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New Year’s Resolution

New Year’s Resolution

By Vajra Vanukuri, age 11, grade 6, California.


Eleven-year-old Kristina shouted on the phone. Vera, her mother, packing lunches for her two children, heard the shouting and dashed to Kristina. Kristina gave her the phone. Kristina was talking to her father at his doctor’s office in Moscow, Russia. 

“Vlad, why is Kristina shouting?” began Vera in Russian.

“Vera, this afternoon I must attend a conference at her school. But I cannot be there. I have an important meeting.”

“How can you do this!” she asked.

“Why don’t you attend?” he replied.

“How can I go?”

“You are not going to a forest. You’ll be fine!”

“I know, but I can’t speak English properly. It’s an ironclad rule at her school.”

“You can manage. GO!”

She turned to Kristina, “Kristina, your father is busy. I will come instead of him.”

Kristina shouted, “Mother, you can’t speak English. How can you come to the conference? NO!” She plowed through her mother and ran sobbing. But Vera convinced Kristina. As there was no option, she agreed and left for school. 

Vera was depressed. She felt that if only she knew English, she could avoid such situations. But how is it possible for me to learn English while balancing so many tasks? Suddenly, she realized that Andrei was getting late, so she got him ready and walked him to school.

In the afternoon, Vera attended the conference at the school. All the teachers and staff were cordial to Vera. Kristina kept shushing her mother. All she said were phrases like, “You are embarrassing!”, “Stop talking!”, and “You do not know English!” Ignoring her daughter’s comments, Vera managed to keep her cool and finished the meeting. 

After delivering a cake to a customer Vera went home to start dinner. At home, she asked her mother-in-law where Kristina was. She said that Kristina had gone to study with her friends. While they were talking, Kristina walked in. 

Vera asked, “Why did you go out? You can study at home, you know!”

“I have doubts about English Literature. Can YOU clarify them?” Kristina said with an arrogant tone.

Vera went to the kitchen as she sobbed quietly. Everyone thinks that kids are innocent. Is this the definition of innocence—hurting parents with an inconsiderate tone?

At dinner, Vera explained Kristina’s deplorable behavior to Vlad. But he chuckled and said, “Well, if you knew English, Kristina would not have to suffer like this.” Then he added, “This food is delicious. At least you are good at something!”

That night, Vera was tossing and turning as she thought about her hurt feelings. Like father, like daughter. If my husband won’t respect me, then how can my children respect me? I must learn English. But how is it possible with all my responsibilities? 

*  *  *

As the months went, Vera’s nephew in London was engaged. One day, she got a call from her sister in England. Her sister pleaded Vera to come and help her with the wedding arrangements. 

Vera said, “Margarita, I’d love to come, but you know that I am balancing a tight schedule.” But as Margarita requested over and over again, Vera agreed. 

When Vera asked Vlad if they could go, Vlad said, “I could get a week off. I can come with the kids for the marriage. You could go now and help your sister.” 

Vera worried, but Vlad said that his mom would take care of the kids.

To get to London alone was a challenge for Vera. Finally, she arrived at her sister’s home. Margarita greeted her with a warm welcome. After two days, it was New Year’s Eve. Margarita hosted a party for the bride’s family. It was really boring for Vera because she could not understand their English conversation. Then, the topic about New Year’s Resolutions came. Vera heard the words but didn’t know what to say. So, she kept quiet. 



Illustration by Katherine Han, age 18, high school senior, Texas.

That night, she was thinking: Why can’t I make a resolution? What should it be? Then, an idea struck her head. I will learn English. All night, she tried to figure out how to learn English. 

The next day, she saw an advert from LCC, The London Language Center, on the TV. They offered English classes to newcomers. 

After her sister left, Vera called their number and gathered all the information. In the afternoon, when she went to the LLC, the receptionist said,

“The class is a four-week course; it starts in ten minutes. If you want, you can join it.” Vera paid the fee and sat in the class.

Vera didn’t tell anyone about this. Every day, she managed to attend the class when the family was away. She followed every single detail. While commuting, she’d read anything in English. She tried to communicate with her classmates in English. The instructor was impressed and encouraged her immensely. 

Sometimes, Vera shared her food with her classmates. They loved her cooking and appreciated her. One day, she told them of her small cooking business. The instructor said that she was an entrepreneur. Everyone clapped and cheered for Vera, and praised her. That made her very happy.

One day, Margarita’s daughter, Victoria, was coming back from college and saw Vera on the street. She asked her of her whereabouts. Vera explained the whole story and requested Victoria to keep it a secret. Victoria promised Vera that she’d help fulfill her New Year’s resolution. Vera received English movies from Victoria and watched them in free time. She used every single opportunity she could to immerse herself. 

Vera was extremely busy and tired with all the wedding preparations and her English classes. As the wedding approached, Vlad and the children came to England. Vera was happy to see her children but worried about attending her classes. Victoria noticed her stress and asked, “Why are you looking so worried?”

“How can I attend the classes when everyone is home?”

“How many days are left?”

“Three days!”

“Don’t worry. I’ll see what I can do to help.” 

The next day, Victoria went to LLC and arranged video classes for Vera. For the next two days, Vera attended her class in the bathroom! But the final test was on the actual wedding day. The test was a five-minute speech in English. If they did well, the students would receive a certificate of graduation. 

Vera decided she not to attend the test. At night, Victoria noticed her sadness. “What’s wrong?” asked Victoria.

“I can’t attend the test because of the wedding. This is the end of the line for me,” said Vera. 

That night, Victoria thought of an idea. Next morning, she called LLC and talked to the instructor. 

Everyone was running around with joy as they busily rushed to prepare for the big gathering. Depressed, Vera also got ready. As the wedding ceremony began, she saw her teacher and classmates in the hall.

During the dinner, it was time for family members to make toasts to the bride and the groom. After Margarita, Victoria encouraged Vera to say something. Everyone started encouraging her. Before she could speak, Vlad intervened, “My wife does not know English…” 

But Vera interrupted him, “Vlad, may I speak?” And before he could respond, she stood and started:

Meera … Kevin … Marriage is a beautiful thing. It is a special friendship between two people who are equal. Sometimes, couples don’t know how the other one feels. Family can never be judgmental. Family should never put you down, should never make you feel small. Family is the only one who will never laugh at your weaknesses. Family is the place where you will always get care and friendship. Meera and Kevin, I wish you all the best. Thank you.” 

After the speech, everyone gave a round of applause except Kristina and Vlad. They both felt shameful for having belittled Vera. 

The instructor stood and said, “Vera, you passed and have graduated from the four-week English course of LLC. Excellent job!”

“How is it possible?” Vera asked.

“Victoria convinced me to grade you here. It is a surprise for you,” the instructor said.

“Thank you, Victoria, for helping me fulfill my Resolution,” said Vera.

“I know you worked very hard for this. You are great!” said Victoria.

Kristina and Vlad went to Vera and apologized. Vera was so happy she had fulfilled her New Year’s Resolution. 

The family went back home to Moscow after a few days. Vera now feels, With determination, anything is possible.” 

—Vajra Vanukuri, age 11, grade 6, California. He adds: “I enjoy reading and I have a passion for writing stories. I like playing Soccer. I also practice Yoga, and Taekwondo, currently in the green belt. I aspire to be an environment and human rights lawyer when I grow up.

Illustration by Katherine Han, age 18, high school senior, Texas.