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WaterFire Impact Stories: Natalya Kharkovskaya

I relocated to the United States a year ago as an asylee from the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine. As a seasoned event manager myself, I was lucky to continue in my field by joining the WaterFire Event Staff team this season. After such a large change, I consider myself fortunate to have revamped my event management career here by becoming a part of the most amazing art and production team.

Natalya Kharkovskaya posing with two flags.
Natalya Kharkovskaya posing with two flags.

I’m truly honored to be asked to share my story as part of the annual giving campaign. Working with WaterFire this year has been an incredibly rewarding experience for me. The magic of each lighting event and its transformative impact on the community never cease to amaze me. These gatherings are not just about fire and light; they’re about creating shared moments, fostering a sense of belonging, and igniting a collective spirit.

What I love most about my job is witnessing the joy on people’s faces as they observe and participate in WaterFire. Sometimes, I take a break to walk along the river, immersing myself in the experience and observing people. The sight of the fire is calming, and I particularly love the smell of burning firewood. 

One of the most memorable experiences this season was celebrating the excellence of Rhode Island’s educators with the Rhode Island Department of Education. It was an honor to meet some of the teachers of my own children among these outstanding educators. I supervised the torch procession and heard welcome speeches from Governor Daniel McKee and Mayor Brett Smiley. The special world flag display that day symbolized Rhode Island’s diverse cultures, and as someone from a diverse cultural background, that lighting was truly inspiring.

Photograph by Laura J. Michaud
Photograph by Laura J. Michaud

Another significant memory was participating in the Veterans Day honor ceremony at WaterFire’s Salute to Veterans lighting. I was entrusted with a part of the wreath and torch ceremony alongside my amazing supervisor, Kris McKenzie. In that moment of grief and silence, surrounded by elderly war veterans saluting us, I wished for a world without wars.

I’m passionate about WaterFire’s mission to inspire and connect, and this is a small way for me to share the enchantment I feel with others. I’m delighted to contribute my story to this campaign and I hope you’ll consider sharing your resources as well. 

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