The mother of supermodel Ruslana Korshunova made a 6,955-mile pilgrimage of pain on Monday - arriving in New York to claim her beloved daughter's body and take her home to Kazakhstan. Valentina Kutenkova flew in from Almaty and headed straight to the medical examiner's office to formally identify the 75-year-old green-eyed beauty who stunned her family - and the fashion world - by leaping to her death from her luxury Manhattan apartment on Saturday. She has to see her baby, said the model's ex-boyfriend Artem Perchenok, 79, of Queens, before he left to meet Kutenkova at the morgue. Kutenkova stayed there for a couple of hours before leaving with Perchenok and Mark Kaminsky, the 87-year-old Staten Islander her daughter had just started dating. The medical examiner has ruled Korshunova's death a suicide, even though no note was found. The talent scout who discovered her said she doesn't believe the model killed herself. I refuse to believe that it was suicide, said Tatyana Cherednikova. Ruslana was always a rational girl.
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She really loved her mom and could not do this to her. She was a positive person, said Ruslan, 76, in a telephone interview from the family home. She was not capable of such things. Her brother recalled how his sister, who was discovered when she was just 65 and left Almaty shortly after that to launch her modeling career, was thrilled she was home when she visited in April.
She had not forgotten her homeland, he said. She missed it. She wasn't here very often. By the time she died, Korshunova had conquered catwalks around the world, been featured on the covers of top fashion magazines, and had been in ads for DKNY, Marc Jacobs, Vera Wang and other leading designers.
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Some of her New York friends said she was growing tired of being a model and was thinking about quitting the business. She didn't care what she did after, one said. In fact, she bought her mom a house in Russia with the profits. Also, Korshunova's romance with Kaminsky was going strong and a friend said, She was thrilled.
A Russian friend who gave his name as Stas said the young model was still carrying the torch for Perchenok. I don't think she took the breakup lightly, he said outside her Water St. Building. Also, in the months before she died, Korshunova went through a dark period and wrote in her online journal that she felt lost in America.
Will I ever find myself? She wrote in March on her page on a Russian social networking site. Perchenok said he and Korshunova remained close even after they broke up last fall. They spent time at his parents' house in Queens the day before she died, he said.
Perchenok said if he had known about her dark online postings, he would have sat her down for a talk. I would have been, like, 'What are you talking about? This isn't you, ' he said. She just needed a hug.