Lessons From Our Mothers: The Strength To Succeed

United States of America

Liia Vainchtein

My family’s journey across continents has given me the strength to know that I can adapt to any situation, whatever the circumstances and whatever the views of others. These lessons apply to all women: what makes us stronger is knowing who we are, not relying on how  others define us.

The train driver announced the last stop in a language I didn’t understand. My father and mother stood up with my brother, a toddler, in one arm and luggage in every other. I was a 14-year-old, hating every moment of this journey. What I didn’t know then was that this was the first of many journeys that would make me the woman I am now.

I spoke only Russian and was forced to live as a stranger in a strange land because we were not welcome in the one I was born into. It was 1992 when I arrived in the beautiful city of Groningen in the Netherlands from the industrial city that I used to call home – Kazan in the former Soviet Union. The fall of the USSR had happened months before and led to the migration of many families like ours in search of a new home.

Courage comes from many places. Mine came from stories that my grandmother, Gita, told me. During the train ride to Groningen, I remembered what Gita had told me of her mother, Faina, rushing Gita and her sister to the train station in Mariupol, Ukraine as the Nazis overran the country looking to intern the Jews, Gypsies and other “undesirables”. It was 1941 and nothing was certain for them. Faina didn’t know whether her daughters would make it across the border to Russia, but she knew what would happen if they stayed in Ukraine. This was not a choice, it was a desperate act.

Left to right: Gita (grandmother) and Faina (great grandmother)

Faina decided to stay in Ukraine as long as possible. She was a head pharmacist at the local hospital and believed she had to care for the patients there. She was led to believe that she was considered “essential staff” and would not be taken in by the Nazis. Things got worse over the next few months as no one was essential in the Nazi’s “final solution.”

After seeing other members of the family killed or taken to internment camps, she decided to flee and look for her daughters who were now more than 1,600 km away in Kazan. She arrived safely three months after her daughters but the loss of family and the journey had taken its toll on her. Life would never be the same for our families as we were always visitors in our new home.

Faina and Gita’s stories influenced me in two major ways. First, I was determined to succeed no matter what. I wanted to  make them proud that their struggles had given me the courage to seek success whatever the circumstances. Second,  I wanted to dedicate myself to helping others, whether they be patients or people who needed the strength to find the path to success.

I learned fluent Dutch within months of arriving in Groningen though I never lost my heritage or mother-tongue. I wanted to become a pharmacist like Faina but, to do so, I had to excel in my studies. With my parent’s moral support and a belief in myself, I gained a Masters of Science (MSc) in Pharmacy, followed by a Doctorate of Pharmacy (PharmD) and finally a Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) in Analytical Chemistry studying anti-cancer drugs.

Yet these academic accomplishments did not fulfil me. I knew that I could help more people by working on promising new drugs. So, I joined the pharmaceutical industry and worked in many different roles, from research and development to medical affairs and  compliance. Along the way, I was blessed to meet many great mentors and friends who taught me and guided me. Now, when given the opportunity, I guide and support promising people in return.

As a woman, I know  it is not always easy to make the mark in the way a man can. However, I don’t use  that as an excuse but rather as motivation to push forward through obstacles. Being a wife to a caring and supportive husband and a mother to three wonderful children gives me the strength to look for solutions no matter what the circumstance. At work, I know that what I do makes a difference in every life that our medicines touch, from heart disease to cancer to pregnancy. What I do is part of the solution to better lives.

How I behave as a female executive also influences other women to strive for success. When I mentor women, I  learn their life story and hear about what they feel gets in their way. Most of the time, it is their own perception of what others feel about the limitations of being a woman. This struggle for women to feel empowered about who they are – not shaped by how others define them – is one that still continues as we aim to break the glass ceiling.

Life has taken me from the Soviet Union to the Netherlands to the United Kingdom and now to the United States. I’ve come a long way from where Faina, Gita and the others started out  but I know that all of us have always followed our north star, pursuing  success not just for ourselves but for our families and children and the other  lives we touch along this journey of life.


