My dad’s life has so far spanned over eight decades and hopefully will withstand eight more, as I have to wonder what else will he be doing with his time. About two years ago he was honored with a lifetime achievement award by the National Weightlifting Masters Federation, an organization that he has proudly belonged to for over twenty years. There was no discussion or fanfare associated with such an esteemed accolade, and it only reminded me once again of who he is and what he stands for. With my dad, it’s never been about the destination but always the journey, and I only hope that I learned his lessons well enough to pass them on.
My dad is a multiple record holder, record breaker and true champion in so many forms. His bio reads of titles achieved and medals won in countries all over the world. A true patriot of the United States, he began his career in the former Soviet Union under less than stellar conditions during the Communist era. In the late 50′s after receiving a coveted silver medal in the World Weightlifting Championships, he secured a spot on the Soviet Olympic Team only to find out that Soviet participation would be pulled that year. Taking his winnings in stride, my dad turned to teaching and became one of the highest ranked and most sought after coaches for national teams in the former Soviet Union and Ukraine.
I was born to an overachiever when he was 45, and while in today’s world that seems common, in the 70′s it was unheard of. The country that he called home for half a century was buckling under stringent political forces and a decision was made to leave and make a new life in a foreign land. My parents and I arrived in New York right after the election of President Reagan and it has been our home ever since; my childhood was a wonderful place with amazing parents and a loving home environment. My dad in his true to form attitude of treasuring the journey, embarked on new ventures and managed to keep the eternal love for his sport always alive.
In his early fifties, my dad who has always been a creative and artistic soul, learned the jewelry design trade and spent more than 25 years in New York’s Diamond District defining his craft and earning a living. He always left time for weightlifting and was inducted into the American Weightlifting Hall of Fame in 1999 after winning five gold medals on U.S. teams in the World Weightlifting Championships and three gold medals in the Pan American Weightlifting Championships in the ten years preceding his induction. It must be nice to chase a dream and have a moment when it feels like you actually grabbed it. The kind of pride that I feel as his daughter seldom has words. So in honor of his latest award, one of a lifetime full of achievements, it only seems fair to tell anyone and everyone how rare a hero he really is.
Another one of his many passions is art and what he is able to create with the help of a simple white canvas, some paint, and the quiet hours of any given morning. He finds that the evolution of his craft comes from practice and patience, qualities he cherishes and hopes he has instilled in me. Last summer during a month’s stay with me in Miami he recreated a painting by Jack Vettriano. While reproductions of this painting can be found on many walls in many cities, mine proudly hangs on a prime wall in my condo. I find little difference between my dad’s and the original. While credit for the idea clearly goes to Vettriano, the painting I possess is a well-produced replica of a beautiful and imaginative scene. It is one of the many gifts from my dad that I treasure.
On this Father’s Day, it is with honor and gratitude that I gather my thoughts about my dad and his many achievements. Heroes are giants in our lives and my dad is a hero to me for so many meaningful reasons.