assist him in finding Ida's former students. I agreed to meet him and we spent a long day together tracking down Ida's students. We talked about his days in the Army, my failed attempt to get into College, history, art, movies, books. I was surprised how easy it was talking to him, how smart he was and how different he was from the other boys I dated. He walked me home (I insisted on it!), we said goodbyes not realizing that this was THE beginning of the rest of our lives together.
February 23 was a big celebration in the former Soviet Union: Day of Soviet Army. Big military parades in all the big cities, music, celebration. I was sending cards to all my friends (boys), not boyfriends and decided to send one to Felix. After all, he served in the Army.
March 8 is another big Holiday - International Women’s Day. No parades, no fireworks, but men customary gave flowers and presents to women. That night my Mom said that there is someone on the phone for me. It was Felix! He congratulated me with March 8th and invited me to come and visit him in Kiev. I felt very special! After all he was so much older and seemed so grown up and sophisticated and refined!

Felix when we first met
In a few weeks, without telling my Mom, I got on the train and went to Kiev. Felix showed me this beautiful city, we talked and walked the streets of the city, and he was a perfect host. At that time he lived with his mother and her former husband in the 2-room ( not 2 bedroom) apartment. They shared kitchen and bathroom. What a life!
The weekend passed very fast. I got home all giddy, happy and lightheaded. I had to make a decision what to do next. I could listen to people's advice, but decision had to be mine: what to do? Being adult is hard. You have to make your decisions that will impact the rest of your life!
After long and extensive contemplating, I decided to go to Kiev and become a COACH. Did the fact that Felix lived there have anything to do with it? Probably... But thinking how much I enjoyed teaching dance in school, how I loved gymnastics, and the fact that I will be coached by the country’s best also helped me to make up my mind.
So in June I went to Kiev to apply to the Kiev State University of Physical Culture.

Next: 1976 - Coming to America 

Monday, March 26, 2012

#7 ~ 1970-1971 ~ NOW WHAT?

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Previous Post:1970 ~ Summer - Leningrad

Well, my plans of going to College in Leningrad were crashed. I came home and frankly did not know what to do. It's like my life hit the dead end, came to a halt. But I did not realise that when one tiny door was slammed in my face, so many huge windows of opportunity opened up! I continued with my gymnastics training. My coach could not be more delighted. I helped with younger kids, competed very successfully and enjoyed the fact that I did not have any home work! We trained in a big gymnasium, but did not know that the Gym did not have any heat. It was so freezing in the winter, that our coach and piano player had to wear coats, gloves and hats...I also danced in the company and was available to perform in and out of town.
My younger brother, Eduard was attending the same school that I graduated. One day (I think in September), he came home and said that the School Principal wanted me to come and see him. What? Principal's office? What have I done now? I was nervous and prepared a short speech explaining why I did get into College. When I came into his office, Michael Georgevich, my School principal ( everyone, including all the teachers were terrified of him) got up, put his arms around me and gave me a big bear hug. I did not expect this AT ALL! I started crying, but he took my hand and told me what a smart, talented, bright person I am and that I will have a very successful future in front of me. I practically looked around to see if he was talking to someone else. He offered me a job, paying job! teaching children dance classes in the school. UNHEARD OF!!! I immediately said "YES!" So overnight I turned from a sad little girl into a young lady, with even adults looking at me with respect and admiration.
Another exciting event happened: We got a telephone! OMG! It was a split line with our neighbors, which means: if I wanted to use it I needed to go outside on the balcony and yell "Get off the phone!" to my neighbor, since she was talking all the time. But it was a telephone! And we were one of the very few families that had this luxury.

                                              1970 ~ Marina ~ first year of teaching dance and gymnastics classes.

