Three Main Problems of the U.S. Medical System

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Working together with medical or social care providers in the USA makes you wonder how imperfect and insufficient the medical system is the country that claims to be the leader of the planet Earth ( by the way, China would doubt that statement).

In my humble opinion, problem number one is lack of information on different cultures and people/patients who grew outside the U.S. that a doctor or a social worker experiences quite often in work environment but prefers not to notice or pay enough attention to.

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Why don’t they start teaching future doctors, nurses and other professionals whose job is to help/cure/couch people, what patients of different origins expect from high-quality medical or social care so that the needs of new immigrants would be satisfied?

Every time I have to visit a doctor or take my child to the pediatrician, they always make me feel uncomfortable, rushed and show zero to little interest in my health concerns. I need to be able to confide in my doctor, I want him/her talk to me and share their own experience. To sum up, I want my doctor to at least create an illusion of being “my friend”. That’s how I am used to be treated by doctors at home, in Kyiv. Almost all of them were or became friends of my family. American standards don’t allow friendship between a patient and a doctor. I feel sad about it…

It’s as simple as: “The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease”.

P.S. If anyone knows a great pediatrician in the Greater Philadelphia Area, please, give me his/her office number!

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Problem number two I consider to be the weakest link in American medicine. It is poor diagnostic skills that quite a few providers showed so far. In order to justify my words, I am going to provide two examples:

Example 1:

Setting: Kyiv, Ukraine.

Medical Concern: Severe Toothache.

I went to my dentist to get rid of an unbearable tooth pain. He checked my mouth cavity and said:”Your teeth are fine. But I suggest you pay a visit to an otolaryngologist since I see clear symptoms of sinus infection you are suffering from”. Again, he is dentist but, somehow, can diagnose health problems in other branches of medicine.

Conclusion: when doctors don’t narrow down their field of expertise to the minimum possible, they are much more valuable, qualified and helpful to patients.

My reaction: applause and respect for the dentist.

Example 2:

Setting: Philadelphia, PA, USA

Medical Concern: Severe Earache

I went to an otolaryngologist to find out the source of a very bad earache and get remedy for it. Doctor Brad M. ran all tests possible ( including hearing test) and concluded: “ Your ears are fine. I suggest you go back to your general physician or dentist, maybe there is a problem with your teeth. I don’t know. Or, but the good news is —your hearing is perfect!”. Haha, it would be a matter of joy if it wasn’t a matter of frustration.

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I went to the dentist and fixed everything that could be fixed in my mouth but pain wasn’t going away, quite the opposite—I started loosing my hearing. So I made another attempt and went to otolaryngologist William H. She checked my ears and informed me on the following: “You have got a case of a severe fungal infection. You will have to cure it for months with special ear drops and come back for check-ups to me”.

Conclusion: some medical providers should be deprived of their practice licenses and never call themselves “doctors” again, Another fact: there are some skillful medical providers out there but they are as hard to find as pearls on the bottom of the ocean.

My reaction: anger, frustration ( Dr. Brad M.) hope, certain belief in “doctorkind” ( Dr. William H.).

The problem number three is bigger than two previous ones: complexity and ineffectiveness of medical system in the United States. As much as everyone is aware of the problem, no one does anything until the time they have to face the system in all its “glory”. I have had such an unpleasant experience trying to get my reimbursement for the prescriptions from the third-party company functioning as an intermediator between me and my medical insurance carrier.

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To make the long story short, I have started fighting for the money they owed me in March. It’s May 17th today and the only progress I have gotten to is receiving unstoppable calls from various customer service representatives on a daily basis. I made them accept and ( what is more important) register my claim. So I am holding my fingers crossed for the successful ending of the “escalation done on a direct member reimbursement error”. Meanwhile, there are not so many people who would fight the system for some $30 check. The main motivation I have is it to get justice. In the world full of deception and scam, there should be some place left for Her Majesty Fair Play.

As one wisdom states: “Long way to Fuji starts with the first step”.

Good luck to those who don’t give up no matter what!

