Irina Brodsky's funeral service began at 10 a.m. last Wednesday.
"I had an appointment with Irina at 10 o'clock this morning," Rabbi Matthew Simon told 70 mourners at Danzansky-Goldberg Funeral Home in Rockville. "Sadly, the appointment I have kept with her at 10 this morning is here."
Irina Brodsky, 32, was killed April 4 when she lost control of her car on Rockville Pike, crossing the median strip and colliding with a tractor-trailer. She was buried at Judean Memorial Gardens in Rockville.
The Russian Jewish emigre, praised by friends for her perfect English, her "beauty and youth" and her skills as a chemical engineer, lived in Rockville for 2 1/2 years. She and her radiologist husband, Alexander Brodsky, and their two daughters arrived in the United States on July 9, 1980.
"We were lucky, it took six months," Dr. Brodsky said. "But that was in 1979, at the peak of the wave of immigration." Leaving the Soviet Union was relatively easy, he said, because they weren't dissidents. They left because "we didn't see any future for our children there."
Brodsky declined to elaborate, fearing relatives there might be harrassed. "After our tragedy here, we don't want any tragedy over there."
His English is halting but charged with emotion when he speaks of the freedom of movement and the opportunities for his children here. Americans, he finds, "have big hearts."
The Brodskys traded a view of the Caspian Sea for one overlooking Congressional Plaza's parking lot. In Russia, as chief of the X-ray department at a hospital in Baku, "I never could save enough to buy a car." He made 135 rubles a month, but a good pair of shoes costs 50 rubles on the black market, he said.
His finances here aren't much improved: He makes $6.60 an hour as an X-ray technician despite his 15 years as a radiologist. He is looking for a residency before taking the federal licensing exam.
On arrival here, Brodsky didn't know the English alphabet. But the couple quickly found a place in the community of Russian Jews--about 800 of whom have settled here in the last five years, according to the Jewish Social Service Agency in Rockville. Alexander landed a job in a private physician's office in Hyattsville and Irina began work with JTC Environmental Consultants Corp. in Bethesda. Later, she worked for Bowie State College on National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) contracts and continued consultant work at night for JTC.
"The kids are American now," Brodsky says. "They love hot dogs and McDonalds." Natalia, 11, and Larisa, 8, attend Farmland Elementary School in Bethesda.
Alexander brought his mother, Ara Brodskaya, here 1 1/2 years ago. Irina left Russia expecting never to see her mother again. Her mother, Sarra Zalkan, is due to arrive from Rome in the next few weeks; she is not expected to be informed of her daughter's death until then.
At the funeral, one of Brodsky's coworkers recalled Irina at the staff picnic, jumping into the three-legged race, playing baseball and savoring the watermelon. A friend said, "She gave those of us who were born here an appreciation of the freedom we have." And writer Ilya Suslov spoke in Russian, urging emigre families in the area to support one another.
"Irina told me she loved every minute in America," her sister-in-law Ella Berkovich said. Brodsky gave clothes and furniture to needy immigrants and was famous for her Russian foods at pot-luck suppers--friends say she had 44 recipes for eggplant salads. Fluent in English, she also took a course in Fortran, a computer programming language, at Montgomery College.
Last Wednesday morning, Irina and Rabbi Simon were to discuss plans for Natalia's bat mitzvah. Instead, the rabbi eulogized Irina's strength in "a community that would be her daughters' inheritance."