Friday, March 23, 2012

#6 ~ 1970 ~ Summer - Leningrad

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Previous Post:1970 ~ High School

We arrived to Leningrad by train in the morning. The plan was: to sleep on the train and be ready for adventures in the morning. But we were so excited and thrilled, we did not sleep at all that night. So needless to say when we arrived, we were dead tired and exhausted. Thankfully, it was pretty easy to find the college, but it took us all day to register, pick up schedules, get to the dorms, unpack. We had all the intentions to go out and explore the city, but both of us fell asleep despite the commotion, noise, clatter, loud voices all around us. I woke up in the middle of the night very confused and hungry. The clock showed 3 am, but it was light outside. I stood by the window and looked into the still of the white night. It was surreal!
Next day started early. Our first class was in the big auditorium. Young professor made two announcements that were rather shocking:
 #1 - Forget everything you have learned in school. HA!!!
#2-The chance that you will get accepted is very slim. We have 7 people applying for 1 spot. Double HA!!
It dampened our spirits for just a few minutes. We had so many great and fun things ahead of us, or so we thought.
Every day started at 7am with classes in algebra, geometry, physics. After 3pm - quick dinner mostly of noodles or potatoes, on the good day a jar of stuffed Bulgarian pepper, and on with the home work. Only after 6 or 7pm we were able to go and explore this beautiful city. I knew the fascinating history of Leningrad, but it was so different to see it, touch it, smell it. Whenever we had a chance we would visit the Hermitage Museum. Several times we took a ferry to the summer palace in Petergoff. It was a magical time. I did miss my Mom and Dad, even my annoying little brother. I missed the warmth and security of my home. But being on my own, making decisions, learning and exploring was very exciting.

Day of the entry exams. I was so nervous. First exam was a written math test. It lasted about 4 hours. I passed with the grade of 4. (Grade system is different: 1 being the worst, like an "F" and 5 being the best like an "A"). So 4 was very good.
Next day was oral math test. We would come into the classroom on e at a time, pull the ticket with 3 questions from the table. After 15 minutes of preparation, we had to answer these questions. So there are no multiple choice questions....I did not do very well. Professor kept interrupting me and asking something so irrelevant to what my questions were. I was very confused. I got a disappointing 3.
Physics and the Essay went very well, without any problems. My total score was15.
Ludmila and 2 other girls from my dorm room already failed and left, so I was in the room all by myself. On one hand, it was lonely and sad, on the other hand, more chances for me to make it. In the morning we got a word that the score to get in is 15. 15!!!! It means I made it. I ran downstairs where they displayed the list of all the students that were accepted, just to make sure. But I did not see my name. First, I thought that it was a mistake. I had 15 points, I had be on the list!
I stopped by the office to talk to the administrator. He was very nice and said the I did great, but they only accepted the certain percentage of girls and that I should try again next year.
I could not believe what I heard. I wanted to scream, to hit somebody, especially those two good looking boys that convinced me to come to this College (only now they did not seem so good looking). Disappointment, sadness, anger, gloom, humiliation. How am I to look into my Mom's eyes? I was sure that all my friends from school got into the Colleges. What am I to do? I was suppose to vacate the dorm room by next day, I had no money or place to stay. I was 17 years old and  life seemed to be over. So the only thing I could do is go home.
I did not realise back then, that it was my first LIFE lesson.

Next: 1970-1971 ~ Now What?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

#5 ~ 1970 ~ High School

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Previous Post:1964-1970 ~ Teenage years

Our school was very different from the schools here, in the US. We went to the same school from the first grade (elementary school) to the 10th grade ( high school). Teachers changed, subjects changed, but the core of students was the same. Since I was one of the the top students in my grade (about 120 kids), there was no question if I am going to College. The big question was: which one???
My English teacher wanted me to continue with languages, my math teacher was sure that I will be an engineer, my gymnastics coach had no doubt that I have to be  coach/choreographer and of course my dance instructor would not talk about anything else, but "grooming" me for a dancer/performer. Decisions, decisions...
Around March of 1970 we had 2 young men coming to our school. They were representing Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) College of Aviation Instrument Design. They were very good looking, well dressed, smart, funny, articulate, convincing and did I mention - very good looking. After several days of listening to them describe the College, asking questions, looking at the pictures, reading pamflets,  I made my decision: I am going to Leningrad. My friend, Ludmila Pogoran and I registered for 1 month of preparatory classes, which were going to start on June 1.
In May I passed final exams in school and my math teacher, Aron Isakovich was very happy with my decision.
After the exams, we all fell free, happy, looking forward to our future! We had a very memorable and exciting graduation ceremony and graduation ball. Beautiful dresses (my aunt Marta got me lace white dress), music, dancing, even champagne, staying up all night, watching sunrise. It seemed like anything is possible, anything is achievable!!!
End of June: bags packed, tickets purchased, goodbyes said and we are on our way to Leningrad, the most beautiful city in the world (at that time my world was rather small).

