Up Close and Personal with Irina
Grandma's Paper Roses
Written By, Leo Semenov
Driving down the narrow streets of historical Roswell, an astounding flower arrangement sitting on the edge of a sidewalk caught my attention. There were three huge bowls lined up in a row. Out of curiosity and without thinking, I pushed on the brakes and stopped my truck. Then i spotted the sign "Hamilton Flowers." Intrigued by the beautiful floral arrangements that was so enticing, I stepped inside the store.
A slender, beautiful lady greeted me with a nice friendly smile. "How may I help you?" she asked with an accent. My first reaction was the response of a question, "Where are you from?" "Ukraine, the former Soviet Republic," she replied. "How long have you been living here? " "19 years." "What is your name??" "Irina Aleksandruk."
As I fired these questions to my new acquaintance, my eyes were feasting on all the beautiful flower arrangements. They were like none that I have seen before. "Would you mind if I would ask you some more questions?" "Not at all," She replied. "Well," I began slowly, "I am always interested in how people live in different countries. What was your life like when you were growing up?" Quietly deliberating and taking a deep breath, she shared her story with me.
"There were six of us in my family. We were very poor and often on the verge of starving. Both my parents worked full time, but the government didn't them enough to provide for all of us because our poverty, our parents decided to grow flowers and sell the mat the flea market so that we could have enough food on our table." "So you have learned from them how to sell flowers?" I asked. "I wish" she said. "One time they brought me to a flea market with a whole bunch of roses and left me there to sell them. I am still embarrassed when i remember what i did with the flowers that day. One by one i have them away to every person who stopped by. By the end of the day I had zero rubles in my pocket. I never learned how to sell flowers, but I learned real well how to love them."
"Who taught you that?" I interrupted. "Oh, that's a whole different story," she smilingly responded, "It was my grandma." "She lost her husband in World War II. As a means of supporting herself, she made flowers out of paper and sold them. When I was eight years old, she would have me sit in a high old chair behind a table. She would take a piece of paper and start talking to it. Holding it in her hands, she would imagine that the paper was a flower that would make a person feel good, bringing a feeling of joy and happiness when they looked at it." Slowly, the paper in her hands would be a beautiful flower." "There were no flower supplies in those days. We could take branches from the bushes, glue pedals on them, and make roses. Later, my grandma taught me how to make roses out of beets and other vegetables."
"Flowers to my grandma were like people that could make her cry or smile. She taught me a secret: certain combinations of flowers and their colors could carry joy or grief if i arranged them differently. Her secret is what I use today when i arrange flowers for weddings, funerals, and any other occasions." "Well, I am so impressed, but, if you will allow, this is my last question," I said. "Could you have such a flower store in Ukraine at that time?" "Absolutely not," she replied sadly. "It was prohibited to have any enterprise for people in a former USSR. If you began such an industry like this, you would be put in jail right away."
"I am so thankful," she added, "that America gives people such an opportunity! Only here, as you can see, my dream is becoming a true reality." Several weeks ago my daughter was married. Who could i possibly ask to do the flower arrangements for the wedding expect my new friend, Irina? The day of the wedding, many days following, and even now, people are still calling and talking about these unforgettable, joyful flowers. Irina changes the bowls in front of her store four times a year. Be sure to stop by the store for each new seasons to see the arrangements and feel the good feelings that come from such beauty!