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“Happy Paws” Makes Me Predict Dogs’ Future

One of the most striking things that impressed me deeply about life in the USA when I first arrived here was the level of adoration and dedication Americans generally feel towards pets ( especially, dogs).

Today in Walmart I saw the premier issue of a new magazine for pet owners. The key headline reminded me of the Shakespearean eternal rhetorical question: “To be or not to be?” ( it was in the form of “Is Your Dog Happy?”, but, boy, was it as powerful and thought-provoking as the English literature masterpiece!).

Another article dwelled upon the strategies of helping your dog cope with his/her fears, anxiety and stress. Wow! Are we gonna live in the era of shrinks for dogs?

I am far from being a futurist but this idea seems more realistic for the decades to come than it sounds…I mean, there are luxurious boutiques, barber shops and even gyms for dogs already! Why wouldn’t someone start providing psychological therapy for dogs through their owners?

Our little chihuahua-mixed Lola would benefit from a couple sessions with a licensed dog psychologist. I have no doubts, she suffers from an OCD. Although, it’s no surprise since we adopted her from the shelter. God knows what the poor puppy has been through before she became the part of our family…

Anyway, I said multiple times and I will repeat it again: if there’s Dog’s Heaven on Earth—it’s, definitely, in the USA!

🇺🇸 ❤️🐶

It’s an Art to Know When to Stop…

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This post is a way to blow off steam after an incident that happened today at around 8.05 in the morning on the way to school. First of all, let me specify that instead of driving, I walk my elder daughter to school every day. It’s a healthy habit that people in Greater Philadelphia area don’t seem to either support or understand. 

Anyway, getting back to the story. Alisa and I started crossing a tiny inner street. A car stood there in front of a stop sign waiting for its turn to go. We stepped forward and suddenly—the driver turned the steering wheel. Car was going straight at us. I screamed and we both jumped out to the curb. Thank goodness, I always hold my 8-year old by the hand. I looked at the driver whose eyes where popping out of his head. It seemed like he felt terrified of the fact that he have almost ran us over. 

A crucial detail of the story—the driver’s age. He looked at least 75+ years old. His reactions and eyesight must have been be not as good as they used to be. Now, I do respect old people but this man is a hazard on the road. And many more drivers who are alike him agewise.

It never stops astonishing me how people here in the US drive till the day they die! Last time I had to pay a visit to PennDOT I was deeply shocked by the aged women and men (hardly walking on their own) who still applied for driver’s license renewal. 

Unfortunately, not all people know when it’s time to stop driving. Maybe, they are lonely and nobody can take them to the places they want to go. But then again—public transportation does exist, even though it’s not as developed as it could have been. But it’s a different story…

To sum up, one should realize how extremely important it is to know when it’s time to wrap up your driving experience and become a passenger. 

Reading on the subject, I came across an article about the American driving laws intended for the elderly people: “There is no legal age at which you have to stop driving, so whether you renew your licence is up to you. It is your responsibility to decide whether you are still fit enough to drive. By law, you have to renew your licence when you reach the age of 70, and then every three years after that”.  Wow! 

The data I found on the American Council on Science Health website confirmed my fears: “Young people and old people are the likeliest to die in a car crash. This makes sense because younger people tend to be inexperienced and more reckless, while older people tend to have slower reflexes”.  

A little bit of statistics: Over the year of 2014, 14 million Americans aged 18 to 64 were estimated to be involved in accidents caused by drivers aged 65 and over, according to a new Caring.com report. Among those accident victims, 18- to 29-year-olds were the most likely to be involved in a crash with an elderly driver. 

Map of the fatal car accidents in the USA for the year 2016 

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The good news for me is that my state—Pennsylvania—is not the deadliest one in regards of fatal car crashes. Mississippi is. 25.3 fatalities per 100,000 people happen on its territory. 

The safest driving state is Rhode Island, 5 fatalities per 100,000. Unexpectedly enough, the 3 most deadly states are in the rural south ( Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina). While the three safest states are urban Rhode Island, New York and Massachusetts- all located in the Northeast. 

Dear drivers—young and old—please, buckle up and be attentive while driving! Respect the pedestrians and let us cross the streets without fear!