1970 ~ Marina is ready or not...for the independant life in Leningrad

Saturday, March 17, 2012

#4 ~ 1964 -1970 ~ Teenage years

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Previous: 1961-1964 ~ School Years

As I was getting older, I saw things that were hard to explain.
One day in the 6th grade we went to the city library that was  much bigger and better then our school library. When we stopped by the front desk, we were asked to fill out the library card. One of the questions was: your nationality. I looked over my friend's shoulder and wrote: "Ukrainian" just like she did. After all, we lived in Ukraine. But when the librarian took my card, she looked at me and said: "No, honey, you are a Jew". I could not understand how am I different from my friends: we speak the same language, go to the same school, eat the same food... But apparently, I was different.
My best friend in school was Olga Banit. I would go to her house very often to do homework together, play, or just "hang out". I was so surprised that they always had meat, fresh fruit, butter. They had telephone and even refrigerator! When I questioned my Mom about it, she said:"Olga's father is important, he works for the Government." But I still could not understand, could not agree.

Movies were often the "windows to the world". We especially loved foreign movies. Some of my favorites were "Funny Girl", "Sound of music". When we watched the movie, most of the time it was NOT the plot or great actors that fascinated us. What was incredible is that even simple people (not just in Government) had apartments, cars, food, gum, Coca-Cola (Oh, how we dreamed of tasting Coca-Cola!!!), and people could just move from one place to another without any problems. For us to move from one city to another was close to impossible.

Bit still, I was a very good student in school, was very successful in gymnastics, and in 9th grade I started character dancing, which was fun, exciting and dynamic. I loved performing, loved costumes and of course all the attention...
                                       May 1969 ~ Marina Davidovich performing in the Central theater, Vinnitza, Ukraine.
Posted by Marina Davidovich.

#1 ~ The Beginning

Marina Davidovich

In this blog Marina Davidovich describes life in the former Soviet Union, coming to the United States of America, growth of the sport of Rhythmic Gymnastics, and how life has evolved being American.

And the story begins...

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

#3 ~ 1961-1964 ~ School Years

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Previous: 1960 ~ Our life in Vinnitza, Ukraine

My school years were happy years. I loved school. Probably because I was a good student, teachers always praised me, I participated in all the school event: social or athletic. I loved my teachers: Aron Isakoich - Math, Rimma Ivanovna - Russian Literature, Valentina Vasilevna - English teacher, Diana Gavrilovna - Geography  and many, many more. They gave me tools, they taught me that MORE I know, more I know that I DON'T know! I was reading lots of books any time, anywhere, even during some boring classes, which got me in trouble many times.
I was very involved  with my gymnastics after school, took piano classes for the first 3 years of school. And since we did not have a convenience of a personal car, every day after school, laden with heavy school books and a bag with gymnastics uniform, I had to take city bus and city tram to get to my gymnastics practice. No wonder I was always tired...
In the 6th grade I was introduced  to the ballroom dancing. My partner, Eugene Vaiman (who is the Chairman of the Ballroom Association in Israel now) and I participated in every state, sectional and Regional competition. The only bad thing I remember is that my feet ALWAYS hurt. No wonder: my shoes were 2 sizes too small, but they were beautiful!
 Our team was the great! We won District and Regional Championships and represented our Region on National Championships many years in a row.

1968 ~ Rhythmic Gymnastics Team after the competition watching the rest of the competitors ( photo by Marina Davidovich).

