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Getting to Know ... Gelena Braslavsky

This former vegetarian is about to embark on a Peace Corps mission to Bulgaria.

In terms of popularity, Bulgaria is one of the lesser-known European countries.

Its cultural identity isn’t firmly lodged into American pop culture like its continental neighbors Italy, France and England. But Arlingtonian Gelena Braslavsky is in the southeastern European country right now. She left for Bulgaria last week to begin a volunteer mission for the Peace Corps.

In an interview with the Arlington Connection a few days before her departure, Braslavsky talked about why she moved to Arlington, why she is now in Bulgaria and why she has an affinity for the comic genius of Mel Brooks.

Arlington Connection: How long did you live in Arlington? Where did you grow up?

Gelena Braslavsky: I lived in Arlington for four years, since my sophomore year of college. I grew up in Kishinev, Moldova and moved to Connecticut when I was 9, with my family.

AC: What brought you to Arlington?

GB: I moved to Arlington because on-campus housing was too expensive at [the George Washington University] and Arlington was close, safe and affordable.

AC: Why did you decide to join the Peace Corps?

GB: I've wanted to join the Peace Corps ever since I was a little girl and found out what "Corporate America" meant. Now it's a form of escapism that utilizes the philosophy that freedom means nothing left to lose. Plus it's a really nice way to help make world peace a reality.

AC: Where are you going in Bulgaria? What are you going to be doing there?

GB: God (not even the Peace Corps office) only knows where I'll be stationed in Bulgaria. But in a country the size of Tennessee, it's not a huge concern.

AC: Have you ever been to Bulgaria? What are you looking forward to doing or seeing when you get there?

GB: I've never been to Bulgaria but I hear the people are the friendliest in the former Soviet Union.

AC: Where did you go to school? When did you graduate?

GB: I graduated from [George Washington] in December 2004 with a Russian Literature major and French Literature minor.

AC: Do you have any family in Arlington? If not, where is your family from?

GB: My mom used to live in Arlington but is now in Maryland.

AC: Do you have any special interests or hobbies?

GB: I paint with oils, sing Jazz, dance ballroom (mostly Mambo), write poetry and am generally interested in Eastern philosophy.

AC: What is your favorite restaurant in Arlington?

GB: I'm a huge fan of TNR Cafe in Court House. If you have a chance to try their Beef with Tomatoes it'll make a carnivore out of you. (I used to be a vegetarian.).

AC: What is your favorite movie? Why?

GB: Hmm, [my] favorite movie would have to be Mel Brooks' History of the World Part I because it has it all and the line: "People of Israel, I bring you these fifteen, *crash*, Oy...Ten Commandments!"

AC: What is your favorite part of Arlington? Is there any place that you really enjoyed going?

GB: Does Roosevelt Island count as part of Arlington? If not, then Wilson Boulevard because you can walk that thing all the way to Ballston.

AC: When you were younger what did you want to be when you grew up?

GB: When I was little I wanted to be a rocket scientist because the humanities seemed too obvious a choice.

AC: If you could take a road trip anywhere right now, where would you go? (Other than Bulgaria)

GB: France, no question about it. I'm in love with that country. But Bulgaria is nice too.

AC: What will you miss the most about Arlington and about the U.S. in general?

GB: This is sad, but I'll miss Chinese food the most. It's just not the same in Europe.