Old friends keep friendship alive after separating 24 years ago.
another as much as possible.
They exchanged frequent letters
and brief phone conversations on
their birthdays — typically not
much longer than a brief "happy
birthday" because they couldn't
afford long international calls.
Communication became easier as
technology progressed over the
years — calls became cheaper,
while email and social media
made it possible for them to share
photos with each other.
"Trading messages online is
never quite the same as speaking
face-to-face Sergey said.
Fortunately, that was about to
In March 2001, Vladimir
Sergey Polyachok, friend Pavel, Daniel Polyachok and Vladimir
Sergey Polyachok makes a toast at Vladimir Gendelman's wedding
a call from Sergey invit-
Gendelman at Daniel's bar mitzvah in Israel last November
ing him to his wedding. Without
become his wife."
of Sergey's oldest son.
hesitation, Vladimir took a plane to
In late 1989, when both boys were 15 years Israel where, for the first time in 12 years, he
Vladimir Gendelman grew up an only
Special to the Jewish News
old, they left the country as refugees and
child, but Sergey Polyachok was practically a
saw his best friend in person again.
parted ways — Sergey to Israel and Vladimir
brother to him. Though they attended differ-
It was as if they'd never been separated.
S fitting on a park bench in Kharkov,
to the U.S. They promised they would
ent schools in the former Soviet Union, the
Vladimir and Sergey spent the entire first
Ukraine, in 1989, a teenage boy
reunite at each other's weddings, but based
two were inseparable. They spent their free
night talking, waxing nostalgic and reminisc-
named Vladimir sadly said good-
on their perception of international travel at
time together and traveled all over the coun-
ing about their childhood memories. Sergey
bye to his best friend Sergey, expecting never try as part of a local archaeological group.
the time, they didn't expect that they'd actu-
went out of his way to make Vladimir's trip
to see him again. Little did he know that 24
ally be able to keep that promise.
"If you can believe Vladimir laughed,
enjoyable, guiding him to Israel's many sights
years later both of them would be in a syna-
Though separated by distance, Vladimir
"I was even there with Sergey during his
and landmarks, from Eilat all the way to the
gogue in Israel, celebrating the bar mitzvah
and Sergey remained in contact with one
first date with the girl who would eventually
country's border with Lebanon.
Love For Dance
Leg surgeries did not deter this determined
teacher of kids with special needs.
After surgeries and hard work,
Amanda Zwiren can do ballet's
24 May 22 • 2014
t age 26, decades after her first dance
lesson, Amanda Zwiren of Royal Oak
proudly stands in first position at her
physical therapist's office. When many women
in their 20s are carefree, Zwiren has endured
four surgical procedures in three years to gain
full range of motion in her legs.
The special education teacher in the
Birmingham School District uses her experi-
ences of overcoming the disabilities in her legs
to motivate and inspire her middle-school stu-
dents who are battling their own challenges.
In spite of the misalignment of her legs,
Zwrien has always danced competitively. Since
age 5, she studied jazz, tap and ballet. However,
at the barre she could not rotate her legs out-
ward to perform many of the training exercises
required of ballet students. After a while, her
teachers stopped asking her to get in proper
position, and she quit ballet.
"But I still wore my tutu to jazz and tap
lessons," recalls Zwiren, who went on to be a
competitive squad dancer during her years at
Michigan State University.
Zwiren, now pursuing her master's degree in
special education, enjoys working with children
with special needs because often the skills,
which most take for granted, provide them with
immense joy once "something clicks."
"My students feel a huge sense of accomplish-
ment when they master even the smallest skills,"
Zwiren said. "When you work with special
needs children, you are not only helping them
with their academic skills, but also their social
and life skills as well."
During Zwiren's teen years, playing sports like
volleyball and running cross-country became
exceedingly painful. She was diagnosed with
femoral anteversion. This disorder is a twisting
in of the femur or thighbone. While this condi-
tion corrects itself in most children by age 10,
Zwiren's severe case required surgery.
In 2011, Zwiren was referred to Detroit ortho-
pedic surgeon Ira Zaltz, one of a handful in the
country capable of performing a new series of
corrective procedures. Zwiren's legs could be
realigned by literally sawing the femur bones in
half and then rotating them outward approxi-
mately 20 degrees.
She had two additional surgeries to remove
the temporary metal plates that held her bones
together as they healed and to remedy an infec-
Focus On Relearning
The road to recovery was tough.
"You know those commercials when you see a
person in rehab supporting themselves between
those two bars? That was me, learning how to
walk all over again' Zwiren said. "And I had to
do it three times."
Physical therapy for Zwiren at times required
three grueling 90-minute weekly sessions,
according to Sanjay Uppal, her physical therapist
for 12 years.
"Amanda's ability to work through her pain
and focus on her goals is one of her greatest
strengths' Uppal said.