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Esther Svidersky smiles a little Friday as she recalls her "lovely" and "funny" daughter, Anna. (MIKE SALSBURY/The Columbian)
Elisabeth, 12, and Peter, 19, Svidersky talk about their sister, Anna in their home Friday. A banner made by Anna's friends hangs behind them. (MIKE SALSBURY/The Columbian)
Family: Fallen teen was beautiful, funny, caring

Friday, April 28, 2006


The last day of life started pretty normally for Anna Esther Svidersky.

Her 12-year-old sister, Elisabeth, walked into her room to switch off her off her oldest sister's alarm clock.

"She slept through her alarm clock all the time," she said Friday, cradling "Sweets," Anna's pet turtle.

Anna Svidersky, 17, died April 20 after a man walked into the Andresen Road McDonald's where she worked and stabbed her. The knife pierced her side and hit her heart. She died at Portland's Legacy Emanuel Hospital that night.

Shortly before Anna left to start her 2-9 p.m. shift that day, her mother asked if she needed a ride to work.

"No mom, I'm going to take the bus, don't worry about me," Anna said.

After nearly 20 years in the United States, Esther Svidersky still speaks with a thick Russian accent. She often stops to ask one of her children in Russian for the English translation of what she is saying.

Her last conversation with her daughter was typical between teens and parents.

"Mom, can you come pick me up?" Anna's cheery voice said over the phone.

Esther said she would be there at the end of Anna's shift.

"She was so happy," Esther said.

Esther and Elisabeth Svidersky arrived at about 9 p.m. to find McDonald's swarming with police cars.

"When I came, it was too late," Esther said.

Elisabeth thought there had been a robbery.

Once the police found out who Esther was, they told her that her daughter had been stabbed and taken to the hospital. As they got ready to go to Portland's Legacy Emanuel Hospital, they learned Anna had died.

"I couldn't cry because I can't believe," Esther said, shaking her head at the memory.

The sadness turns to a wide smile when she recalled the day her second child and first daughter was born in Russia.

"She was born very fast," Esther said. "She had fat cheeks."

Anna was not quite 2 years old when the family moved to California. Esther's divorce from Andrew Svidersky led the family to move to Vancouver in 2001. Esther has several relatives in Vancouver.

Anna's brother, Peter, 19, was just a year older than Anna. After being held back in school, Peter was in the same grade. "I don't like your piercing, but I still love you anyway."

Anna and Peter were often co-conspirators. When they were about 8 and 9 years old, they would tear around their Sacramento, Calif., apartment complex switching the electricity off and on at the fuse boxes.

Esther pulled out a written citation Anna received in elementary school. It reprimanded the girl for "disrupting class, singing/dancing not doing her work."

"I was very mad," Esther said of the day she got the note. "But now?" Her voice trailed off, and she shrugged.

Esther also shrugged at the memory of the day Anna came home with a lip piercing.

"I had said, 'Please Anna, don't do that,'" Esther said.

Even so, Esther told Anna, "I don't like your piercing, but I still love you anyway."

Christina Svidersky, 16, last saw her sister about two days before her death. It was fairly typical exchange; Anna came into her room to borrow some eye shadow.

Not that she needed it.

"She was very beautiful," Christina said.

Anna and Peter let people believe they were twins and plotted to tell everyone the truth on graduation day. Instead of looking forward to what is a milestone in most teens' lives, Peter said, "I don't know if I am going to graduate or not this year."

Although he is able to switch from speaking Russian to English quickly, Peter sounds like a typical American teen. His speech is liberally sprinkled with "dudes."

And he remains a loyal brother as he proudly talks about how Anna was chosen for Homecoming Court last fall. Her best friend, Christina Price, 17, was also on the court.

"Personally, I think she should have been Homecoming Queen," Peter said.

The honor ended up going to a foreign exchange student. Anna was actually glad, Peter said. She had worried about how it would affect her friendship with Christina if one of them were chosen queen.

"I don't know how to thank everybody."

That was how Anna was, always thinking of others, her family said. When she cut several inches off her hair, she made sure the shorn locks were donated to a charity that makes wigs for children who have lost their hair from cancer treatment. For about the last year, she had been sending $24 a month to a Vietnamese girl through the Christian Children's Fund.

Her generosity has been magnified by those left behind. At last count, McDonald's has raised $85,000 through sales, donated and matching donations.

Esther is overwhelmed by the support.

"I don't know how to thank everybody," she said.

While some of the money has gone for funeral expenses, Esther said she's not sure what will be done with the rest of the money.

"My brain is flooded," she said. "I can't think it's real."

"She's in such a good place right now."

Anna was thinking of others, her family and her best friend, even after she was mortally wounded.

One of Anna's co-workers tried to keep her talking until help arrived. He said her last words were: "Tell my family that I love them. Tell Christina that everything will be all right."

Esther is not angry at the man, David Barton Sullivan, accused of taking her daughter's life.

"He's not healthy," she said. "You can't change anything. I'm very sad. I'm not angry at him."

Anna would have turned 18 on April 26. Esther had already purchased a card, a bucolic setting painted on cardboard with an old car in the foreground.

Part of her birthday present was going to be money to help Anna buy a car. She had been working and saving money for a car and college. Anna had toyed with the idea of living in California with her father but wasn't getting along with him at the time of her death, her sister Christina said. Their father, Andrew, traveled to Vancouver for the funeral.

Instead of family meal and cake on Anna's birthday, the family visited her grave and added some yellow flowers, a traditional Russian symbol of mourning. Among the flowers was a birthday tiara.

Christina Svidersky said she's stopped praying to bring her sister back and finds comfort in the belief she will see her again someday.

"She's in such a good place right now," she said.

KELLY ADAMS covers law enforcement for The Columbian. Contact her at: 360-759-8016 or

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