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Ukrainian Exceptionalism Part II – The Reason

The day after I posted my first story about Ukrainian Exceptionalism, I received a message from Misha Dyrda informing me that he was not the only one responsible for the event I attended.  The jazz concert was his idea but a lot of other good people invested their time and effort to make it possible, too.

How Misha became involved with Cerebral Palsy and people with special needs is heartwarming.  It began with a visit to a friend who was taking a course to help build leadership and self confidence in all areas of his life at the Emotional Center

Misha was surprised because his friend lived a normal life and now he was a part of a team of volunteers who were finding sponsors and raising money to help rebuild a boarding school for orphans  in Vorzel that was destroyed in a fire during the cold of winter.

I asked Misha to write about his experience going through the program.  Here is his touching unedited story.

So, let’s start from the very beginning… In the beginning was training – “Program of developing emotional leadership” – a set of strange and ambiguous words as for me. But if I try to describe it using plain common language I would say the following. NOTE: This is my interpretation.

Each of us was a baby and I am not an exception. And as a baby I was free, honest, joyful, and I gave my love and joy to everyone who appeared in my world. I didn’t think whether he/she/it deserves my love or not…just give it. When I was a baby I didn’t need to prove anything since I knew that I am fine and everyone is fine. But as I grew up I met some people that told me “You are not fine” – skinny, fat, stupid, tall, short, ugly etc. And as time went by that dirt accumulated inside of me and I believed that I am not ok. Sprouts of diffidence fear and stinginess in feelings came up.  During the training I managed to go through that dirt to the core of me and find out what is important for me personally. It was like an insight. I felt power and desire to influence on world; I am responsible to what is going on around me.


Then one lady our group mate told that there is a CP-center and she would like to do anything for these people. We went to that center and found very strong, cheerful, but very lonely people. No one cares about these people in this country. “Normal” people try to not notice them. This a community of lonely people united by the grief. They impressed me a lot, especially Anton, he is the most strong person I have ever met in my life. When we did an event in dolphin-house, I was responsible to the cp-people from Troeschina. Anton lives there. I talked to him all the way back to his home. He knows that he has not much time to live and he lives with all of his might. After that I don’t have a question should I do it or not. Someone, even some of my friends, told me that I am an idiot and I am wasting my time…I don’t care. I know if I am able to make life to someone like Anton a bit brighter then my life wasn’t useless.


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Ukrainian Exceptionalism – Part 1

In this post I will be taking a temporary detour Along the Back Roads of Ukraine to write about what I discovered on the roads in my own back yard.

This past week I enjoyed experiencing another of part of Ukrainian “Exceptionalism.” I witnessed how one man’s passion to help his fellow man personifies why life is good when real people care and accomplish a worthwhile project without having the government to have a hand in it.

It took an unusual chain of events with a strange twist for me to be in the audience on this particular evening.  I had received an email announcing an event that was to take place later in the week.  Since I don’t read or understand the two languages used in Ukraine well, the message found its way into the trash bin.

Thanks to Denys Osetrov, who was wearing a shirt with the words jazz and jazz news written all over it is how I learned the contents of the email I deleted.  We were standing in front of the reception desk talking about his shirt and how it would make an excellent teaching tool for my English classes when he suddenly asked if I liked jazz because there was going to be a jazz concert later in the week and did I get the email inviting everyone to attend?.

I went back to my computer and logged in to check my messages and to retrieve the email from my trash bin. I noticed that the author of the email was on Skype. I sent him a message and he asked me if I was going to the Jazz Concert?  I told him I heard about his concert, but I had jettisoned his email into my trash bin because it was written in a foreign language. He politely apologized because he hadn’t sent it to me in English.

I have known Misha Dyrda for nearly two years. We work together for an IT company in Kiev called EPAM ( whose slogan is: Delivering Excellence in Software Engineering. From time to time we have engaged in many interesting topics.  One of the ironies in the twisted chain of events that day was I discovered a special passion of his, Delivering Excellence by Volunteering to help raise money to buy medical equipment for kids and adults with special needs who have Cerebral Palsy by negotiating with musicians and club owners to perform and use their facilities for free.

EPAM Employees

Last night my wife and I had the pleasure to be in the audience listening to the sounds of jazz with many of my fellow EPAM co-workers enjoying the fruits of Misha’s labor of love when he presented his first concert he had arranged to raise money for CP and special needs that brought in nearly 7000 UAH for this wonderful cause!

To be continued