Irina Obolianinoff Prischepenko died peacefully on May 16, 2014. Her great energy, love of life, and "never give up" attitude are an inspiration to those who knew her. Irina was born in Blagoveschensk, Russia on December 4, 1917 and grew up in Harbin, China. Irina came to the United States to attend Mills College during WWII, just as the Japanese occupation of China was beginning. After the war, she arranged for her beloved sister, Veronica, to come to the United States. She received a bachelor's degree from Mills College and master's degrees from University of California, Berkeley and New York University. She married Nicholas Prischepenko and moved to New York City where Nicholas worked at the United Nations. They had two children, George and Elena. Irina and her sister raised their families just five blocks apart in Bayside, Queens. Her life was marked by loss and tragedy: Nicholas died suddenly in 1964 and George died in 1972 while on a cultural exchange tour to the Soviet Union with the United Stated Information Agency. Irina was an educator who was passionate about helping children develop to their fullest potential. She was the director of Parson's Nursery School in Flushing, Queens, a Head Start Program in Harlem, New York, and the East Manhattan School for Bright and Gifted Children in the Gramercy Park area of New York. At its 25th anniversary, the philosophy of the East Manhattan School that "almost all children, irrespective of their cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, can develop a superior mind without sacrificing the joys of childhood" was lauded by Representative Carolyn Maloney and is part of the Congressional Record. In 2001, Irina suffered a massive stroke while running to catch a subway. Although the stroke impaired her ability to communicate and move, Irina continued to push herself to overcome her limits until her death. Her sister, Veronica, died just two months before she did. Irina is survived by her daughter, Elena Cunningham, her son-in-law, Scott Cunningham, her granddaughter, Jo Cunningham, her nieces Veronica Baker and Lana Worth, and her nephew, Gregory Worth. Service will be held on May 23 at 10:30 at Synodal Cathedral, 75 East 93 Street.
Published on NYTimes.com from May 20 to May 21, 2014