Photographer & Videographer Credit: David Vainchtein
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  • This is so fun! What a great idea. Also I love how authentic you seem to be. Your style and passion for blogging is contagious. Thank you for sharing your life!

    bloxorz
    1 of 1 Replies
  • ANUOLUWAPO ADELAKUN
    Truly Inspiring! Thanks for sharing.
    • Liia Ramachandra
      Dear Anuoluwapo, thank you for your kind words! Warm regards, Liia 
    1 of 1 Replies
  • Eka Enang
    I appreciate your sharing such an inspiring story. Quite motivational. We can always be what we want to be, #PersonalCoice, though most women in most under developed counties cant even step out to meet people that can inspire them fulfil their destiny. How can we reach them?....... Thank you for your story.
    • Liia Ramachandra
      Dear Eka,
      thank you for Your kind words. You are absolutely right. Hopefully, all our stories will inspire and give strength to others to fulfill their dreams... warm regards,  Liia
    1 of 1 Replies
  • Daniel Eze
    Thank you for sharing your story. It is well package and it will help to inspire many people out there.
    • Liia Ramachandra
      Dear Daniel,

      Thank you! I hope it does inspire people and gives them courage to follow their dreams.

      Kind regards,
      Liia
    1 of 1 Replies
  • What an inspiring story, what we go through make us more stronger
    • Liia Ramachandra
      Dear Catherine,

      thank you for your kind words. Indee,d you are absolutely right!
      Liia
    1 of 1 Replies
  • Peggy Tse
    What a fruitful journey you have gone through! Looking back, would you have any regrets or things that you wish you would have known earlier? I am curious to know how successful women like yourself face events in life which are beyond our control. I believe that would also be an encouragement to our young female audience. Thanks again for sharing your personal story!
    • Liia Ramachandra
      Dear Peggy,

      Thank you for your note! Actually, I would not change a thing in my life. Everything that happended, made me stronger, more wise and kind and more appreciative of all the opportunities and challenges that are presented in front of us.

      warm regards,
      Liia
    1 of 1 Replies
  • Wonjeong Chae
    Thank you for sharing your amazing story! 
    1 of 1 Replies
  • Chukwugozie Onor
    Thank you so much for sharing such an amazing life's journey. Indeed it is up to us to make a choice,either to be a victim of the circumstances around us or use them as stepping stones to success.
  • Oluwafunbi Alatise
    Liia,
    Thank you. Your story has renewed my determination not to give up regardless of the circumstance i find myself and to believe in my dreams no matter what others are seeing.
    • Liia Ramachandra
      Dear Oliwafunabi,

      Wonderful to hear from you and thank you for sharing your thoughts. I am very happy the story has inspired you and I am sure that everything that is happening in yoir life is dor a reason that will make you stronger and will allow you to pursue your dreams.
      Warm regards,
      Liia
    1 of 1 Replies
  • Dr Rejoice Shumba
    Thank you Liia for such an inspiring story. This is one of thise stories that I will copy and paste into my inspiration notes.
    • Liia Ramachandra
      Dear Rejoice,
      Thank you for such wonderful note and your compliments. I feel honored that you will use this as an inspiration and hopefuly many woman can use this and find their strenght in difficult times.
      Warm regards,
      Liia
    1 of 1 Replies
  • Moureen Njule Eseme
    Thank you Liia for sharing your story. Your strength and resilience  inspires me so much.
    • Liia Ramachandra
      Dear Moureen,

      Thank you for your kind note. We have this in all of us and when we look inside ourselves, we can find the strengh to do anything we want.
      Warm regards,
      Liia
    1 of 1 Replies
  • Melinda Nyaradzo Chakurira
    Talking of mothers Liia......Most of you must be wondering why those 2 ladies on my profile picture.That is me and my mother the day I was traditionally married.Now as a single mother who has gone through so much in life i now understand why my mother's  long face and teary eyes on the day.She tried so hard to smile she even dressed up for the occassion,hoping her instinct was wrong and only because I was her daugher she gave me the support.Being a single mother too who went through hell in her life she could only pray that her only daughter will not go through what she had to go through herself.My mother has been my anchor,words can not describe.She is the reason I am alive today.One day I will share #Herstory and #Mystory
    • Grace Pisirai
      @Melinda

      I am so touched at how much you appreciate your mother, thank you for appreciating her.
    • Liia Ramachandra
      Dear Melinda,

