News from the Tennessee Valley Columnists
SUNDAY, MAY 15, 2005
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TOM WRIGHT

One more U of A graduation to go

The program for this spring's graduating exercises at The University of Alabama listed hundreds of students who were receiving either master's or doctorate degrees.

Only one was from Russia. That was our Ella. The program listed her as: Elina Erzikova, Penza, Russia, master's degree in journalism.

Ella came into our lives five years ago as an exchange journalist for two months, speaking enough English to tell us she didn't speak English well.

She came back the next summer to visit, and we visited Russia, where she was our tour guide through Moscow and St. Petersburg.

At some point, she and Regina decided Ella needed a master's degree from The University of Alabama, so they got busy with the paperwork to get her enrolled.

The graduation ceremony we sat through in Bryant-Denny Stadium might have been the culmination of their ability to negotiate the bureaucracy on both ends. But it's not.

Ella loves America. She loves Alabama. She loves Crimson Tide football. She loves speaking near-perfect English with a Southern accent.

Thus, she and Regina and administrators at Alabama have her signed up to start a longer journey toward a doctorate degree.

She will go home to Penza this summer, take care of family business and spend time with Koysta, her 16-year-old son who needs special care.

Then, just in time for football, Ella will be back.

Regina and I are proud of Ella, of what she overcame to get here, for graduating with honors, and for passing an entrance exam to get into graduate school that most of us would flunk.

Her goal is to teach aspiring journalists at Moscow University.

Graduation was Friday evening before Mother's Day. Ella had a gift and card for Regina, and a gift for me because she would be in Russia on Father's Day.

I suppose that's why we refer to her as our Russian daughter.

Tom Wright Tom Wright
DAILY Executive Editor

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