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Born in Kiev, her family moved to Brooklyn, New York when Yelena was in her early teens. Before emigrating to the United States, Yemchuk would spend her summers in a culturally significant recreational area in Kiev along the Dnieper River called Gidropark, which would later become the inspiration for her 2011 book by the same name. Yemchuk describes the area as a "Soviet version of Coney Island" during the summer when woods and waterfronts of the area are turned into a playground.

She studied at Parson School of Design in New York City and at ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, CA.



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