I never had the opportunity or the pleasure of knowing Victoria as the talented, vibrant young woman she grew up to be, but I did know her as a child. I also had the opportunity of baby sitting for Victoria and her sister from time to time when I was visiting Steven in Bonita and he was very busy building his business and Alla was struggling to bring the art of rythmic gymnastics to the United States.
I have to tell you they were the best-behaved little girls anyone was ever lucky enough to babysit for. Mostly they would just sit around on the living room floor playing games and working puzzles and, of course, Victoria being the oldest and most competitive always won. But she was a kind and gentle winner. She wasn’t like other children who become boastful or bullying when they have outsmarted their brothers os sistes.
She was so graceful, telling Maxine that is was just luck, that Max was sure to Max was sure to win the next one, which of course she never did. But she never felt that she was being humiliated or being treated like a loser. Victoria somehow always made losing seem like a victory. I remember one occasion in particular when Steven took us to a very elaborate, very high class Sunday buffet somewhere exclusive, I think it was at the Hotel Coronado on one of the little islands off San Diego.
Victoria was naturally dressed up like little doll she was at that age and well, you know, these fancy buffets. They don’t serve kid’s food. I remember the first time I took my own daughter to something like that and she demanded very loudly from the waiter “where’s the hot dogs.” Victoria didn’t do anything like that, she fit in perfectly with her surroundings. She went to the buffet table picked up things that looked good to her and left the rest.
About there not being anything she wasn’t used to or didn’t recognize. She never acted spoiled or petulant even as the long meal and business talk dragged on and on. She just seemed to enjoy the moment and the experience. As I said, I never had the opportunity or the pleasure of knowing Victoria as the young woman she grew up to be. But I saw the videos of her performing, of her mastery of rhythmic gymnastics and crique acts, of some of her other skills, and I was always impressed by her poise and focus and dedication to using every ounce of her gifts and training to the max.
Look, there is no real way to put the next part into words. It is always one of the greatest tragedies in the world fora young person, particularly a gifted, totally alive, vivacious young person on the cusp of just starting a life that will bring goodness and art and compassion and intelligence to a world that so badly needs all those things … it is always a tragedy beyond words when such a person’s life is snuffed out at such a young age. It doesn’t matter whether the villain is cancer or some other disease, a car wreck, a fire, whatever.
But to be brutally slaughtered by someone you knew as a lover, a friend, by someone you cared for, someone you enjoyed spending time with. To be brutally slaughtered and to feel in your last instant of life that betrayal as well as the pain, to know that you are totally alone, alone and afraid and betrayed and suffering from the endless serious of wounds … let me tell you something, please, Steven say this one thing for me as you scatter those ashed. We, you, I, and Victoria, were not, are not, Christians. But crucifixion is not just the property of those who worship Jesus Christ as their savior. Crucifixion belongs to all of us in the darkness of our longest nights, in the depths of our worst nightmares.
Crucifixion. If there is any other word to describe what was done to Victoria, alone, afraid, betrayed and butchered, mutilated and dumped in the ocean in the dark of a San Diego night, I don’t know what that word is. And even if there is some other word, it doesn’t matter, None of it, none of it, matters. The little girl I baby sat for and went to brunch with is no more. The young woman, who despite having to deal with her own demons as so many kids that age do, thrilled so many with her art, brought a little ray of light to so many with her compassion, sang so beautifully of life in three languages. That person, that girl, lives no more. And the only thing that matters are the memories and the tears.