Toddler in airport window encapsulates Russia plane tragedy
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) — Ten-month-old Darina Gromova presses her soft, barely-toddler hands on the window of an airport terminal. "The main passenger," her mother's comment reads, followed by smiley faces.
Tender images like this one, posted on social networks by Russian vacationers in Egypt, mark the last public record of their lives. Darina and her parents were among 224 people killed Saturday when their plane disintegrated in midair.
One couple had just celebrated their anniversary. One young man flew to Sharm el-Sheikh to propose to his bride. At least three victims marked birthdays during their trip, according to postings on Russian network VKontakte, Instagram and other sites.
Relatives, friends and colleagues have piled bouquets and mementoes at St. Petersburg's Pulkovo Airport, where the plane had been expected to land. Others are paying homage at the historical city's graceful Palace Square, where photos of victims dangle from a fence.
Visitors to the mourning sites largely keep to themselves, too pained or pensive to share stories of their loved ones now lost.
Darina Gromova was the accident's youngest victim. She stands on a windowsill, leaning on an airport window transfixed by planes below, in a photo her mother Tatyana posted from Pulkovo Airport before they left.
In their wedding video, posted by a friend on VKontakte, Tatyana and Alexei Gromov embrace repeatedly — on a lakeshore, in a meadow, on a swing. He grins after straightening his tie. She shows off her dress. Her eyes fill with tears of emotion after they exchange their vows. They dance with family and friends.
Their daughter Anastasia was born in December. Her grandmother, Elena Gromova, told Russian news site Life News 78 that she offered to keep the baby home for the Egypt trip, but her parents said no.
"They wanted to take the child with them, to let her splash her feet in the sea," Gromova was quoted as saying.
While the image of Anastasia and other victims have circulated widely online, The Associated Press doesn't publish pictures from social networks without explicit permission to do so.
Three-year-old Anastasia Sheina, safe in her father's arms, gazes down at her mother's camera lens as they board the plane meant to take them home.
"Hi St. Petersburg, goodbye Egypt. We're going home." Olga Sheina posted those words beneath the photo of her daughter and husband Yuri on VKontakte. Anastasia has one arm around her father's neck as they mount the stairs to the plane.
Elena Rodina and Alexander Kotov were married exactly a year ago. Marking their anniversary in Egypt, they posted photos online of the sea, the beach, their hotel. The day after the crash, Rodina would have turned 35.
Russian tourist Victoria Sevryukova, 24, posted pictures on Instagram. Beneath are the words:
"You stand on the seashore, you think you are free and your life has just begun."
Angela Charlton reported from Paris. Mstislav Chernov contributed to this report from Moscow.