Share a special moment from Yuri's life.

Virtual Yuri

Shared by Phoebe Hall on May 26, 2013

I never met Yuri face to face, and had forgotten him for the most part until I found a card he'd sent me back in 1994. Then I remembered why I'd kept the card. I met Yuri on AOL in 1992. We would chat from time to time online then every so often he would call me and chat. He had become enamored of my southern accent (as I'm from NC) and I was enamored of his accent.  So we had a mutual admiration society being born!  I'm so very sorry to hear of his passing. Even though I didn't know him extremely well, I was struck by what a kind and gentle soul he was; yet there was an empty spot inside that he longed to fill. He tried to fill it by giving of himself. He often gave me advice...even when I didn't need it or want it. And, more often than not, he was right.  At any rate, I hope Yuri is finally happy and at peace. He was one of the nicest people I'd met online and his laugh will be missed.

Yuri's Modeling Career

Shared by maury englander on October 6, 2012

Yuri’s modeling career began – and ended – in my studio.  I had always wanted to use him for a commercial photo, but the opportunity never came up.  Until this one.  The shot was for a food industry trade magazine for a story that is now long forgotten.  I used Yuri for my model, rented an antique cash register and borrowed salt and pepper shakers from the restaurant downstairs.  We weren’t sure of exactly what the editor wanted, so we went through a variety of his “emotions.”  Once in front of the camera, Yuri sang in Yiddish, cursed in Polish and we shot a total range of expressions. We probably had a few beers. The editor loved the concept and ended up using one shot for the magazine's cover.  Yuri had that cover framed and displayed on a wall of his apartment, along with a 16"x20” print of the photo.  Regrettably, I never did come up with another modeling job for him. I had completely forgotten about these photos until now.  This one is scanned from the original 35mm slide.