      I am looking forwrad to reading your story, I truly am. So many people in this world go through similar situations as you are. Please share your story - it will inspire others and give them strengh. I also went through divorce and was a single Mom for some time untill I found the Love of my Life. You sound like a very strong, independant and caring woman.
      Warm regards,
      Liia
    • Dr Rejoice Shumba
      I am looking forward to reading that story
    3 of 3 Replies
  • Aisha Keita
    Inspiring story. Thank you for sharing.
    1 of 1 Replies
  • Melinda Nyaradzo Chakurira
    Thank you for sharing Liia,wow,what an inspiring story
    • Liia Ramachandra
      Hi Melinda, Thank you for your kind words! 
      Warmest regards,
      Liia
    1 of 1 Replies
  • Such an inspiring story Liia.
    My learnings from your story is that, life can take one  to any part of this world, but you need to be focussed. 
    Thanks for your contributions in uplifting women.

    Ifeyinwa.
    1 of 1 Replies
  • Lydia Olanike Oladapo
    It's instructive to note that our life stories will influence or touch generations to come. We must live deliberately in order to inspire them.
    We shall not give up!
    1 of 1 Replies
  • Nuttah Mumbi
    Your story is very inspiring and truly what matters ishow we see ourselves and not what others perceive us.
    • Liia Ramachandra
      Hi Nuttah, Thank you! Indeed, I try to live by this philosophy as this empowers us and guides us to be who we are and want to become!
    1 of 1 Replies
  • Nina Corder

    Your story is very inspiring, heart-felt and honest. Story such as this help you learn from and about each other. I believe in sharing an intergenerational experience and mentorship because it could bring many wonderful benefits: fresh perspectives on personal challenges, enhanced decision-making skills based on culture and tradition, greater interpersonal strength, and increased confidence. The best impact of reflection when you thought- if my great grandparents, grandparents and parents have not undergo this experience, I might not be who I am today?

    • Liia Ramachandra
      Hi Nina, thank you so much! Very well said! Love your company. Would love to connect!
    1 of 1 Replies
  • Olga Rajchikj
    Dear Liia, thank you for sharing your story, it is truly touching! This shows how family can be our source of inspiration and motivation! I hope that one day you'll become a mentor for many girls who were/are facing similar situation to yours.
    • Liia Ramachandra
      Dear Olga,

      Thank you for your kind words. Indeed, I do mentor many young woman and show them how they should belive in themselves, in their strenght, work and study hard and the world will be theirs to concur!
      Warm regards,
      Liia
    1 of 1 Replies
  • Tumelo Mogotsi
    Beautiful story, thank  you sharing. 
    1 of 1 Replies
  • Touching....when life circumstances should've kept us down and we have every reason to stay down, yet we find that courage within that propels us not to give up until we become the woman of o
    ur dreams, not just for ourselves but for others too....now her story could affect or has affected a  million lives just because she chose not to give up....and yes, she's a WOMAN
    • Liia Ramachandra
      Dear Ijeoma,

      Thank you - wonderfully said! There goes the 'glass ceiling"!

      Warm regards,
      Liia
    1 of 1 Replies
  • Medinat Lawal
    Thank you Ms Liia for sharing the inspiring story...my favourite line- 'pursuing  success is not just for ourselves but for our families and children and the other  lives we touch along this journey of life.' we stand a better chance of touching lives more positively when we strive to be successful.
    • Liia Ramachandra
      Dear Medinat,

      Thank you for your note and kind words. You are very right, by being a role model/an example, our daughters and sons will want to follow it.

      Warm regards,
      Liia
    1 of 1 Replies
  • The strength of a woman! Perseverence Persistence  Consistence
    1 of 1 Replies
  • Glory Nthakomwa
    Wow this is a very great story. Am inspired. Thank you for sharing
    • Liia Ramachandra
      Dear Glory,

      Thank you for your kind words and being open to it. Wonderful to hear that the story has inspired you. You are amazing!
      Warm regards,
      Liia
    1 of 1 Replies
  • Very inspiring. Thank you for sharing
    1 of 1 Replies
  • Dear Liia,

    Thank you for sharing your story with our community! The particular part that inspires me is when you say that woman has to be determined by what she truly is and not by how the others define her!

