Tatiana was born in the Soviet Union in Stavropol, a county bordering the Black Sea, to a family with three children. Though she had a “simple childhood,” she looks back on her childhood fondly. As an adult, she became a physician and was married for ten years until she eventually divorced. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989, many people were displaced out of Russia, Tatiana included. She moved to Lithuania for two years and continued to work as a physician until she met an American. They quickly fell in love and married two weeks after they first met.

Tatiana’s new husband was a Latter-day Saint. Though she didn’t know much about Mormonism, she thought that such a nice gentleman couldn’t be involved in anything bad, so she began attending their local congregation when they moved to the United States. One thing that stood out to her right away was the church’s emphasis on families. Everything in the church seemed to be centered around families, something she had never really thought about before, which she says may have contributed to her divorce. She was impressed with how this church was committed to helping people build strong families. She did have some issues with the church’s stance on tea and strong drinks though, as tea culture is an extremely important part of Russian tradition. It was also initially difficult for her to believe that members in her congregation could be so sincere—they seemed so sweet and humble. It took her a long time to accept that they were genuine. For these sincere Latter-day Saints, church wasn’t just a place to hang out on Sundays, it was a way of life. And so, in time, her doubts and struggles diminished.

Looking back on her experiences, she says, “There are so many ways to measure your success in this life. Some people measure it with a bank account, with property they own. Some people measure it with the amount of gold medals they won, with fame and power. I thought a lot about it. I measure my success by the amount of light. The more light I get in this life, the more successful I consider myself. Light that makes you happy, like peace and joy—and the ability to be happy for somebody else as well, not to be eaten up to death by jealousy or hatred. But just to have experiences that overwhelm you with feelings of love for people. It doesn’t come instantly, no. It’s not an event, it’s a process. And I’m glad that I was able to come to that particular conclusion about my purpose, my achievements, my success.”

Tatiana studying

Tatiana with Family

Tatiana as a child