1968 ~ Marina (Right), Ludmila Goyeva ( middle) ~ photo by Marina Davidovich.

Some families lived better, some worse than us. It was very common to have a kitchen and bathroom shared by 3 or 4 families. They were called commune kitchen. But I really don't remember anyone complaining. Maybe I was too young? Store shelves were empty. If we walked down the street and saw the line in front of the store, we had to get in line and then find out  what they have. And no matter what it was, we bought it, whether it was food or shoes or clothes, regardless we need it or not.

Next: 1964-1970 ~ Teenage years

Monday, March 12, 2012

#2 ~ 1960 ~ Our life in Vinnitza, Ukraine

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We lived in a small, dark 2 ROOM basement apartment: My Grand Mother Clara, Grandpa Aron, My Mom, my Dad, my sister Alla and I. I was always sick. I guess lack of vitamins and and basic nutrients were the reason. I was in and out of the children's hospital all the time. I found this picture. It was taken after I came home from the long stay in the hospital. They even shaved my hair. I was so little, weak and sad!
Marina Davidovich on the left with Grandma Clara and neighbors, Ludmila and Alex.
When I was in first grade few exciting things happened: we moved from the 2 rooms apartment in the basement, where we lived with my Mom and Dad, my Grandmother Clara, Grandfather Aron and my older sister Alla to a 3 room big apartment in the new development, on the second floor! My father worked for the building company and in order to secure our new apartment, we moved in before it was complete. I remember walking through a" construction" zone for many months. We did not have heat or running water, or even electricity. But it was on the second floor and we did not have condensation running down the walls and we had natural light and windows that were above the ground!!! But the most important: we had bathroom and shower inside!
And then in November my little brother Eduard was born. I was a big sister! My responsibility was to keep the temporary wood stove burning and make sure that baby's blankets were warm. I also remember always being hungry. My Mom would wake me up at 5am in the morning, bundle up my little brother and we would go to stay in line to get eggs and milk and sometimes white bread. Food was rationed and one had to be in line to get ten eggs, milk and sometimes sour cream. I cried "I don't like milk and eggs, I don't want to go!"
In a few months, workers finished the building and it was fun watching other people moving in the vacant apartments.

  Then, in the spring of that year, I was one of 10 girls chosen by my PE teacher to go and try out for gymnastics group in the Youth Sport School. My first coach was Ida Davidovich (who knew she is going to be my mother-in-law?!). She was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. Most of the women wore ugly boots (valenki), she had shoes on high heels, most women wore "babushkas" on their heads, she wore beautiful hats. I wanted to be just like her!

Ida Davidovich, my first Coach ( Photo by Marina Davidovich)
Next Post: 1961-1964 ~ School Years

Sunday, March 11, 2012

#29 ~ 1976 ~ June 16, Hartford, CT~ Jewish Wedding

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Previous Post: 1976 - Simple Beginnings

Marina Davidovich is getting ready for the wedding. Still not sure what to expect...

Frm L to R: Bernie Malofsky, Sharon Malofsky, Marina Davidovich, Felix Davidovich, Ida Davidovich, Diane Goldshlager, Rabbi Hans Bodenheimer, Michael Goldshlager. In front Marianna ( Masha) Davidovich

It was like a dream. I did not think that after telling my wonderful friends from National Council of Jewish Women that we did not have a jewish ceremony at our wedding in Kiev, they will get this idea of giving us a JEWISH WEDDING!!! Complete with the beautiful dress and veil for me, tuxedo for Felix, Rabbi, flowers, guests, presents, cake, the whole nine yards...We were celebrities: TV, Newspaper, interviews. Here is one of the articles. It was such a beautiful, happy, wonderful day!

Next Post: 1978 - First year in Detrot, MI

Friday, March 9, 2012

1979 - Rhythmic Gymnastics Team

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Previous Post: 1979 - Becoming Americans!