     
    • Liia Ramachandra
      Dear Mirha,

      Thank you for your kidn words and pointing out the comment that inspired you. Absolutely, by seeing ourselves for what we are give us that strenght, focus, happiness and perserverance.

      Warm regards,
      Liia
    1 of 1 Replies
  • Tim Immaculate Bih
    Every sucessful person has a story and most at times rough beginings always pushes one to higher heights. Your story is so touching!
    • Liia Ramachandra
      Dear Tim Immaculate Bih, Thank you for your kind words! I am happy you liked it. 
      warm regards,
      Liia
    1 of 1 Replies
  • Very inspiring, you have come a long way and that alone motivates many young women like myself who want to make a change and help others. The stories we are told and those we go through ourselves build and motivate us!
    • Liia Ramachandra
      Dear Chipo Hildah Mutale,

      Thank you for your kind words. I am honored that the story inspired you and motivated!
      warm regards,
      Liia
    1 of 1 Replies
  • No matter the hurdle, the bigger picture should be the focus - thanks for sharing Liia
    • Liia Ramachandra
      Dear Patricia Omo Sukore,

      Thank you! Exactly!! There are hard and difficult times but all that will pass.

      Warm regards,
      Liia
    1 of 1 Replies
  • This is motivating!
    Have the stregth to succeed and be determined to succeed. Never give excuses for your failures. Be a problem solver. Always feel empowered about who you are and not about how others define you.
    • Liia Ramachandra
      Dear Odunola,

      So well said - exacly! Love your summary and wise words!
      Liia
    1 of 1 Replies
  • Ijeoma Obiajunwa-Ajiamah
    Very touching!!!! 
  • Snezana Zivcevska-Stalpers
    Very inspiring story! I love this quote on personal leadership: "What makes us stronger is knowing who we are, not relying on how others define us."
    • Liia Ramachandra
      Dear Snezana, thank you so much. I always remind myseld that, especially when feel that others can or want to put you down. Believe in yourself yetr always strive to imporve.
      Warm regards,
      Liia
    • Very true Snezana.
    2 of 2 Replies
  • Tajudeen Ogunmola
    highly inspirational. The decisions of today would shape our tomorrow.
    1 of 1 Replies
  • Dr Ishrat Bano
    An inspiring read!
    The more role models we have, the more opportunities women have to see themselves, and to think about
    how to best create a life that works. 
    • Liia Ramachandra
      Dear Dr Ishrat Bano,

      Very well said! the "glass is not shattered" yet and there is so much to do!
      Liia
    1 of 1 Replies
  • Have great value for yourself as a woman. Touching lives in a positive way is ones greatest achievement . Thanks for sharing your story 
    • Liia Ramachandra
      Dear Gloria,

      Thank you for your kind and sweet words. I re-read your posting a few times and this again reminded myself that indeed we will only be remembered by others when we helped them either with a kind word or deed. It is the greatest achievemnet.
      Warm regards,
      Liia
    1 of 1 Replies
  • Yande Kalengo
    This story sounds like all the women I have known that fought extra hard for their Children. What an Inspiring peice. Thanks for sharing!
    1 of 1 Replies
  • Napogadi Morethe
    Inspiring peace! Indeed a woman has to fight her way through and take risks for her children. Indeed this is what womanhood is all about. Standing up against all odds and defying them. Like I always say, giving birth and marraige can't be the only thing God has created women to do. 
    • Liia Ramachandra
      Dear Napogadi,

      Thank you for your wise words. I fully agree with you and indeed those times are long gone. We need to do everything we can and support woman who live in the countries where it is still considered ,normal'.

      Warmest regards,
      Liia
    1 of 1 Replies
  • Beautifully written! My mother is my role model. She has emerged as a hero againast all odds... her story is not just inspiring for me but for the whole family. 

    We, women, travel through life's journey and have some amazing stories to share.
    1 of 1 Replies

  • Great words of wisdom,

    Thank you for sharing- This has given me a Ahhah moment. We need to strive for bigger things in our lifes and never doubt our own abilities and capabilities.