Eight Red Flags of Narcissistic Abuse—The True Story

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This piece of narration is truly personal. It’s based on the most cruel experience of all I had so far in my life. I only feel like sharing it because there are people out there who might not realize that they are going through the same challenging life lesson I once learnt but who need to find the answers to their questions so that they could change the course of their life for good. 

My name is Olena and I am a narcissistic abuse survivor. Being a victim of a delusional person felt like living on the edge of anxiety and fear at the same time but having no clue what were the reasons for such a nervous wrecking state of my mind. 

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So, it happened 10 years ago. I was heartbroken. My childish boyfriend dumped me over the phone without providing any obvious reason. Three years of my life were thrown into the trash. My self-confidence was seriously shaken up and needed an immediate fix. In a few months life provided me with one. Little that I knew how obnoxious will it eventually become…

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A narcissist D. was absolutely charming: like a knight in a shining armor he swept me off my feet and created a fairy tale around me. I was treated like a princess. It seemed too good to be true ( that’s because it was a finely staged action): tons of attention, admiration, showering me with affection and vows of endless love after just a few dates. At the time I had no idea it was a red flag #1: relationship which is moving too fast. Be aware: the person who has just met you know very little about you to be bathing you in “love” and compliments. It’s the first hook they will try to catch you on. Don’t give them a chance to make you their prey. Run away before it gets too late!

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The 2nd red flag I missed was isolation. He bombarded me with constant communication so that I had no time or interest in any other activities I was previously into: I declined a couple job offers because he had to always have me by his side and disliked me having interactions with other people. If he saw “a like” or a comment from a male friend on my social network page, he would harass that person to the point that I lost almost all my acquaintances.  People told me he was “nuts” but I was already in his deadly paws. His destructive behavior indicated the red flag #3: no respect for personal boundaries.

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His jealousy and possessiveness were out of this world. He always checked my email and browsing history to make sure I am not cheating on him or doing something fishy. The narcissist D. explained that his behavior is simply a consequence of his previous painful relationship experience with women. According to his words, they lied, cheated and treated him so badly that I felt obliged to prove him I was the woman he could trust 100%. I felt genuine pity for his “heart wounds” so I missed out on three more big fat red flags: extreme control, jealousy and possessiveness.

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Another great mistake of mine was trusting a delusional personality of the man who lied about himself from the very beginning. My good piece of advice: always pay attention to details. At first he told me he was an ESL teacher but later it turned out he made up his resume from top to bottom and never taught anything in his life before he immigrated to Ukraine. 

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Another shocking truth was revealed after I got pregnant: he was a former alcoholic and a drug addict. This revelation got me seriously thinking about breaking up the relationship with a person who I shared nothing in common but I didn’t. On the opposite, I felt even more empathy for his tough childhood, abusive father who raped him at the age of 4 and always busy mother who didn’t give him enough warmth and attention. As a pitiful Ukrainian woman, I wanted to give his as much happiness as I possibly could. And that’s was the time I didn’t recognize the red flag # 7: addictions. 

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Out of all the miseries I went through, gaslighting was, probably, the worst. After a few years of living together I felt like my boyfriend has changed. I was no longer the center of his universe, he didn’t want to spend time with me, he became distant. So one night I logged into his social network account and saw a conversation with one of his female students. I was speechless when I read the exact same flirting phrases he used 2 years ago to win me over. A case of a cheating boyfriend was obvious but, somehow, he managed to convince me I was overreacting, “seeing things that weren’t there”, etc. It was the beginning of an end. The red flag#8: victim’s inability to trust his/her own judgment, questioning his/her sanity.

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The list of red flags can go on and on. I named the most obvious ones. 

I hope my true story will help someone to open their eyes on a dysfunctional relationship he or she might be in and break free from any type of abuse once and for all. 

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P.S. I feel blessed to have escaped from the cage I happened to find myself in. It took me some time to rebuild my life and start trusting people again. The good thing I have always agreed with the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche who said: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger”. It truly does!