Nobody knew what Rhythmic Gymnastics was. I was trying to explain, demonstrate, promise that it is a spectacular sport, that it has future, that it's for the girls who love to dance, express themselves through the movement. I managed to gather 12 girls to start a Rhythmic Gymnastics team. One of my most talented students was Michelle Berube. Strong, flexible, dynamic! She attracted attention of other coaches and judges at the very first National Championships in Boston in 1979.
!978 ~ Marianna Davidovich, age 5 performing ribbon routine for the crowd in the local mall (Photo by Maina Davidovich).
I was so happy to have my Mom and Dad living with us! We did not need a babysitter any more!!! Girls were growing so fast. Masha was so little, but already developed taste of performing and being the center of attention...
After 3 years living in the States, we went to the the movies for the first time ("Cisco Kid").  I loved it!
We enjoyed driving to the lake in the summer, picking apples in the Fall, but winters were cold, very cold.
In the summer 1980 we visited my college friend in Jacksonville, Florida. She introduced us to the owner of the local Gymnastics school. And that was the pivotal point in our lives.

Next: 1979 - Becoming Americans!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

1979 - Becoming Americans!

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Previous: 1978 - First year in Detrot, MI
1979 ~ Eduard Flit and Elizabeth Davidovich ~ Berkley, Mi ~ By Marina Davidovich
The year is 1979... We are becoming AMERICANS! We are learning very fast that if work hard, live modestly and save, we can reach an American dream. Our highlight of the week was driving to the bank every Friday to make a modest deposit. We were able to save enough money to buy a house in Berkley. House needed a lot of work, but it was OUR house. In March of that year my parents and my 19 year old brother came to the US after a long, long  wait. I did not see my brother for 4 years and when we left he was just a boy. So when I saw a grown man walking towards me at the airport, I was shocked! However, his infectious smile was the same. I was so happy to see my family again. When we left Ukraine, we did not think we will see each other again. It was a very happy day!!!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

1978 - First year in Detrot, MI

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Previous Post: 1976 ~ June 16 Hartford, CT

It was a very busy day yesterday: lots of tennis, family time, etc. I missed writing, so I need to catch up today.

!978 ~ Felix Davidovich, Marianna (Masha) Davidovich, Lilian, Marina Davidovich, Elizabeth davidovich, Ed Lotstein, Marsha Lotstein, Deborah Lotstein and Seth Lotstein
Winter 1978 starts a new chapter of our lives. I missed my wonderful "american" family in Hartford every day. I missed their presence, help, their warm smiles and ever present support. Evelyn Alberts, Diane Goldshlager, Sharon Malofski, Marsha Lotstein, Barbara Rudeman, David and Marianna Exstein, and always serious Mr. Marvin Kay. He was our social worker. And one of the first words that my baby said in English were: "OK, Mr Kay."
This is a pictures taken at Marsha and Ed Lotstein's house with our friend Lily, also Immigrant from Ukraine.

But at the same time we were making lots of friends in Detroit. We lived in Pontiac, MI and Gymnastics School was in Bloomfield Hills. We stayed home in the mornings and drove to work in the afternoons.
My little girls were doing gymnastics in the living room.

Marianna (Masha) Davidovich practicing gymnastics at home. By Marina Davidovich
First, other coaches were were cautious around us. I could see it in their eyes: who are these people with strange accent? But after we got to know them, they "took us in", helped with our English and taught us many things. It was hard for me to understand: why parents have to pay money for kids to do gymnastics??? So when I was asked to teach a private lesson, I was so proud, I did it for no charge. Well, it did not last long. I had my first lesson in economy and free market from the rest of the coaching staff... My second lesson I charged $10.00 an hour!
I started Rhythmic Gymnastics Team. One of my first students were: Michelle Berube (became 1983 National Champion, 1984 Olympian), Karen Lyon ( became coach of World Championships Team ), Karyn Sadowski, Dana Watson, Kim Williams  and many more. I loved every minute of coaching, learning, growing. In May 1978 I  took my team to the first Competition in Downers Grove, IL.

Next Post: 1979 - Becoming Americans!

