Irina was our third exchange daughter and is my party girl. I think it took her all of thirty minutes before she was questioning the location of the local discos. Before her arrival in to the United States, she had already work as a photo model, posing for a magazine spread on wedding fashion.
Irina’s home town is Minsk, Belarus and she was an exchange student in the United States for the 1999-2000 school year. Irina came to the United States as part of the Freedom Support Act, now known as the Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) Program. She returned to spend a summer in the United States on a work program in 2003, and I spent an awesome weekend in Minsk during June of 2005; I am making plans to return in 2009. Irina is currently working for a advertising firm in Minsk.
I took this picture of Irina in a restaurant located in the old Jewish section of Minsk. Once a large part of Belorussian culture, few Jews live in Minsk today. At the turn of the 20th century, Jews made up approximately fifty percent of the population of Minsk; In 1999, that percentage was less than one percent. During World War II, one in four Belorussians perished. For a better understanding of this statistic, make a list of everyone in your family and all your friends, then cross-out every fourth name.