January 11, 2009
Since the autumn issue of GZ News the Global-Z family gathered with tears, laughter and fond memories in celebration of the life of Irene V. Garder. Irene, deceased Oct. 18, 2008, had been an active supporter of Global-Z International during its early years. The following is her obituary. We wanted to share with you her full and courageous life story.
Irina Vadimovna Garder, nee Bolychevtseva went to her Lord Oct. 18, at the Bennington Health and Rehabilitation Center, where she had resided for three years. She was surrounded by her loving family.
Irina was born Feb. 19, 1916, in Moscow, Russia of a prominent family of the lower nobility. Her father Vadim was active in various anti-monarchist groups, and exiled from Russia. Upon his return, Vadim joined the growing Bolshevik movement. After the revolution he worked directly under Lavrentii Beria, Stalin’s chief henchman in the 30’s. After a bitter dispute between Vadim and Beria, the latter denounced him to Stalin who issued an order for arrest and execution. Vadim was forced to flee, leaving his large family behind.
To support her family, Irina was forced to work briefly for a state-sponsored abortion clinic though still a teen. With few career options available to her, she decided to enroll in the Soviet Air Force. She obtained her wings before the age of 20, and in time became one of a small group of ace pilots, still remembered in today’s Russia. A freak accident resulted in her losing her left leg. Her career as a pilot was finished.
She married and bore a son, Leonid. Deserted by her husband, her career in tatters, she decided to try to rejoin her father in exile in the south of Russia. She left along with her younger sister Marianna and her infant son, traveling in stages and largely by foot. They were eventually able to rejoin Vadim in the region of the Crimean peninsula. At this time the victorious German armies swept into Russia, overwhelming large portions of the country. The family was now caught between two opposing armies. Irina decided to cross into German territory, at a considerable risk to herself and family. Eventually they reached the German city of Halle where they survived intense allied bombing and the eventual German surrender to the Red Army. Forced once again to flee, the family escaped at the last moment and fled to the western part of Germany. Here they saw the end of the war. Thanks to the efforts of a distant relative, they were able to emigrate to Paris where they lived into the early 50’s, at which point Irina and her son were able to emigrate once again, this time to the United States. They settled in the town of Nyack NY, home to a large Russian Orthodox community. On her meager salary of a seamstress she was able to send her son through College. Eventually she obtained employment at Columbia University’s Physics laboratory in Irvington NY. She worked there for over 25 years into her retirement.
During her many years there, she developed friendships with many leading physicists, chief among which was her life-long friend Dr. Jack Steinberger. Irina was very active in her Russian Orthodox community in Rockland County. She also maintained close friendships with members outside her community. In the 1970’s and 1980’s she helped a number of Russian Jewish families in their resettlement efforts. She was also actively involved in the Russian Muslim community, counting among her friends Sonia, a professional dress-maker, who sewed for Irina’s future daughter-in-law Sasha a beautiful wedding gown in the ancient Russian tradition. Irina had a deep respect and gratitude to the United States for harboring her and her son. In her home she would not tolerate any negative comments about the US, saying: if you don’t like it, go somewhere else.
Throughout her long life, and particularly toward the end, she maintained an active life dedicated to service to her community and to her neighbors and friends far and wide. She is today well remembered by numerous people in Rockland County. Stricken with Alzheimer’s disease, she was initially admitted to the Russian Orthodox Convent of Novo Diveevo. She was eventually transferred to the Bennington Health and Rehabilitation facility in Bennington where she was treated for nearly 3 years. The family expresses deep gratitude to the staffs and nurses at Novo Diveevo and Bennington Health and Rehabilitation for the wonderful care administered to Irina during those difficult years. She leaves behind her beloved son Leonid, her younger sister Marianna, her daughter-in-law Sasha, whom she revered as if her own daughter, seven grand-children: Natalie, Paul, Dimitri, Sophia, Nicholas, John and David, seven great-grand-children: Nicholas, Jacob, Josh, Brittany, Hope, Emma and Hans, and one great-great-grand-child Tucker.