Starting a new life in the US, Tatyana McFadden relied on one Russian phrase. “Ya sama,” she would say. “Ya sama.”
It was her all-purpose mantra. It means, emphatically, “I can do it myself.”
Whatever activity it was, Tatyana didn’t give a second thought to the spina bifida that had atrophied her legs. Ya sama.
When she saw girls in her neighborhood in Ellicott City, Md., jumping rope, she climbed out of her wheelchair and jumped on her hands. Ya sama.
“Everything I introduced her to was, ‘ya sama, ya sama,’ ” said her mother, Deborah McFadden, who had adopted the anemic 6-year-old from an orphanage in St. Petersburg, Russia. “I knew she loved life. It was just about how was I going to get her strong and keep her alive.”
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