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June 2004

Random Profile: Raisa Leifer

Every other month, Staff Notes Monthly spotlights a stochastically chosen staff member. This month we profile Raisa Leifer, a computer operator in the Scientific Computing Division.

A veteran of the computer industry: Raisa taught Russian language and literature in Ukraine before moving to the United States in the 1980s.

Raisa Leifer

Raisa Leifer

“How am I going to teach here if I can’t speak English?” she asked herself on arrival. So she made a career switch and has now spent the past 20 years in the computer industry. “I know that whatever I put into the computer, it will understand,” she says.

Raisa has been at NCAR for about six months. Her previous job was with Coors Brewing Company in Golden, but most of her experience has been with small geophysical companies. “It’s very interesting because working for small companies you do everything,” she says. “Data processing, digitizing, plotting, mapping, filming, splicing.”

As a computer operator, Raisa’s schedule includes both day and night shifts. “It’s nice because it’s flexible, and every shift has different issues,” she says.

An ear for languages: Raisa was born in Lviv, a city that belonged to Poland before it was annexed to the Soviet Union in 1940 as part of western Ukraine. She knows six languages: Russian, German, Yiddish, Polish, Ukrainian, and English. When she was growing up, her neighbors spoke Polish; she learned Russian, Ukrainian, and German at school; and she spoke Yiddish at home. “But I’ve forgotten how to speak Polish and German,” she says. “To keep language alive, you need to speak with somebody.”

Raisa speaks Russian to her three adult sons, who usually answer her in English. “I always try to keep the Russian language and customs at home,” she says. “I very often switch between languages. I can start in Russian and finish in English. Only my children will understand me.”

She says she prefers Russian because there is more freedom in the language. “I love the Russian language. For me it is the most beautiful language in the world,” she says. “It is very rich and colorful with thousand of idioms and expressions. You can create hundreds of words from one root word by playing with suffixes and prefixes.”

Cooking, music, grandkids: One of Raisa’s favorite activities is cooking. “I’m a great cook,” she says.

Mostly she likes to cook Russian and Jewish dishes. If she could prepare any meal, she’d make borscht, a type of beet soup, followed by pelmeni. Pelmeni is a Siberian dish similar to ravioli, stuffed with meat and spices. Traditionally, hunters would stock cabins with frozen pelmeni, then boil it in melted snow throughout the winter. She would also cook pierogis, another type of dumpling stuffed with potatoes or meat. And for dessert, a flaky French dough with layered cream.

“I don’t have any recipes,” she says. “This is all in my head.”

In addition to cooking, Raisa likes classical music, including opera, ballet, and symphony. She gets out several times a month to see live performances.

She also likes history, literature, and the outdoors. “I used to live near the Carpathians and would take my students on trips, so I like hiking,” she says.

One of the reasons she enjoys work at NCAR is because of the Mesa Lab’s location. “I love the surroundings,” she says. “You don’t need to go anywhere. There’s beauty here.”
Raisa has three sons and one stepson. One of her sons owns an aquarium business in Denver, and another works at Kohl’s. The youngest just graduated from CU-Boulder in aerospace engineering.

She also has three granddaughters. “I only had boys, but now I have girls also,” she says. •Nicole Gordon

Also in this issue...

A site to behold: www.ucar.edu

Identifying storms that produce tornadoes

A fast way to measure PAN

Commuter of the Year

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