Shared by maury englander on March 24, 2011


Me and Yuri, out paths crossed around 40 years ago give or take a bit. Anyway, far enough back to not make much difference one way or another if my memory is off. We met at a folk dance session at NYU. Life was simpler and lots easier, but we probably didn’t appreciate that enough then.  Anyway, folk dancing was big and the NYU group drew a couple of hundred dancers every week. It was a great way to work out, but most of all, it was a great way to meet women, an interest Yuri and I shared with great gusto if only moderate success. 
Yuri’s dance was Arkan, a Ukrainian men’s dance designed to display “manly prowess” on the dance floor. Translation: to impress women.  It involved a series of squats, kicks and steps designed to put maximum strain on knees, back and most other parts of the body.  And it could be impressive when enough guys actually knew the dance and managed to survive it.  It was the dance that Yuri always led, calling out the steps in some language that nobody else understood, often with a cigarette in one hand. You could get away with smoking back then. Like I said, life was simpler. Today, many people who did not get to know Yuri very well back then, still remember him and Arkan.
Anyway, as I remember it, one evening with the dance session over and the two of us unsuccessful at finding female companionship, we happened to leave together and got to talking as we walked across Washington Square park. I invited him up to my place for a drink. It was to be the first of many evenings we would spend together over the next 4 decades. Folk dancing and drinking were to play important parts in our lives, both individually and together. A dozen years later at another dance studio, a tall beautiful dancer gave me her phone number and a few years later, Yuri was a member of our wedding party.
Yuri came to America as a teenager and worked at maintaining his peasant image. He cultivated a huge moustache and an even thicker accent.  He was fluent in half a dozen languages, but gave the impression that English wasn’t one of them. I could get by in Yiddish and a few words that sound vaguely Eastern and we sometimes goofed on our friends by switching languages, usually at inappropriate times. If alcohol was involved, people often complained that by the end of the evening, nobody could understand us.
He could have excelled in a dozen academic careers in literature, linguistics or music. Instead, he became an engineer. He once told me that he “accidentally” acquired his degree when he noticed that the extra math courses he had taken for fun (math courses for fun!) were almost enough to fulfill the academic requirements. Years later allowed that taking his job as an engineer with the federal government insured he would have the health care he knew he was going to need. 
Yuri was great to cook for. For the first couple of ties anyway. Then I realized that his only requirement for a good meal was that “it should be enough!” Serve him a perfect five course steak dinner or a plate of boiled potatoes and they would be consumed with equal gusto.
I had a great little photo studio on East 21st street and when Yuri turned 25, we celebrated his birthday there, packing it with a huge number of folkdancers, musicians and assorted émigré friends of his. I think I also invited several clients which probably wasn’t the best idea, but somehow we all survived. And Yuri led Arkan.
Yuri worked at an office in one of the federal buildings in lower Manhattan, an easy walk to Chinatown, and we got into the habit of meeting for a meal down there after work. He always left the ordering up to me, insisting only on there being sufficient quantity on the table. It was somewhere along the line that I noticed the first indications of his declining health when he could no longer have a beer with his meal and began asking that I order dishes without strong spices. He just claimed that his stomach was acting up.
And food stories bring on Yuri’s 50th birthday. By then he had moved to a co-op near Lincoln Center. It was a long way from the furnished room he lived in when we met an he was proud of the place. He’d been there for a year or so when he turned 50 and figured that was a proper occasion for a party. Actually, any reason was a proper occasion for a party, but this one seemem particularly appropriate.
 Now while he was a perfect host, Yuri’s cooking skills were, to be generous, non-existent.  So a bunch of us brought food. As some of it was heating in the oven the place suddenly filled with smoke. We quickly shut the oven off.  Opening it, we found that the electric heating elements were still packed with Styrofoam! Yuri had lived there for a year and had never turned on his oven! 
Meeting up in Chinatown was still a regular deal for Yuri and me, even after he retired. Seemed weird to have a friend who was retired: that was for old guys, and Yuri was 5 years younger than me. I once asked him what he was doing now that he was a man of leisure and he told me he was reading. He loved music and books and that’s about all he spent his money on.
Yuri was also a classic soft touch. He could never pass a panhandler on the street without giving him something. Later I learned that he quietly gave away a large part of his income to various charities.
But Yuri was also changing and that early retirement wasn’t by choice. The guy who used to take bike trip vacations and lead Arkan across the dance floor was having trouble walking any distance. Our get togethers were often cancelled. Sometimes he’d forget or get the time wrong. Sometimes it was a doctor’s appointment. Too often it was because he said he was just not feeling well. 
Then a day came when I found my friend in a hospital bed, too weak to even feed himself. One doctor was kind enough to bend the regulations and explain that his tumors were beyond surgery. The cancer that had started in his lungs had spread. Radiation might help him for a bit, but we could expect no more than a few months.  That turned out to be an optimistic diagnosis. A few days later he was in a nursing home in Riverdale. His brother explained that it simply would have been too expensive to provide the care that would have let him spend those last few days in his own home. 
Anyway, the nursing home was a pleasant enough place as such places go. It had landscaped grounds and views of the Hudson River.  My last memory of my friend is not as pleasant. 
I came there on a Friday afternoon and could hear him before I reached his room. He was dying and he knew it and he wanted it to happen as quickly as possible. He cursed the staff who cared for him, he cried and ranted.  We got him into a wheelchair and I pushed him to a quiet part of the place where we could look out at the river and talk. I knew it was our last meeting, our time to say goodbye. When I finally said it, he thanked me for being his friend and told me to get the hell out of there. I wouldn’t let him off that easy so we sat for a bit longer and retold a few stories and maybe even managed a few smiles.
My last image of Yuri was in that wheelchair with his head in his hands. It was a picture of pure and absolute misery. On the walk back to the train station, I thought of all the things I’d forgotten to mention.  My dear friend Yuri died that Sunday night.
I am still royally pissed at him for leaving us like that...........................
        Maury Englander

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