Memorial for hit-and-run victims calls on faith to bring solace

Two women remembered fondly — "Ya tebya lyublyu"

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter



Tips sought

Investigators continue to seek tips in Sunday’s fatal hit-and-run and ask people with information to call the Vancouver Police Department at 360-487-7402. Crime Stoppers is offering up to $1,000 for any information that leads to an arrest in the case. Tipsters can remain anonymous. People can submit tips online at Crime Stoppers; text 823HELP followed by the tip to 274637; or call 503-823-4357.

Donate to the families

The two families have set up a joint donation account at Key Bank. Those wishing to donate can visit any branch and ask for the “Raisa and Irina Memorial Fund.”

BATTLE GROUND — Hundreds of people gathered here Saturday to grieve the passing of two women who were killed in last Sunday's hit-and-run collision in the VanMall neighborhood of Vancouver.

People quietly filed into the pews at Word of Grace Bible Church in Battle Ground, filling the large hall.

Irina Gardinant and Raisa Mosh's matching caskets were set before a stage that was lined with bouquets including two arrangements — one for each woman — that spelled out "Mom." Gardinant left behind a husband and 2-year-old daughter, while Mosh left behind a husband and four children, including the 12-year-old son who was with her at the time of the collision.

The two women were fatally injured when they were struck by a white pickup while crossing Vancouver Mall Drive around 8 p.m. on Jan. 19. The boy suffered minor injuries in the incident. The pickup drove away.

Photos showed the women's lives — their weddings, their celebrations, their travels and their time with family.

The opening speaker acknowledged that it was an unusual service. But rather than look at the very visible realities, that two women were tragically killed, the speaker urged the audience to look toward the invisible — to faith — to find solace.

A choir sang worship songs between tributes from people close to the deceased; most of the eulogies were translated from Russian to English. The speakers' names were not released, in recognition of their grief.

Gardinant's father was visibly shaken as he spoke about his daughter, whom he called his first gift from God. When she moved to America in August 2012, it was difficult for him to part with her. Still, she spoke with her parents for hours each day, in the mornings and evenings; more than usual the month before the crash, her father noted. On the evening of the crash, Gardinant told them she would be away for a little while at the baby shower and that she would talk with them when she returned.

Her father clasped his hand to his mouth as he returned to his seat in the front pew.

Gardinant's sister-in-law spoke about last Sunday. She said that Gardinant and Mosh left just five minutes before she did. She saw a white scarf on the road and didn't stop to think it might be one of theirs. She went to the emergency room with Gardinant's husband and they were told that Gardinant had a 1 percent chance of surviving her injuries. She later died in the hospital.

"Life is very frail and momentary," said Mosh's younger brother through a translator. He said that he was thankful for the diligent efforts of the Vancouver Police Department in solving the hit-and-run case. He relayed the news that two women had been arrested for alleged witness tampering.

"We don't have any bitterness toward them. We just want them to answer to the law," he said through the translator.

Vancouver police detectives' campaign to find those responsible has been complicated by suspects' and their acquaintances' being unwilling to speak with police.

On Friday, detectives arrested Linda Diann Smith, 63, and Kalista Andino Rubio, 21, in the 2800 block of Northwest Madrona Street, in connection with the case. Police said Smith faces two counts of witness tampering; Andino Rubio faces one count of witness tampering. The driver in the fatal collision remains at large.

One of Mosh's co-workers spoke at the memorial about the closeness of their friendship. When she wanted to learn how to say "I love you" in Russian, Mosh told her to say "yellow blue bus," a loose pronunciation of "ya tebya lyublyu."

"We said it every day to each other," she said.