HAWAII AT WORK
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Misha Roytman, trained as a civil engineer in his homeland of Moldova, is a maintenance worker and the resident security manager at Sacred Hearts Academy in Kaimuki. Above, Roytman last week returned a ladder to the school's tool shed.
Big Man on Campus
Misha Roytman helps keep Sacred Hearts Academy in Kaimuki sound and secure
Title: Maintenance worker and resident security manager at Sacred Hearts Academy
Job: Helps with maintenance, directs school traffic in the mornings and afternoons, and monitors security after regular school hours
Misha Roytman has been a maintenance and security worker at Sacred Hearts Academy since 1998, but little could he have imagined years earlier that he would find himself in such a role.
Roytman came to Hawaii in 1993 to get away from violence in his homeland, Moldova, a former Soviet republic near the Black Sea that had a civil war after the collapse of the Soviet Union. He chose Hawaii because his daughter lived here, and after a series of jobs he was hired by the Catholic girls school, which has about 1,100 students and 100 teachers on a city block in Kaimuki.
In Moldova, Roytman was drafted by the Soviet army and served for three years in Siberia. He then earned a degree in civil engineering from the Polytechnic Institute of Chisinau, in Moldova, which led in 1969 to employment at a government design institute. Working his way up in the organization, he eventually became supervisor of more than 100 engineers, designing public buildings such as hospitals, schools, and movie theaters.
At Sacred Hearts, Roytman has become well known taking care of any type of repair work that needs to be done, and for his protective and fatherly attitude toward the students, who call him "Mr. Misha."
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Roytman showed a picture of himself taken in 1961 when he was in the Soviet military.
Roytman credits -- and expresses great gratitude toward -- the school's principal, Betty White, for hiring him in the first place, and for helping make it possible for him and his wife, Zhanna, to put their two children through medical school.
Their daughter, Marina Roytman, is a doctor of internal medicine at Queen's Medical Center, and their son, Timur, is in residency in St. Louis specializing in urologic surgery.
Zhanna works as a chemist for the state Department of Health,
Roytman last week said his mother-in-law, Sophia Goykhman, a retired doctor, also lives here, in Pearl City; he has no other living family.
"I grew up without a father, because he was killed in the beginning of the war (World War II); he never saw me," he said. "My mother's grave is in Moldova. I have no family back there anymore. I am the single son -- the best one and the worst one."
Roytman, 65, also explained that when he first came to America, he could not speak English.
"We came with zero English when I came to the United States," he said, "and now I have zero point one."
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Misha Roytman keeps a careful eye out as maintenance worker and resident security manager at Sacred Hearts Academy. Last week he ascended a stairway at the school as students changed classes. Many of them greeted him as they passed, calling him "Mr. Misha."
What is your job title at Sacred Hearts Academy?
Misha Roytman: Maintenance (worker) and resident manager of security.
Q: So you live on the campus?
A: Yes, I live on campus, and my maintenance hours are from 6:30 to 3 o'clock, and after hours, 24 hours available for any calls.
Q: What would be an after-hours-type of call?
A: First of all, they're using facilities, like gym, chapel, conference room or auditorium. I have to open to take care of the lights, and take care of the security, and then to lock up (when they're done).
Q: How long have you been working at the school?
A: From 1998.
Q: How did you get the job?
A: I went through the competitions. There was many applications, and they have chosen me.
Q: What were you doing before you joined the Sacred Hearts?
Q: In United States?
Q: I was (state) Department of Health emergency hire, in chemistry lab.
Q: You have some sort of European accent. Where are you from and how did you end up in Hawaii?
A: I am from the former Soviet Union, and my daughter married a guy from Maui -- this is the reason No. 2.
The reason No. 1 was a civil war in the former Soviet Union, and I am from one of the 16 former republics -- the Republic of Moldova -- which is located near the Black Sea, near Ukraine, Romania ... excellent red wine (in Moldova). The queen of England used to buy cabernet from Moldova.
Q: So there was fighting in Moldova?
