Lives of Style: Clara Shayevich

Clara Shayevich is a natural wonder. How many other girls can appear effortlessly chic at an elegant luncheon sans make-up? She doesn’t need extraneous accoutrements to abet her bone-deep beauty.

Clara doesn’t “do” frou-frou — she just is: striking, compelling, stunning and classic. Her persona is just as deep and refined. No need for rodomontade. The woman connects on a deep and personal level. She actually listens.

This raven-haired woman of mystery — stories say Clara rarely smiles for photographs; some have compared her to a famous ballerina, or a more attractive Mona Lisa — is a woman who admixes two divergent lifestyles into one.

At night, she’s attending parties in designer regalia, complimented by celebrities like Ivana Trump (who liked her dress) and dancing with gentry. By day, she’s a medical practitioner providing free clinical health care services to those who can least afford it. But throughout, Clara is empathetic, warm, serene, reaching out to her friends and family.

Born in Riga, Latvia, to a well-bred, genteel family (her mother was a professor of Russian language and literature, her father vice president of a large furniture company in the country), she moved here with her son Nathan, then three, not knowing anyone, to build a new life. Her parents followed one year later.

She met her secondhusband, Sergei, an oceanographer, on a blind date, and married him on Valentine’s Day almost six years ago.

From her mother, Clara learned to play classical piano. Her father was an amazing dancer. “My parents won a lot of prizes,” she said. Her sister, Bella, is a physician at Kaiser.

Clara attended Riga’s first medical school, then enrolled at Latvia State University. In the Bay Area, she studied at San Jose State University, becoming a clinician who worked for 10 years in frontline HIV research at UCSF, in days before protease inhibitors. She’s a clinical doctor of human sexuality and is pursuing an academic Ph.D. in the discipline.

Her weekdays are spent at San Francisco Department of Health’s free City Clinic, then, on Saturdays, she’s in private practice, at her own

women’s health care clinic, which she founded in 1993 — the first with native Russian-speaking providers.

In 2002, The City recognized Clara with a proclamation for Clara Shayevich Day.

Clara sits on the board of the Palace of Fine Arts and has served on the board of directors of Shanti, which helps people with HIV/AIDS and breast cancer.

Her home is a delightful dwelling in a gated enclave in San Francisco. Three stories tall, it rises vertically and compactly to lead to warm, charismatic rooms filled with light, art and personality. The walls are pale to showcase Russian and European art, flowers and personal memorabilia and photographs. A highlight is a drop-dead chandelier that rises from the second to the third stories. Light and windows overlook courtyards and open space.

But the finest feature of her home is Clara herself. Calm, welcoming, poised, she finally smiles.

elaurence@examiner.com

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