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P.S.S. The e-cards I inserted in my article were all created by me not long after the breakup with a narcissist monster. I was quite emotional and used certain curse words. Pardon my French 🤓

Family Matters

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My love, my darling and my angel,

You gave me hope for better life.

I liked that you were such a Nigel

And both we quickly took a dive…

***

Into new chapter of our future, 

Where there’s nothing but true love,

Where we accept whichever features

And fit each other like a glove.

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The most important is to listen 

And be respectful, be content.

You and me… I think it’s decent 

To say we have all chances to attempt…

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To set a great example for our kids,

To show them that true happiness exists,

That you’ll get the harvest from these seeds,

Even if destiny throws you some ugly twists.

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We overcame the distance of dividing miles,

And Emily became our biggest blessing.

Let’s keep on giving one another joyful smiles,

Be truthful and allow no painful stressing!

***

To make this poem shorter, I’ll just say—

Let’s love each other stronger day by day!

I feel so grateful for the family we have.

Tough Choice

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Mr. K. woke up at the dawn of a summer morning and, after slowly sipping a 5 o’clock cup of coffee, started nervously walking back and forth in the living room. Today one of his nieces was flying the family nest. The honorable, wise, grey-bearded man was doing  in his power to make a girl M. change her mind and stay home. He tried persuading her that the world lying across the ocean is totally different, and people are different, and life there is unrolling in a different manner.

“Listen, honey, I have seen an incredible amount of things you won’t believe! I have gone through the wringer!  Make no doubt that nowhere else on the planet Earth chestnut trees blossom as gloriously and lilac bushes smell as lusciously as they do in springtime here—at home. I have raised you with love, shaping you into a generous, hard-working human with a soul full of kindness and warmth. Too bad, you are abandoning your home…”

“Wherever the road takes me, wherever I settle down—I will always carry you in my heart, dear Mr.K. Every time something worth remembering happened, I took mental pictures of the events and places. Then I put them away in the imaginary box called “Sweet Memories of Mine” inside my head. These pictures are like family jewels: kept safe and sound with me forever. Do you recall the park with a breathtaking view? And the river cruise on a boat? And the artist-spirited street, paved in stones, where an extraordinary Baroque church stands proudly? I remember everything, every slightest thing. I promise to write you letters and pay visits as often as I can”.

The girl was moving to the aunt Ph. 

Young and corpulent Ms.Ph. preferred colorful dresses, always smiled and, generally, was looking like an energetic mother of a large family who adopted a couple dozen children from all around the world. What a variety of kids she was taking care of! The girl M. will become an addition to her vibrant family now. 

“You know, dear Mr.K., she and I are alike in certain ways — we both are adventurous women with an A-student syndrome. Ms.Ph. is a famous pioneer in many fields. I have always taken risks and chosen the roads less traveled as well. I bet, we will get along”.

“It seems to me that you have made your final decision, my darling. I will miss you but I wish nothing but the best for you…Don’t forget me!”.

“Never!”—reassured him the young girl M., getting out of the taxi cab. She arrived at the airport.

Meanwhile, the information on the flight “Kyiv-Philadelphia” has appeared on the departure board. Maria came to the check-in counter holding a ticket. Her new life was shimmering within touching distance…

Oksana Baiul—Brightest Star of Ukrainian Figure Skating

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February 25, 1994 is a historic day for Ukraine.

25 years ago Oksana Baiul won the Olympic gold in Lillehammer, Norway.

Her victory meant much more to my country than anyone could imagine. I was 8 years old but I do remember how grandiose of an even it felt and how proud we were of our brilliant skater’s success!

While still waiting for the promised interview with Oksana Baiul-Farina, I want to share my article about her. I wrote it 2 years ago commemorating Oksana’s 40th birthday. Initially the article was published on the web-platform for immigrants UAmodna.com: https://uamodna.com/articles/oksana-baiulimdash-the-brightest-star-of-ukrainian-figure-skating/

Eventually I translated it into English for her PR manager and for my future WordPress blog followers. I hope you will like it.

