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One year after tornado, Livchin family struggles with loss

Posted by Steve Fox  June 1, 2012 06:21 AM

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It’s a brilliantly sunny day outside as five-year-old Leanna Livchin dances with her 14-year-old sister Victoria, while three-year-old Artem punts rocks, pretending to be a soccer player. Their father, Vladimir and mother, Yelena, are planting flowers in the back yard of their West Springfield home as Melanie, 9, looks on. Max, 17, is up to his elbows inside his shiny silver Taotao 50 Moped, which he has been fixing up to get back on the road.

Only the oldest boy -- Sergey -- is missing.

Irina, 20, can see Sergey would right by his brother’s side, consumed by his knack for mechanics shared by the male side of the Livchin family. One year after Sergey was killed when a tree fell on his car during last spring’s tornado, the Livchin family gives the appearance of going through everyday routines.

But, for the Livchin family, time has not healed all wounds.

For those who knew 23-year-old Sergey Livchin -- one of three people killed in last spring’s series of tornadoes in Western Massachusetts -- time is relative. Family and friends say that one year after Sergey's death, a tragic hole remains in their lives.

Sergey’s mother, Yelena can barely talk about the loss of her son. Sergey’s sister Liya got married -- but without her older brother there.

How do families deal with the loss of a young life?

339672_121495987957936_100002926072714_128276_130624639_o.jpg“Sometimes a death brings a family closer together, but it really pulled us apart,” Irina said. “We all had such a hard time even talking about it, even now it’s so painful.”

In early March, Sergey’s headstone was erected at his grave, in Pine Hill Cemetery in Westfield. Since then, the Livchin family frequently visits his final resting spot, but it still does not bring closure to the life he lost.

“After he died, you’d see him everywhere you know?” said Irina. “We had those little moments where we connected, we didn’t need anything big.”

Irina says she picked up a job at a Felix’s Family Ristorante in Springfield to get out of the house and get away from it all, but quit after a few months to spend more time with her Mom.

“We all deal with it in different ways,” said Irina. “My Mom lets it all out and my Dad holds it inside. I don’t know what is better or worse.”

Sergey was the oldest of nine children and known to his siblings as both the loving older brother and family comedian. Before his death, Sergey worked with his father at National Envelope Corp. in Westfield. His sister says he recently expressed interest in getting his GED and going to college for mechanics or training to repair heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.

IMG_9078.jpgYelena continues to leave flowers marking the roadside spot where a tree crashed down on Sergey in his car on Main Street in West Springfield.

“To tell the truth, I don’t have closure…we don’t have closure,” said Irina. “I think that something died in me the day he did and that changed not only me but how I see things now. Maybe something died in all of us who were really affected by Sergey’s death.”

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the authors

Students in Steve Fox's Investigative Journalism & the Web class at UMass-Amherst have teamed up with the Globe to take a close-up look at the painful process of rebuilding from the June 2011 tornadoes that killed four and devastated communities in the Springfield area. Their work will also appear in the Boston Globe. Steve joined the journalism faculty at UMass-Amherst in 2007 and has 25 years of experience as an editor and reporter for print and online publications, including 10 as an editor at The Washington Post's award-winning website.

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