For more than two years, Tamara Kyshenko worked in housekeeping at the Lincoln Marriott Cornhusker.
She was a refugee from Ukraine, and, when Lincoln Literacy began offering English lessons at the hotel on Friday mornings, the outgoing young woman was among the first to join.
“She was a very hardworking girl, always happy,” said Kyshenko’s teacher, Summayia Khan. “She never wanted to stick to the worksheet or the plan, because she wanted to get as much as possible out of the lesson.”
Once a week wasn’t enough, Kyshenko told her teacher.
“Because of her, we started the Tuesday class as well,” Khan said
Last Friday, Kyshenko’s classmates mourned the death of the 32-year-old, who slipped on an icy staircase leaving a church service in Ukraine earlier this month and died three days later.
Kyshenko had gone back to visit her sister, Khan said.
Kyshenko’s mother and sister-in-law also worked in housekeeping at the hotel and attended literary classes with her encouragement. This fall, after the family patriarch was diagnosed with cancer, the three women were unable to meet for English lessons while they cared for him, Khan said.
They all planned to return to class Jan. 17; instead, the students missed their classmate.
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“We grieved for that hour,” Khan said. “We talked; we cried. Everyone shared their feelings toward her.”
"It's a huge loss for the Marriott family here," said Susan Madsen, general manager of the Lincoln hotel. "It had a ripple effect over the entire team."
The close-knit housekeeping staff — from countries around the globe — has donated $400 to help Kyshenko's family, said Codie Meehan, hotel human relations director.
Other hotel workers have contributed another $300, and more money keeps showing up in Madsen's office.
"She got along with everybody in the hotel," she said. "She always had a radiant smile on her face."
Lincoln Literacy has also reached out to help, starting a modest GoFundMe campaign for Kyshenko’s family.
“We feel the best way we can be respectful is to help with their immediate material needs,” said Clayton Naff, its executive director.
Naff met Kyshenko a year ago when the partnership with the hotel began. She made a lasting impression.
“A brilliant personality and a warm smile and really eager to learn.”
Kyshenko was married, and her classmates teased her after she and her husband returned from a trip to Ogallala last year, Khan said.
“She turned red and she said, ‘Stop that. Let’s study.'”
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