I met Genadiy at the Little Red Riding Hood kindergarten in my hometown of Septemvri, Bulgaria at the age of five. Right off the bat, we were up for shenanigans. He was such a visionary. The kids in our class called him the “commander.”
We shared a desk all through elementary school. I call the “commander” one of my best friends today. We continue the shenanigans, despite the distance between us.
14 years after we had met, he was with me at Sofia Airport, Terminal 2 Departures. It was 5:30 AM on 18 August 2009. While it would have been easier to stay in Bulgaria, I was at the airport ready to embark on my journey to America; a journey where I was going to encounter all kinds of thorns.
There we were Genadiy and I, waiting in the departures lounge, when he opened the plastic bag he was carrying and handed me a book. It was The Last Don, a novel by Mario Puzo. It was a gift for me. I would later lean on this book for support. But more about that later. Even the smallest piece of paper written in Cyrillic was valuable when I was far away from home and family.