    Yours in Women Empowerment

    • Liia Ramachandra
      Dear Wilhelmina,

      Thank you for your kind words and you made me very emotional and humbled with you warm and wise note.

      Kind regards,
      Liia
    1 of 1 Replies
  • Irene Lyimo
    Every woma has a unique story to tell,and in our uniquness story is what woman hood relaies on.

    Let's share our beautiful stories,in them we carry,laugh,feel pain,learn and move on to better woman hood.
    • Liia Ramachandra
      Dear Irene,

      Thank you so much for your kind words! Indeed, share your story!
      warm regards,
      Liia
    1 of 1 Replies
  • Grace Pisirai
    One writer and educator wrote "The mission of women in the world is much more grandiose and sublime; it is the one of teaching humankind, and in order to teach it is necessary to know."  Your life story is a true reflection of this, very inspiring.

    Also,how many women are in positions that do not fulfil them and have had the courage and means to chase their passion and dreams?
    • Liia Ramachandra
      Dear Grace,

      Thank you for sharing the quote - absolutely wonderful! You are right, many many woman find themselves in similar circumstances but dont have the means or support to move further.
      warm regards,
      Liia
    1 of 1 Replies
  • Immaculata Chiamaka Anudu
    At first, I was sceptical about your grandmother and great grand mother's experience during the war. But as I continued to read further, I felt a surge to dream more on what I aim to achieve in life. I have a lot in my head that I want to do for my society and I know it takes planning, work, hard work and confidence in myself to get there. 

    I feel I am in the world for a humanitarian purpose, to speak for people who cannot speak for themselves, to protect and guide people especially the young ones who need a mentor, a carer and a guide in the pursuit of livelihood in their existence.

    I hope to be able to effect the changes that I have in my mind for my people and for the world; Peace, Equity, Love, Care, Attention and Encouragement. I hope to touch and impact on people's lives, especially the young girls, children, and older people by providing care when and where they need it.

    Thank you Liia.
    • Liia Ramachandra
      Dear Immaculata,

      Thank you so much for sharing YOUR story in such honest and inspiring way. I wish you lots of strenght and success on your life's journey.

      Warm regards,
      Liia
    1 of 1 Replies
  • ADENIKE ADEDEJI
    what an amazing story,indeed women are emboidment of strenght and always touching lives,am proud to be a woman.
    • Liia Ramachandra
      Dear Adenike,
      Thank you for your kind words!! 
      Warm regards,
      Liia
    1 of 1 Replies
  • Tinuola Aina
    Your life history so far is truly inspiring and motivating. Your story has reiterated once again that with determination and hard work, you can achieve all, notwithstanding one being a woman. Thanks for carrying the torch in transforming lives and making an impact in the society. 
    • Liia Ramachandra
      Dear Tinuola,

      Thank you for your kind words - I feel honored by your description and empowered and motivated to do more of this. You are so right. Thank you for your inspiring words!
      Liia
    1 of 1 Replies
  • Hazel Ziro
    Beautiful and encouraging story. Impossible is nothing. Thank you for making a diffrence in other people's lives.
    • Liia Ramachandra
      Dear Hazel,

      Thank you for you kind words. Indeed, imposisble is nothing! You reminded me once again!
      warm regards,
      Liia
    1 of 1 Replies
  • Ogbeyalu Okoye
    Your story is inspirational! This only goes to show there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Our circumstatnces should not define who we are but should be a stepping stone and lesson for the future.
    • Liia Ramachandra
      Dear Ogbeyalu,

      Thank you so much for your inspiring note. I fully agree, see life as a sea of opportunities and we can do and achieve anything.

      Warm regards,
      Liia
    1 of 1 Replies
  • Robert Michira Oichi
    You are really inspirational in so many ways Liia Vainchtein! Thanks for sharing your story. Your commitment and determination to your education led you to where you are today! Despite going through a tough journey DISCOURAGEMENT never passed your mind!!
    • Robert Michira Oichi
      Welcome Liia, me too looking forward to meeting you! I know you have so much to share with me and humanity at large!
    • Liia Ramachandra
      Dear Robert, Thank you again for your motivational words! I am looking forwrad to meeting you one day and hear about all the great work you do!
      warm regards,
      Liia
    2 of 2 Replies
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