There have been some special moments in my life when someone confides in me a personal story that truly moves me.

So here’s a story that I’d like to share with you so hopefully you can get an idea as to what REAL Character, Strength and Fortitude is all about.

Recently I was privileged to hear a personal story about a very special and profoundly beautiful young lady I’ll call Jennifer.

As with all personal stories concerning Russian people history always plays a huge role.

For most of these people the years surrounding the breakup of the Soviet Union was a completely chaotic and dangerous time to live in.

For Jennifer and her family this was certainly the case since they lived in the neighboring country of Kazakhstan during the collapse of the USSR.

When Kazakhstan declared itself as an independent country the indigenous Central Asian “Kazakhs” that lived there decided that it was time for some payback for the many years of iron fisted Soviet rule over their ancestral lands. Although they declared independence away from Moscow they didn’t necessarily stop there.

Methodically they started to marginalize and discriminate against the millions of Ethnic Russians that had already lived in Kazakhstan for many years. Many Russians that were previously involved in building up Kazakhstan society soon found themselves without opportunities for jobs or a higher education as “greater priority” was given to the “locals” instead.

This wasn’t quite ethnic cleansing but if you forcefully close off avenues for these people to make a living then essentially you are promoting the same thing but on a different level.

Jennifer’s family was one of many that got caught up on the receiving end of this discrimination. Her father decided to move the family back to Russia but he would have to go first and leave his family behind in order to try to find a job. For Jennifer’s father this meant that he was jumping out of the frying pan and straight into the fire of Post Soviet Russia.

He left and did what he could to send money back home to take care of Jennifer, her mother and her younger sister but it wasn’t nearly enough because he was barely surviving himself..

Jennifer’s mother wasn’t able to work due to the discrimination so for several years these vulnerable but resilient women went without enough food, clothes, school books, and other basic essentials. These hardship were especially amplified during the brutal winters which treats Kazakhstan no differently from Russia.

At one point Jennifer, her mother and sister were literally down to rationing slices of bread to survive off of and sadly there wasn’t much hope beyond that in site.

One morning Jennifer woke up and learned that there was no money left to buy any more bread.

She had a deep realization that she was the only one who could do anything about this situation and thankfully at that moment an idea started to take hold.

She went into the family store room and gathered up all the old dusty empty bottles that she could carry and took them to a bottle collection vendor across town on her own. With the meager money she received from those precious few bottles she went out and purchased some newspapers and then proceeded to sell them for twice the amount she paid to anyone she could offer them to.

The tiny profit she made from this went back towards buying more newspapers and a fragile and fledgling entrepreneur was born. Bread was bought and her family could eat once again.. Jennifer continued day in and day out to do the same thing in order for her family to survive.

This young girl quickly grew up into a young woman and literally became the only breadwinner for her family..

So how old was this young girl you might ask?

Try 11 years old..

Over time this young woman (in the truest sense of the word) would grow up to face even more challenges.. Because even when her father was able to move all of them back to Russia her fledgling business venture was unfortunately shot down because the new city they lived in was dominated by criminal street gangs.

It was obviously way too dangerous for a small girl to be a street vendor in this environment since having any cash on you was like announcing yourself as an open target.

The family continued to endure hardships during these years but at least by the time she was old enough to attend a university her family had enough money to put her through school. Still of course she would have to work inspite of a brutal class schedule that typically locks students away for up to 14 hours a day 6 days a week.

She managed to hold some night jobs down which allowed her to earn some money and to get 3 to 4 hours of sleep starting at 3am before she woke up at 7am and went back to her classes during the day.

Now through these years of battling against the sleep and the odds of her success.. Today in her early 20’s she thankfully finds herself enjoying life with a new found freedom and appreciation that can only come from surviving such obstacles.

Freedom for Jennifer is an interesting concept.

It’s not political freedom that matters so much to her as the freedom that comes from not having to live in poverty anymore.

This is one of those times when neither the Gods nor any Government can take any take credit for her accomplishments..

It is truly something that she owns all to herself..

And it is something that she owns silently.

Jennifer’s story is a real slice of life in this part of the world. And as you can imagine there are millions of other stories like her’s floating around.

Now one of the things that I mostly deeply respect about her story as it relates to her feminine identity is this.

If you ever have the privilege of meeting this lady you would NEVER guess that she came from such a poor and hard background.

She is the epitome of True Beauty, Grace and Gratitude.

And her image is simply multiplied and expressed through the Strength and Fortitude of so many other women like her who I’m honored to be associated with.