Larisa Shenker

Larisa Shenker

Publisher and editor of the Russian-language literary magazine “SlovoWord”
Country: USA

Biography of Larisa Shenker


Larisa Iosifovna Shvalbina, later known as Larisa Shenker, was born in 1932 in Odessa, Ukraine, to a family of medical professionals. Growing up, she witnessed the onset of World War II while studying in the lower grades of school. Due to the war, her parents were evacuated to the city of Chelyabinsk, while Larisa and her cousin settled in the industrial town of Magnesite near Sadko, where they experienced the harsh conditions of their surroundings.

After the war, Larisa's father, who had been suffering from tuberculosis, returned from the front, and the family relocated to Kirov on the Vyatka River. It was in Kirov that Larisa developed a lifelong hobby of embroidery, which she had learned from her mother. Despite facing challenges due to her Jewish heritage, Larisa excelled academically and was awarded a medal upon graduating from high school.

In 1949, Larisa moved to Donetsk to pursue a medical degree at the local institute, as she was only allowed to study sanitary-hygienic courses in her hometown of Odessa. However, her medical career abruptly ended after her first visit to the anatomy theater. Undeterred, Larisa decided to pursue a different path and enrolled in the architecture faculty of the Odessa Engineering and Construction Institute in 1949. She completed her studies and began working at the institute.

In 1953, Larisa married Ilya Shenker, a fellow student at the institute who had returned after serving in the aviation units during the war. Both Larisa and Ilya attended the same drawing club, where they first met. Upon graduating, Ilya started working in Odessa, and Larisa joined him there, despite the usual practice of sending young specialists across the country.

Throughout her career, Larisa achieved recognition for her architectural work. She received her first award in 1955 for her project on low-rise residential buildings while working at Giprogard, the State Institute of Urban Planning. However, in 1974, Larisa and Ilya, mature and established individuals, made the decision to emigrate from the Soviet Union to the United States. They settled in New York City, where Larisa continued to work as an architect while also taking on the role of publisher and editor of the Russian-language literary journal "Slovo/Word."

In the United States, Larisa found herself surrounded by a wealth of talented authors, including Nobel laureate Joseph Brodsky, Sergei Dovlatov, Alexander Genis, Pyotr Vail, Boris Paramonov, and many others. For over 20 years, Larisa has been the unwavering leader of the journal, personally selecting materials for each issue.

Larisa considers her perseverance to be both her greatest strength and weakness. It took a strong-willed character to make such a drastic change in her life and overcome the challenges she faced. Larisa Shenker continues to thrive as an influential figure in the Russian-language literary community in New York City.

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