PORTLAND - You cantell from their faces, from the clothes they wear, many of the people gathering at the East Hill Foursquare Church in Gresham are Eastern Europeans who have come to America to for a new life.
They ve endured hardship and sorrow.
We start a new life from zero, said Yelena Goldanskaya as she walked into the church. From two words, 'hi' and 'bye,' we knew two words. And that s why we are all together like one.
They've gathered to support the Snegur family. A week and a half ago, 6-year-old Vinesa fell into the icy Clackamas River in the mountains 60 miles southeast of Portland.
Searchers found her little body last weekend.
I ve been thinking about this day and night. That s how scary and painful that was, said Irina Baranov as she walked to the church for Vinesa s memorial service.
We all expect our children will live long and happy lives. It s devastating when they do not.
I am a mother, I have two of my own kids, said Baranov. I can not imagine losing a child, it s very hard.
The pain spreads far beyond the Russian community. Don and Nancy Humphries don t know anyone from Eastern Europe, but they are members of the East Hill Foursquare Church and they couldn't stay away.
Well we feel like after all the publicity and everything we ve read, what a darling little girl. We just want to be here, Nancy said.
Around 2,000 people gathered for Vinesa s memorial service. Many here speak little or no English. But sorrow and mourning need no translation.
Inside the church, among his friends and family, Igor Snegur took the microphone. He explained how his youngest daughter would ask her parents what clothes she should wear, what shoes to put on. He cherishes the tender moments.
A translator repeated his words in English.
Every evening after prayers together as a family she would come to me and my wife and hug us, Igor Snegur said. And nearly every time she would ask that I would carry her up to her bedroom. I would do that as she would ask.
The Snegur family came to America looking for a new life. They found a community from the old country and the new, that will love and comfort them even on their darkest days.
Igor had tried to rescue his daughter when the accident happened, but she was quickly swept out of his reach in the fast-moving water. Then the family had to drive for 20 minutes before they could find a phone to call 911 for help because there was no cell service in the area.