Year 1994. For the first time in its history Ukraine participates in Winter Olympics in Lillehammer (Norway) as an independent country. We don’t have much hope for high achievements—our young state hasn’t built the solid team base in winter sports yet—nevertheless, we did win 2 Olympic medals: bronze in biathlon (Valentyna Tserbe) and gold in women’s figure skating (Oksana Baiul).

I remember how proud I felt for my motherland Ukraine and how happy I was for the fragile 16-year-old athlete in a pink dress, whose tremendous success burst into sincere tears while she stood on the sport podium accepting her golden medal.

23 years have passed since then. Life was throwing the new Olympic golden medalist many lemons but she kept on squeezing lemonade out of them, overcoming all the obstacles that appeared on her way with dignity. The life journey has turned Oksana into an experienced Empress of Ice, leaving the image of a naïve girl behind.

A turning point in the figure skater’s biography was the car accident, followed by her treatment of alcohol addiction. She believes it was caused by “slavish” work in multiple ice shows and older athletes around her who saw no problem in drinking spirits, often encouraging Oksana (who was a minor at that time) to drink alcohol before the shows in order to eliminate nervous tension. Finally, it was impossible to carry on living like that. The time to change her destiny has come.

Fortunately, the Olympic champion managed to fight alcohol addiction, but she was not ready for the amount of dirt that was poured on her shoulders by nasty world’s mass media focused scandals and drama. Later, in one of few interviews, Oksana confessed: “Olympic Gold changed me and my life dramatically. I became a celebrity overnight and people see me as a famous skater, not a real person”.

Then lawsuits against her former coach Galina Zmeevska, manager Joseph Lemir and ice show partner Victor Petrenko followed. Oksana pressed charges to them for  stealing money earned by the young star skater Baiul as a headliner in Champions of Ice shows held by Tom Collins.

Morover, financial frauds were not the most vicious acts committed by those whom she trusted at that time. Deception was buried much deeper. Oksana was intentionally misinformed about her father’s fate. She was told he died long ago, in fact, he was alive and tried to get in touch with his daughter. It was not earlier than two months after the truth was revealed, that the figure skater was able to meet her dad. Signed contracts with Stars on Ice show stood in the way of father and daughter  meeting earlier. Anyway, the epic event in the lives of two close people happened in 2003 on the skating rink of SC “Meteor” in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine ( now Dnipro). It was then, when Oksana got to know her paternal grandmother. The granddaughter was taking care of the old woman until her death few years ago.

In 2010, Ukrainian ice icon made an attempt to return to motherland with intentions to become a coach and eventually open Oksana Baiul’s school of figure skating. However, these ambitious plans were not destined to be fulfilled. The embrace of the Ukrainian government and Ukrainian sports officials turned out to be cooler than expected for the country’s first Olympic champion. All expenses tied to Oksana’s arrival, accommodation and performances were supposed to be covered by the Ukrainian side, but, on the contrary, the legend of Ukrainian figure skating paid for everything herself and did not receive any reimbursement on this matter. The last straw that broke the camel’s back during a failure trip to homeland was the theft of her Louis Vuitton purse with initials OB (Oksana Baiul). Later, Oksana recalled about the idea of returning to Ukraine with bits of irony: “Several times I tried getting the support of the NOC of Ukraine, Sergei Bubka couldn’t find even 15 minutes in his schedule to meet me. However, after I returned to America, on behalf of the Dnipropetrovsk SC Meteor, I received the Honorable Thank Note from the NOC of Ukraine, signed by Bubka. That was the way they thanked me for my contribution to the development of the Olympic movement in the country. “

Bottom line, as the first Ukrainian president Leonid Kravchuk used to say: “It is what it is.” It’s not possible to change the past, but one can learn from their mistakes and carry on with life. That’s exactly what the most skilled skater of the world did.

So what is happening in the life of Ukrainian figure skating legend now? Has her American dream come true? I tried to “draw” a portrait of a 40-year-old Oksana Baiul. Using my Sherlock Holmes deduction skills, I managed to find some interesting facts about her today’s life.

