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Siberian-born Natasha Lagmay brought her years of transportation experience to Young Brothers after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

By Hilary Reeves

On the banks of western Siberia’s mammoth Ob River, transportation plays a vital role in the economic stability of the region – and no one knows that better than Natasha Lagmay.

Lagmay, regulatory financial analyst at Young Brothers, Limited, grew up in the port city of Novosibirsk, the third most populous city in Russia and the unofficial “Capital of Siberia.” There, on the Ob, she began her career working for what was then a flourishing port authority.

“I was born and raised in Novosibirsk,” Lagmay said. “My mother worked for the city, and my father was and still is a chemistry professor at the state university.”

Lagmay’s family was exiled to Siberia after her grandfather, a priest in the Russian Orthodox Church, refused to turn from religion in favor of the Communist regime. Still, Lagmay enjoyed a prosperous childhood, attending a prestigious educational institution from grade school through high school before enrolling at the Novosibirsk State Academy of Water Transportation Engineering, where she graduated in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science degree in the field of water transport economics and management with focus on water transport organization and planning.

“With my college degree, I was hired as a transport analyst for the Novosibirsk port authority,” Lagmay said. “My responsibilities were wide-ranging and included cost accounting, customer service, marketing, and logistics.”

The Ob, one of western Siberia’s principal means of transportation, is navigable for about 190 days of the year on its upper reaches and for 150 on its lower. Both imports and exports are shipped along the river. Most goods are transported to and from it along the northern sea route, which stretches across the Arctic. The Trans-Siberian Railway crosses the upper Ob at Novosibirsk.

Both industry and agriculture have been intensively developed in the Ob basin. Novosibirsk is a major industrial and manufacturing center. The steppe zone, in the southern Ob basin, is the major producer of spring wheat in Russia. The west Siberian oil and gas fields, located in the taiga and tundra zones of the middle and lower Ob, are most important to Russia, contributing about two-thirds of the country’s crude oil and natural gas output

“I worked in Novosibirsk for five years until the Russian economy imploded as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union,” Lagmay explained. “This resulted in the shut-down of the port authority. Along with so many others, I was laid off from my job.”

Lagmay said life in Siberia quickly became intolerable. Runaway inflation and unemployment plagued the entire Russian economy.

“I remember standing in line for hours just to get one liter of milk,” she said. “In order to survive, my mother and I repaired factory-second shoes and sold them on the black market.”

Disillusioned, Lagmay began to seek opportunities outside of Russia.

“I was determined to better my education,” she said. “With the help of friends already living in Hawaii, I moved to Kaua’i and took classes at Kaua’i Community College to better my English while working full-time as a housekeeper at various hotels and vacation rentals.”

Lagmay made the move from Russia to Hawaii with her 13-year-old-daughter Dasha.

“Dasha and I had a difficult time adjusting to the drastic cultural change, but we eventually embraced the warm, laid-back lifestyle of Hawaii,” she said. “Five years after our move, I brought my mother, Vera, to live with us.”

Young Brothers hired Lagmay 10 years ago.

“It was always my dream to work at Young Brothers, since the work was very similar to what I did in Russia,” she said.

In 2005, Lagmay was accepted in the Neighbor Island Masters of Business Administration Program in the Shidler College of Business at the University of Hawaii. She graduated with her MBA in 2008. Dasha also graduated  in 2008, from Kaua’I High School. She then attended and graduated from the University of Hawaii with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.

“I am proud to say that Dasha will be attending the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaii this fall,” Lagmay said.

In addition to Lagmay’s responsibilities as Young Brothers’ regulatory financial analyst, she is a spokesperson for the Saltchuk Hawaii Giving Committee.

“I am passionate about giving because I greatly benefited from the generosity of others,” she said. “I was a two-time recipient of the Young Brothers/Hawaiian Tug & Barge Scholarship Fund for the Executive-Neighbor Island MBA program. I have always been inspired by the generosity of individuals and companies, such as Saltchuk and Jay Shidler, who make such a great impact on the lives of so many people, including myself. I feel that having once benefited from the charitable generosity of others, it is now my turn to pay forward.  Participating in the Saltchuk Hawaii Giving Committee is one way of accomplishing that.”

Lagmay also serves on the board of three organizations: the Shidler College of Business Alumni Association; Women in Transportation Services (finance chair); and the Historic Hawaii Foundation. She is also a mentor for four students who are enrolled in the Shidler College of Business and is very excited about a new responsibility that she will be undertaking as an instructor for an upper-level business course at the University in the fall.

“In the future, I would like to continue in all of what I am currently doing, but taking a greater leadership role,” said Lagmay. “I am always open to new opportunities and challenges.”

Lagmay said she has traveled back to Novosibirsk, but its glittery wealth is almost unrecognizable. She said she will continue to develop herself, both personally and professionally, in her new country.

“I am still a relatively new immigrant to the United States and Hawaii, and I would like to continue to learn about the respective histories of our country and state,” she said. “Understanding the culture and values of the United States and Hawaii will be instrumental in my personal and professional development.”