I Googled my friend Marina Lakhman today. Chervokas and I were just talking about her. Marina would be about 30 if she were still alive. She died more than four years ago from complications related to the treatment of her leukemia. Marina's Google trail is growing faint, and I find it very sad. Too many lapsed domains, reorganized archives, and failed dot-coms in between. Time to add to the trail.
I miss Marina and think about her often - sometimes I think I see her in the corner of my eye, passing through Grand Central or out on Madison Avenue, that we're meeting by chance, before I realize again that she's gone. I'm reminded of her whenever I see a tall, confident kid on the subway, or when I spend time with some of the talented young women of her vintage at the office. And especially when I consider four friends of mine, all women, who recently picked up their lives and made major moves. Marina made the big moves, because she had the guts and the will. Were she living, I know I'd be bragging all over New York about having discovered her.
Marina was so confident that she convinced Buddy Stein and me to wait for nearly a full semester to fill a key - and vacant - reporter's slot at The Riverdale Press, while she finished up Dartmouth. It was a good call, not because of Marina's writing style or political knowledge. At the time, both were scant - Marina came to the U.S. from Russia at 12, learned the language, made the Ivy League. Her first big move.
No, Buddy and I made the right call because of Marina's will to succeed. There was no story she wouldn't cover; frankly, no menial task she wouldn't complete with a smile. She was also very funny, sometimes on purpose, sometimes not. A humorous naivete coupled with an open mind and the absolute willingness to work hard and learn is a powerful tonic for an editor's heart. Marina worked part-time as an assistant in the newsroom of The New York Times. She helped Chervokas and me put together a tradeshow booth at the first Internet show @NY took part in. She freelanced for us, at small pay.
Then, another big move. Back to Russia, to Moscow, to work at the Times bureau there. As an assistant at first, but then the bylines started to come. She'd cracked the code. Marina returned to New York, on the verge of something big. She became the editor of a dot-com called Russian Web Girls, something about parties and fashion and being Russian in America - so very, very 1999. She signed up for graduate school at Columbia to study international affairs. And she got sick.
I remember vividly the last time I saw her. Jason and I took her to lunch at a Chinese place down on Wall Street, after we'd sold @NY and were in the process of moving on in our own lives. If you knew Marina, you knew she cared about her personal appearance, especially her long, dark hair. We'd kid her about checking out her look in restaurant mirrors. On this day, Marina's hair was gone. But she didn't care. She still checked out her look - and you knew she thought, "pretty damned fine for a chemo patient."
And then suddenly she was gone. And I still see her shadow. I hope I always will.