Monday, March 5, 2012

1976 - Simple Beginnings

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Previous Post: 1976 - Coming to America

Today is a very windy day. Great for completing tasks at home. Last night I started a blog and now I can't stop thinking about the times we left Ukraine, our 2 weeks stay in Vienna, 6 months wait in Italy, our arrival to America... It's still very fresh in my memory. Lots and lots of people are telling me to write a book about our family, our "adventures" while immigrating from Ukraine to the States, running our business, my career as a gymnastics coach... It will take a long, long time to bring it all to life. I am not a writer, but I can talk and I have a lot to talk about. I apologize in advance for mistakes, typos, etc

I started teaching women in New Britain YWCA around September 1976. My girls were so young at that time, but we all drove to the YWCA once a week, since I could not drive yet. I had my drivers licence, but was terrified driving, especially on the highway. But one day I did it. Felix stayed home with kids, and I went on my own. I don't know who was scared more: him or me. Drivers on the road honked at me since I was going very slow. But I did it!
We did not have any equipment to teach gymnastics, so I improvised: we used volleyballs instead of rhythmic balls, I bought ribbons in the fabric store and made my own ribbons for my students to use. My English was very limited, but it did not stop me. I demonstrated everything. Around December 1976 one of my students, Jane told me that there is going to be a Modern Rhythmic Gymnastics (yes, that was an official name back then) clinic in Boston. First, I was confused about the word "clinic". It sounded like someone needs medical attention. Jane explained that it's a workshop. I was so excited. When we came to the gym and I heard music, saw girls dancing and using ribbons, balls, hoops, ropes, I felt that I came home! Monika Heilbut was teaching that particular workshop. When I joined the group, she wanted to know who I was and where I came from. That was my initiation into the world of Rhythmic Gymnastics in the USA.
I was writing down words, expressions, terminology. Loved every minute of it!
Maria Bakos, Monika Heilbut, Norma Zabka, Ellem Nyemchik - these were the pioneers of this sport in the USA.
My mother-in-law, Ida was my first coach back in Ukraine. She was one of the top Coaches and Judges in the former Soviet Union.
1960, Kiev, Ukraine ~ Ida Davidovich ongratulating gymnasts after the competition. By Marina Davidovich
Ida was coaching gymnastics in a private club in Detroit, Michigan at that time.
She told her boss, Steve Whitlock about me. And he invited me to come to Detroit and teach clinic for his students around Christmas time. So we went and he offered me a job as a gymnastics instructor.

Next Post: 1976 ~ June 16 Hartford, CT

Saturday, March 3, 2012

1976 - Coming to America

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Previous Post:1971 ~ Glimpse into adulthood

1975 ~ Ostia Lido, Italy ~ Felix Davidovich, Marianna ( Masha) Davidovich, Marina Davidovich. "First Jeans!!!"

Here we are again...another 4 years and another exciting summer ahead with world caliber athletes competing in London, England. I remember like it was yesterday when the United States decided to boycott the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games. I came to this country on January 15, 1976 from the former Soviet Union (now Ukraine) and immediately found myself with the desire to bring the sport of Rhythmic Gymnastics to the United States. Nobody had even heard of this sport or could even help me find any clubs or programs where Rhythmics was offered.

1976 ~ Hartford,  CT ~ Elizabeth Davidovich, Marina Davidovich, Felix davidovich, Marianna ( Masha) Davidovich
At that time, my husband Felix Davidovich, my  mother-in-law Ida Davidovich, my 2-yr-old daughter and I resided in Hartford, CT. I was pregnant with my second child and was very busy trying to learn English and the American way of life (which is another story).  My second daughter was born in April 1976. Three months later (July) I was advised by my ESL teacher (Symon Yavner) that the New Britain YWCA had a big gymnasium and maybe they would know about Rhythmic Gymnastics. Without knowing English, we had to get in the car and drive to inquire about this possibility. After meeting the program coordinator, I had to demonstrate what Rhythmic Gymnastics was and he said "you look like a cowgirl" since I was demonstrating rope skills. He immediately offered me a job teaching women and called this Women's Gymnastics since I didn't know how to translate "Rhythmics" into the English language...

Next Post: 1976 - Simple Beginnings