What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time?

Bylo, jest, bedzie. These words were stitched into my six-year-old mind as Babushka’s deft fingers stitched hems into shirtsleeves, needle pausing in midair to conjugate Polish verbs for me, to translate them into my native Russian and Ukrainian. At that sunlit sewing table, my love for languages was born. I was fascinated by their power to unite people, as mutual knowledge of Russian unified my Ukrainian, Polish, and German relatives at the dinner table every New Year’s Eve.

I became acquainted with English upon starting sixth grade in America with no knowledge of it. Whenever the onslaught of unfamiliar phrases threatened to overwhelm me, I remembered the sewing table, the steady movement of babushka’s needle, the rhythmic cadence of her words. I took deep breaths and translated words as her needle made stitches, into the cloth from one side, out from the other. English to Russian. Russian to English. Two sides, one cloth. Two words, one meaning. Once English was conquered, I developed an appetite for French.

Churning out lists of irregular verbs was my preferred pastime. Something about the fluid, vowel-rich phonology, the euphonious curvature of the words provided a type of aesthetic fulfillment found nowhere else. At an...

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