Erena Dina Briggs, 101, passed away peacefully at home in Citrus Springs, Florida, on Jan. 10, 2024.
Born Dec. 5, 1922, in Stephanovka, Ukraine, to Peter and Natasha Vasilyava, as a young child Briggs was exiled to Siberia by Stalin, where she faced starvation and inhumane conditions.
After escaping with her parents, she returned to Kyiv where she studied chemistry at Kyiv University. Her studies were interrupted by World War II as she was taken to Germany as a prisoner of war. Unable to return home to Kyiv after the war, Briggs immigrated to the United States and finally settled in Riverdale. Here, she raised her family, and continued her studies, earning a bachelor’s degree from Hunter College, and a master’s degree in linguistics from Fordham University.
In recognition of her scholarship, she was named a National Defense Fellow by the federal government and awarded a National Defense Fellowship in Eastern European Studies by the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. She later studied at the University of Heidelberg, and the Sorbonne in Paris.
An amazing polyglot — speaking seven languages — and superb teacher, she taught French, German, Russian, and Latin at The Riverdale Country School for 20 years. She was respected and loved by students and parents alike.
She was a lover of art, literature, music, and gardening. She tried to create beauty where there was none. She would beautify neglected land, and plant flowers or trees for all to enjoy, including several areas near her home near 246th Street and Henry Hudson Parkway. Throughout her life, she was guided by a faith in God.
She is survived by her three children, Natasha, Thomas and Edward; her grandchildren, Erena, Everett, Anastasia, John, Alison and Nina; and great grandchildren, Amber and Daniel. She was preceded in death by her husband Herbert S. Briggs, and son-in-law Everett H. Pearsall, III.
This amazing and vibrant woman will be dearly missed. Funeral was private and interment was at Fero Memorial Gardens, Beverly Hills, Florida. Condolences may be left at DignityMemorial.com