Humans of Harker: The space between languages

Angelina Yuzifovich fosters a deep love for her culture


Heidi Lu

“Most people think space is just a bunch of floating matter, but there’s actually a lot of different physics and concepts involved with everything, especially in terms of how we research all those objects because they’re so far away. You would think it would be impossible, but it’s not,” Angelina Yuzifovich (12) said.

Flipping through the pages of her astronomy book, Angelina Yuzifovich (12) stops at the section on black holes. Her eyes light up with interest at the clear, attention-drawing photos of the colorful universe printed on the page, and she scans through the text before looking up, deep in thought.

Starting from her grandfather, who worked on building rockets, to her older brother, who introduced her to Star Wars, Angelina began to find herself immersed in the wonders and galaxies beyond the earth. One summer, on a whim, she selected a course subject in astrophysics: specifically, theory of relativity. It was through this course that Angelina decided to pursue astronomy.

“Most people think space is just a bunch of floating matter,” Angelina said. “But there’s actually a lot of different physics and concepts involved with everything, especially in terms of how we research all those objects because they’re so far away. You would think it would be impossible, but it’s not.”

Angelina believes that, while the concepts of astronomy greatly impact every aspect of the world, most people do not know much about the field. To study astronomy, one must take a more zoomed-out perspective on their surroundings, and this mindset has helped shape the way that Angelina views herself and her life.

“Focusing on astronomy makes you think of the world on a bigger scale instead of just focusing on the things around you,” Angelina said. “There’s still that whole big world that you can explore.”

Angelina demonstrates this mindset through her yearly summer visits back to her home country, Russia, where she teaches English at a school in Russia. She moved from Russia to America in 2012, and ever since then, she would go back to visit her grandmother and her rural village. Teaching English in her grandmother’s town was not only an avenue for Angelina to channel her love of cultures, but also a chance to reflect on her own journey with learning English.

“Helping people learn English and Russian was really inspiring to me because I was able to see how dedicated and excited [the students] were for it,” Angelina said. “This was in our rural Russian village, and being able to help them also made me a lot more excited about what I am able to do and to trust my own abilities more.”

Upper school French teacher Galina Tchourilova, who taught Angelina for two years, initially connected with Angelina through their common roots in Russia. Tchourilova notes Angelina’s ability to remain connected to her Russian heritage while living in an English-speaking culture.

“It’s always difficult to keep a balance between your native tongue and English,” Tchourilova said. “We’ll talk about that, and I’m very impressed because for example, my kids lost some of their ability to read books in Russian, but Angelina reads very advanced literature in Russian, which is great.”

Close friend Lucy Ge (12) also admires Angelina’s devotion to her heritage.

“My first impression of her was she’s very connected to the Russian side of her heritage and the culture in Russia,” Lucy said. “It’s really cool to hear her talk about all the things I didn’t know about … [and] I admire her connection to her culture, and it really inspires me to want to understand my own culture more.”

Lucy also appreciates Angelina’s stable and grounded presence. Meeting through mutual friends and spending time during quarantine together, Lucy remarks on how Angelina’s personality sneaks up on people.

“She [works] so hard,” Lucy said. “On the surface, she’s very chill. That kind of presence really helps you relax at school. If I’m stressed about something I can always go to her, and her presence is something that can help you feel better.”

Close friend of four years Ann Ryan (12) appreciates Angelina’s passion and unique understanding of the world. From sitting together in class to walking to Starbucks together after school, Ann and Angelina became close and connected through their passion about things they believed in.

“With her, I always get the feeling that she needs to do everything that she does,” Ann said. “I admire her passion and different things that she finds interesting … Her passion is very contagious and easy to collaborate with or match.”

Through her deep belief in her passions and culture, Angelina is able to develop a unique perspective. Beginning from growing her views of the world through her interest in astronomy, Angelina now cultivates and spreads her love for her culture, leaving her own impact everywhere.

“I want to have an impact on the world, not just the community — something that others can build on to and continue contributing to,” Angelina said.