Community comes together for Sophia

Sophia Zolotukhina, a 22-year-old who graduated from college in Siberia this June, is supposed to be back home in Russia already. Zolotukhina traveled to the beaches of the eastern U.S. to earn money immediately after graduating with a degree in Web development, but one month into her visit, in July, she was hit by a drunk driver on her way home from her second job of the day.

According to her former employer, Michelle Parrill of Fat Tuna, Zolotukhina was less than a mile from home when a drunk driver hit her with his pickup truck on Route 26 in Ocean View.

“She took a direct blow to the head that crushed her skull,” said Parrill in an e-mail describing the incident. “After hitting her, the truck crashed through an electric pole – leaving it dangling above her – hit a sign and then managed to drive away, leaving her there to die.

“Thank God for some people in Ocean View that noticed the crime and got a partial plate number from the truck, and risked their lives to go to Sophia and save her life,” Parrill added.

According to Parrill, Zolotukhina was medevacked to Christiana Care Center and had emergency brain surgery within 10 minutes of her arrival.

“The swelling in her brain was tremendous, and if things had taken a moment longer, her brain would not have survived,” Parrill related.

As tragic as the circumstances are, the situation has offered a chance for the community to rally around Zolotukhina and come to her aid, said Parrill, who organized a silent auction benefit for Zolotukhina last week that raised approximately $4,500.

“It went really well,” said Parrill. “We got a lot of donations. We had over 75 items donated. It was tremendous. I never expected to receive the support that we did.”

Parrill said they also received cash and check donations and had many people offer Sophia a place to stay, rent-free.

Because of the extent of Zolotukhina’s injuries, which include double vision, her doctor has advised her not to work and that she not go home for at least several months. She has secured a place to stay with a co-worker, so Parrill said that has been taken care of.

“We also had a lady – a customer of ours – that was willing to pay her rent for her, and since that has been taken care of, she offered to pay to have one of her parents come and visit her.”

Zolotukhina said she isn’t sure her parents will be able to take the offer because of work commitments, although they are worried about her – much like the community here.

“I am a little surprised that so many people helped me,” said Zolotukhina, “but I am glad.”

Parrill reiterated that she was overwhelmed at the community support. She noted that some of the big-ticket items included in the auction were a one-week stay in the Virgin Islands, a portrait donated by local photographer and “tons” of gift certificates for restaurants and massages.

She also said she had lots of support from her friend Michelle Salisbury of Mind, Body and Sole, who donated, as well as helped with the recruitment of other businesses to make donations for the cause.

“I am overwhelmed with all the support we did get. With this economy … I thought we’d get $2,000 or $3,000 at most, and we doubled that. I am so very happy at what we made for her,” said Parrill.

Although Zolotukhina is staying in the U.S. a little longer than expected, and not exactly in the circumstances she had planned, she is hopeful to one day be 100 percent again.

“I feel better,” she said. “Every day is better and better.”