Only in America – One family – nearly 60 years of service

By Natela Cutter
DLIFLC Public Affairs


MONTEREY, Calif. – In the early years of DLIFLC, when it was called the Army Language School, Russian teachers were recruited from various communities around the country. One teacher who accepted the job offer to teach Russian, was Mr. Nikolai Marchenko, who traveled with his family to Monterey from New York by Greyhound bus. His wife, Mrs. Natalia Marchenko, with limited English skills, took on various jobs in the community, including packing fish on Cannery Row, and working as a dishwasher in the chow hall.

At her retirement party on Dec. 5, 2017, their daughter, Dr. Natalie Marchenko-Fryberger, recollected a family story her mother loved to tell:

“One morning, a full-bird colonel returned his breakfast because he did not like the way the eggs were cooked. The manager of the chow hall, instead of bringing him his new order, asked my mother to go “give it to the damn bird.”  My mother, with her 0+ English skills, walked around reading name tags.

When she couldn’t locate the name, she stood in front of the room, and in her thick accent loudly asked “Who is Mister Damn Bird?”  As expected, the entire room burst into laughter when a red-faced colonel stood up and identified himself.  My mother was scared to death.

She grew up in the Ukraine under Communism, then lived under Nazi occupation, and in a Labor Camp in Germany. She knew what it meant to insult an officer. However, this colonel stood next to her in front of everyone, took the plate, smiled, and asked her about her family and how she got to the U.S.

From that day forward, each time he ate at the chow hall, he would stop by the kitchen, and ask my mother how she was doing. This moment, to my mother, defined America. This was a unique place, where a full-bird colonel treats an immigrant dishwasher with respect and as a fellow human being.  She never wavered in her love for this country, and passed her patriotism on to her children through this story.”

Fryberger retired for a second time from DLIFLC Tuesday, after 34 years of service. She started working at the Institute as a Russian instructor in 1979, just three years after her father retired from his teaching position following his 25 year old career. Together, they served almost 60 years.

Dr. Fryberger remembers her first visits to DLI when she was five years old, going to class with her father and talking in Russian to the service members who were awed by a little girl, born in the U.S. but who spoke fluent Russian.

“These are the best memories of my childhood, and I am proud to have grown up at DLI and been able to give back, twice now,” she said.  Fryberger came out of retirement back to DLIFLC two years ago to use  her knowledge and expertise to stand up the Center for Leadership Development, an organization that will train faculty and staff on leadership skills and prepare future leaders of the Institute.

DLIFLC provides resident instruction in 17 languages at the Presidio of Monterey, California, with the capacity to instruct another 65 languages in Washington, D.C. The Institute has graduated more than 220,000 linguists since 1941.

In addition, multiple language training detachments exists at sites in the U.S., Europe, Hawaii and Korea, spanning all the U.S. geographic combatant commands in support of the total force.

Posted Date: 25 January 2018