Liya Dovgalyuk, 13, a violinist and honor student at the Levine School of Music whose family immigrated to the United States from Latvia in 1991, died of congestive heart failure July 7 at Children's Hospital. She was a recent graduate of the sixth grade at McLean's Spring Hill Elementary School, and she lived in Vienna.
The journey of the Dovgalyuk family from Riga, Latvia, and Liya's subsequent battle against a rare bone cancer, have been described in articles in The Washington Post and Woman's World magazine.
The cancer, Ewing's sarcoma, was discovered in Liya's knee the year after the family arrived in the United States. She endured several operations on both knees, including surgeries for removal of six inches of bone and insertion of a prosthesis, and months of chemotherapy.
Liya, who began studying music when she was 5, was born into a family of classical musicians. The Dovgalyuk children, accompanied by their pianist mother, played in concert halls and churches in Moscow, Ukraine and Latvia. After arriving in the Washington area, Liya and her three older brothers began studies at the Levine School with members of the National Symphony Orchestra who donated their time. Liya's teacher was symphony violinist Pavel Pekarsky.
Liya played for other young patients of the oncology ward at Children's, was concertmaster of the Spring Hill Orchestra and a member of the Spring Hill Strings Quartet. She was recently selected to play with the Virginia Youth Symphony.
She also played with her family's ensemble at McLean Baptist Church and with the church handbell choir. The church sponsored the family in the United States, and members provided transportation to Children's. Nearly 50 members of the church accompanied the Dovgalyuk family in a return trip to Latvia in 1994 that was aided by the Make-a-Wish Foundation. While there, the family performed at Riga's Dome Cathedral.
In addition to her parents, Mikhail and Lyuba Dovgalyuk, Liya is survived by three brothers, Tim, Paul and Eugene, all of Vienna.