Tatjana Nehhozina, 31

E 72nd St at Third Ave

Tatjana Nehhozina, 31, E 72nd St at Third Ave

Tatjana Nehhozina, 31, E 72nd St at Third Ave Photograph: Jay Muhlin

Tatjana Nehhozina
Tatjana Nehhozina

Photograph: Jay Muhlin

What are you up to? I'm just coming back from my lunch break. I work at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, in the pathology department. I do breast cancer research.

So basically you're responsible for whether thousands of women live or die. It's a lot of pressure! I like what I do. We have a very large breast pathology team. Basically I'm the person who keeps the data straight. Fun! [Laughs]

Where are you from? I was born in Russia and grew up in Estonia.

Do you identify as Russian or Estonian or both? Tricky! If they were at war, I wouldn't know which to pick. I still have family in Russia, but Estonia feels close to me—the neatness there.

As opposed to untidy Russia? They're a little slobbish sometimes. I try to be tidy. Though having two kids and being a single mom, being neat is kind of tough.

Were your children born here? Yeah, they're Yankees. [Laughs] I came to New York in 2000 on my way to visit California, but I never actually made it. Instead I fell in love and got married.

Whoa. Yeah. And from there it went downhill. When we left their father, my boys were two and three. We stayed in a domestic-violence shelter for awhile.

He was abusing you? The children deserved better. I felt he didn't care for them—he ignored them. So we left.

You must have some superhuman strength. [Laughs] I don't know about that.

More from Tatjana

"Estonians, being [of] a small nation, felt that they were always under rule. They call the Russians 'occupants,' but when you think about it, one country was always ruling Estonia throughout history."

"In Estonia, everyone has insurance, maternity leave is three years—paid—and children get subsidies from the government until they're in college. I don't know what I'm doing here! [Laughs] But I don't want to go back and live with my parents—or start anew."

Tatjana says: "Milk! I cannot stand milk in this country! It tastes of plastic to me. In Estonia, I could have a glass of milk every single day—just a glass of milk. Here, if I don't have Oreos, I'm not sure I want it. [Laughs] Maybe I'm just a little prejudiced."

Kate Lowenstein