2Life resident and staff member author a rewarding relationship
Here at 2Life, even a kitchen renovation can lead to an enlightening creative collaboration. That was the case for Nora Raikh, a resident at Ulin House in Brighton, and Ana Impellizeri, the capital projects manager at 2Life. What started as a construction project ended with a published children’s book written by Nora and illustrated by Ana.
It all started when Ana was preparing her crew to start demolishing Nora’s cabinets and make way for a shiny new ADA-compliant kitchen. She noticed a stack of papers on a table and asked Nora what it was.
“Nora told me it was a children’s story that she had written to occupy herself during COVID,” Ana recalls. “She said she would love to have her story illustrated.” Ana, who studied architecture and fine arts, was intrigued and shared with Nora some photos of a mural she had painted.
“I was charmed,” Nora says, noting that she loved the fairy tale style of Ana’s artwork and felt it was perfect for the project. With that encouragement, Ana set to work sketching the characters and scenes in Nora’s book, Small Secret of a Big House.
Working on her lunch breaks and over weekends, Ana created a series of colorful illustrations, bringing Nora’s characters to life. The book combines elements of folktales from Nora’s native Russia with aspects of her life at an imaginary Ulin House. There are mischievous, elf-like “Brownies,” industrious mice, a kitten separated from her mother, and much more in the fanciful tale.
“Through this process, I came to learn a lot about Nora and her life,” Ana recalls, noting that she learned Nora also uses her writing skills to advocate for environmental and accessibility issues. “It opened up for me a new way of seeing our residents and the value of living in community. I realized that reaching out to someone else can have a big impact.”
Once the book was complete, Gina Plata, 2Life’s chief of community life, saw to it that the book was printed and bound. Then she and her staff arranged a book reading and signing event in December at the 2Life Brighton campus. Given its timing around the holidays, Nora requested that Santa be in attendance. 2Life’s own Bob Sharrett, a certified Santa Claus, did the honors.
“Nora was so proud and happy — just radiant,” Ana says of the event, noting that Nora is continuing to write children’s stories.
“I love Ana; she is very nice,” Nora says, noting that she would welcome future collaborations with her newfound illustrator.
For her part, Ana says the experience has given her a new appreciation for 2Life’s unique model. “That’s the work we do. We don’t just provide a home; we create a community.”