Fact #1: Oksana is happily married to an American producer and philanthropist of Italian origin, Carlo J. Farina. He became a Pygmalion for his beloved Galatea. Together they are in the process of creating a new theatrical ice show “Empress of Ice”, its official release is coming in a few months. The name for the ice show wasn’t randomly chosen—the “Empress of ice” is the official nickname of Oksana Baiul-Farina. Permanent live show will be held in Las Vegas, at one of the entertainment venues. Official announcement, dates and exact location to be announced.

Another interesting project of the couple is coming in November 2018. It will be the seventh film in the list of movies Ukrainian legendary figure skater starred. The official name of the motion picture is “Sonja—Queen of Ice. Sonja Henie’s True Story”. It is dedicated to the prominent figure skater of the early twentieth century, the three-time Olympic champion in women’s figure skating, who left amateur sports at the age of 24 and built a brilliant career in Hollywood. The similarity with Oksana Baiul is obvious.

Fact #2: Oksana loves dogs of the Chihuahua breed. There are at least two cute creatures in her estate: a girl named Empress Alexis Marie Farina and a boy—Zar Louis Farina. They frequently appear on Baiul’s Instagram page. Recently, she joined the initiative to close nurseries for breeding puppies by wearing a T-shirt # 6491—Twitter hashtag #nopuppymillsLasVegas.

Fact#3: Oksana proved to have quite good aptitude for business. She founded her own brand of sportswear and figure skating accessories with prices being rather affordable according to the USA standards. For example, a T-shirt with a picture of a famous figure skater can be purchased for $ 25, a personalized postcard with Baiul’s autograph costs $ 50, women’s figure skating dresses are sold for $120-$130. All the money earned by selling sports clothing is going to charity: Oksana supports promising young figure skaters who can not afford training on ice rinks themselves. Empress’s of ice heart,definitely, isn’t made of ice. She generously donates money for charity funds helping sick children and orphans both in USA and Ukraine.

Fact #4: in 2014 Baiul supported the Ukrainian Revolution of Dignity. She even agreed on an interview for Entertainment Tonight on the CBS channel, provided she was given the opportunity to talk about the struggle of the Ukrainian people against corruption and express her attitude towards the dramatic events unfolding in the center of Kyiv, but Oksana’s views on Maidan did not reach the viewers. Her words were twisted and cut out, and once again, journalists depicted her in the framework of “a good-bad girl”—anything in order to get high ratings and attract wider American audience.

Infuriated by yet another deceit, she wrote a letter to CBS. It is a very emotional message and, in my opinion, it shows Oksana’s determination to never tolerate lies and her refusal to put up with injustice of any kind. The letter ends with the words: “My advice to the new gold medal winners is to trust nobody and especially not talent agents, accountants, coaches or Entertainment Tonight. God bless the newly crowned gold medal winners and God bless the people of Ukraine.” You can find the whole text of the letter on her official website: oksanabaiul.com.

And finally, fact #5: skating celebrity does not shy away from anything humanlike: she rejoices like a child when husband gives her flowers, especially her all time favorite roses (Oksana also likes aloes and chrysanthemums); she loves shopping, her favorite fashion brand is Chanel; to stay in excellent shape prominent figure skater starts her day at 5 o’clock in the morning and goes to the gym, swims, does a jogging session or ice training, sometimes plays tennis.

And most importantly, Oksana Baiul is no longer afraid of criticism directed towards her. She is one of Donald Trump’s few well-known friends. On the day of his inauguration, together with her husband Carlo J. Farina they hosted a special celebratory breakfast for friends. Not everyone liked it, but Oksana does not betray herself and has the courage to say whatever she thinks. By the way, sometimes, in her English posts in social media one could point out grammatical mistakes, however, the titled champion does not care much for remarks of snobby “grammar police” representatives. It’s been awhile since Baiul shedded a modest Cinderella dress and put on an outfit of a confident Empress on skates.

The only thing left to say is to wish the Pride of Ukrainian figure skating success and fulfillment of her dreams. Let her words become prophecies: “I don’t want people to think of me as the Olympic Champion girl. I want them to remember me for my artistry.”