Thursday, June 10, 2004

Julia Lack was shocked that several thousand people were in line at 3:30 a.m. yesterday outside the Capitol to pay tribute to Ronald Reagan. She was even more shocked that she was one of those in line.

“Twenty years ago, being a child in Russia, I never imagined I would be standing here,” the Dumfries resident said.

Born and raised in Moscow, Mrs. Lack grew up reviling Mr. Reagan, who called the Soviet Union an “evil empire” and helped bring down its communist regime.

“Names like … Reagan were not nice to us,” she said. “The way we thought about American leaders was just how [the Soviet government] fed it to us, basically.”

Yesterday, Mrs. Lack, 28, waited in the midmorning darkness with her husband, Marine Corps Maj. Robert Lack, and their three young children — and thousands of other mourners. The line snaked across the lawn between Third Street and the Reflecting Pool, and required people to wait up to four hours to view Mr. Reagan’s flag-draped casket in the Rotunda.

“This was the least we could do for all the things he has done for us,” she said. “If it wasn’t for him, maybe I wouldn’t have met my husband, because during the Cold War, Americans couldn’t go to the Soviet Union as easy.”

She met Maj. Lack when he visited Russia a decade ago, and she immigrated to the United States more than nine years ago to marry him. Maj. Lack, 38, is stationed at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va.

“When I got over here, things changed in my mind,” Mrs. Lack said. “This is the land of opportunity. If a person is born poor, that doesn’t mean you can’t get a job or an education.”

Mrs. Lack said the prospect of a four-hour line did not faze her because her upbringing in the Soviet Union conditioned her for long waits in long lines.

“I’m used to standing in lines. I don’t mind,” she said.

Mrs. Lack said Mr. Reagan’s pro-life stance on abortion was the main thing that won her admiration.

“He valued the lives of unborn children, and that is my view also,” she said. “He wasn’t just a president. He was a people’s president. He’s still very loved.”

Mrs. Lack felt that the opportunity to view Mr. Reagan’s casket was another indication of the 40th president’s love for the American people.

“Even in death, he still thought about us. He still belongs to the people,” she said.

At 7 a.m., the Lack family entered the Rotunda, where Mrs. Lack — the only child of Christian parents who still live in Russia — prayed.

“As Orthodox Christians, we believe life doesn’t end here. Perhaps [Mr. Reagan] was seeing all of us. We hope that he will pray for us up in heaven,” she said.

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