KERNERSVILLE, N.C. -- Sasha, 11, is experiencing the United States for the first time.
She’s thousands of miles away from home visiting the Piedmont from Belarus – speaking little English.
Her host family thought it would help Sasha and another girl feel more comfortable if they could speak with someone who is not their translator.
David Nowotny, one of Sasha’s host parents, had a connection that would come in handy.
“We have a good friend at church who is a co-worker of Officer Feldman’s,” he said.
It turns out Kernersville police Officer Vladimir Feldman had something in common with the girls.
“I’m originally from Belarus. We immigrated here in 1991,” he said.
Feldman grew up in Greensboro and has remained in the Piedmont.
He got the call to do a favor.
“If somebody told you that you’re the only one capable of communicating with two kids and could you go have a conversation with them, what kind of person would you have to be to say, ‘No’,” Feldman said.
It was arranged for Feldman to meet with the girls during a church activity.
“When he started talking to them in Russian, their faces just looked shocked and they kind of lit up and started glowing,” Nowotny said.
The photo of the meeting between Feldman and the girls has received hundreds of likes on Facebook.
Feldman says he was just doing what he tries to do every day, which is make people feel comfortable.
“I was just being me.”
However, to others, the act was something special.
“It’s so hard for them to be here and constantly be surrounded by English, so when they finally get to see somebody that speaks Russian, they really latch on,” said Kristen Hinchman, executive director of the American Belarussian Relief Organization.
Sasha is visiting the Piedmont for six weeks as part of a program through The American Belarussian Relief Organization.
The organization brings children to the United States for six weeks every summer to improve the health of children affected by radiation from Chernobyl.
Hinchman says research shows the six-week time period can extend a child’s life by a year.
A total of five children are in the Piedmont through ABRO this summer.