A: Yes, there was fighting in Moldova. The local people throw the Russians out, because they wanted to become an independent country, but they still are dependent on Russia. The declaration of independence is only on the paper; economically it's still dependent on Russia, because it's an agricultural country.
Q: What did you do in Moldova?
A: I graduated (with a degree in civil engineering) from the (Polytechnic Institute of Chisinau) in 1969, and I was the head of the department of the leading design institute in Moldova.
Q: So what are your main responsibilities at the school?
A: In a short sentence: Do everything what you're asked to do. So I take care of electricity, broken pipes, AC, moving stuff all over the campus ...
Q: Carpentry I suppose, too.
A: Yeah, light carpentry, but when they need to something very serious, it's contracted.
Q: So you're kind of a jack-of-all trades?
A: You have to understand, to write down, that I have a supervisor, and the crew of the maintenance is three people, and the crew of the janitors is five people. And, of course, we have contractors from outside.
Q: And you do yard work, too?
A: Yeah. But, of course, the main landscaper of the school is Betty White (the principal), and I do what she says. She is the main architect, too.
Q: Who's your supervisor?
A: "Cisco" Parado. Actually his first name is Francisco.
Q: Do you have a tool shed or something that you work out of?
A: Yes, we have a tool shop, with many, many tools, power tools; with paint ... We have everything we need.
Q: How big is the school -- how many acres, how many buildings?
A: I don't know how many acres, but I know how many buildings. Three buildings: the admin building, which is three stories; and two buildings -- (for) elementary and primary (students), which each is two stories.
And then they used to have a band room, which now doesn't exist for like a half year, and now they're building a new one.
Then they have the gym -- a separate building -- and then they have the chapel. The chapel has a gazebo. A very nice one.
It's a nice school, and now it's in big demand.
Q: Do you know how many students are at the school?
A: I think its about 1,100.
Q: Is there anything about the job that's more difficult than the rest?
A: Personally I'm very strong, even though I'm 65, and I used to be (in) professional soccer, and I still play soccer, at Kapiolani fields, so I don't have any difficulties physically to meet the deadlines, but sometimes I'm overwhelmed with requests for help. Everybody wants to be served first.
The hardest part of our job is during the summer. A lot of jobs.
Q: Why is that?
A: Because all bathrooms have to be renovated or painted, or cleaned up. Clean the floors. The windows. There are school codes that we have to follow. Like building codes.
Also, my hobby is photography, and sometimes they ask me to take pictures, which I do.
Also I manage the traffic (for the school), which I do in the morning and the afternoon.
Q: Who did you play professional soccer for?
A: I played for the main team of the Soviet army. I was serving the Soviet army for three years, as a kid. This was for all men in the Soviet Union. I served the Soviet army in the rocket part of the army, and I was standing between United States and Russia in 1961, during the (Cuban missile) crisis, when Nikita Krushchev was the Soviet leader, and I almost saw (a) World War start. It was 1961.
Q: Considering your background in civil engineering, does the school ever call upon you to review any plans it might have regarding improvements to the property?
A: I tell you the truth: very seldom. But I sometimes send her (Betty White) my opinion, using my knowledge as a civil engineer. But they make the decisions with the boards, and invited architects and local engineers.
Q: What is your favorite part of the job?
A: My favorite part of the job is, of course, maintenance, but I am not fussy, and I try to be in the shoes of the principal, because everything has to be done, and has to done fast and with quality, and because (there are so many) teachers.
Everybody is very individual, and especially Betty, the principal. She's a very tough lady but very fair. She has played a significant role in my life. First of all she hired me and she gave an opportunity to support my children to become doctors. And she is still supporting me and helping me, and all my family is very, very grateful to her.
As I said, she is very tough but very fair. She was able to see in me which others weren't able or couldn't see, which makes her very special for our family.
Q: Are you pretty settled in there or do you have aspirations to get back into engineering somehow?
A: No, no. Why I didn't continue to be an engineer was because, first of all, it's a very narrow job market in Hawaii, and I have had to support my daughter and my son to attend the best school and to continue to study in the medical school. I will continue 'till I retire, because now it's no sense to change the horses.