There was no person who had a bigger influence on my life than my mother, Rita Gerasimenko. She was brilliant, kind, and a survivor. Not just of the war, when she was taken from Russia as a young girl to Germany into the camps. Not just of loss, of her husband, of her home in a high rise fire that killed two people in century city or the one of facing cancer in a 4 year fight that left her passing into Heaven in our home. She was always the strength of her friends, her family, her community. She helped so many people that the letters that came after her passing told of many jobs that she helped people get, of money given, of time spent helping. She and my Grandmother, and her sister, who survived together, never seeing their father again, made a life in Morocco and then here in Los Angeles where I was born.
Instead of being the surgeon that she was studying to be in Russia, she went back to school and became a RN at 45 years of age. She then worked at Ucla Jules Stein Eye Institute in the operating room until her death. I was born when she was 37 which was unheard of back then. She wanted me to be an American, so my Dad and her waited until they were let into the country.for me to be born.
That was her gift to me. To never stop learning, to never stop doing what you love, what you are meant to be doing on this earth. To not fear failure, for failure teaches you more than success. That in darkness you find the light. And to never stop helping people along the way. To know that you can do anything you want, with hard work. There is no barrier...... you make your own path. And always help the women around you. Lift them up, support them along the way. She taught me to never resent women, but to admire them. Learn from them. Not to be jelous of them.
So this is what I would tell to young women. Find mentors. Build Strong bonds of friendships with girlfriends. Know your mother and grandmother. Ask Questions of their life. They will be your compass, your port in a storm. And then, know that you are living in a time of great opportunity. That in times of great change, women can be the deciding factor. Use your voice. Use your vote. Use your heart in the way your intuition tells you is the right way. And don't go against your woman's intuition. Its your own moral compass and it will not let you down if you trust it. Remember that a strong voice will be criticized as well as praised. Keep going. Never give up. As a woman's grass roots effort, we were able start EITF,The Entertainment Industry Task Force which then started Team Safe-t and the UCLA Lab for emerging infectious diseases after 9/ll. Women meeting and networking has raised over 30 million dollars and has started a new way of treating pandemics. The 21st century is the woman's century. Leave your imprint. Don't settle.
"Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but she did it backwards and in high heels"