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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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Authentic traditions on the up-to-date holiday Ivana Kupala

Ukrainians gathered in the open-air museum of Pirogovo on July 6 to celebrate Ivana Kupala, an ancient summer holiday. Guests jumped over the fires, sang and danced to folk tunes. Young gils made flower wreaths and floated them in the water hoping to find a soulmate. (Olga Novak)

Ivana Kupala celebration in Pyrogovo
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The Fantasy Birds from Petrykivka – Pyrogove Spring Fair

Petrykivka Ukrainian Wooden Decor

Throughout Ukraine there are many different fields of dreams with thousand of players.  A vast majority of these players go through life without much fanfare.  The players I speak are folk artisans that come from every nook and cranny of Ukraine.  They are an interesting breed.  Often time they appear to lack any enthusiasm whatsoever when selling their hand made products.

Nonetheless, there are artisans that are very talkative and like the idea of having their products for sale in America.  One such folk artist is from the village of Petrykivka which is in the heartland of Ukraine.  Lyubov Artyomenko carries on the tradition of Petrykivka Folk Art that was started around 1772 (four years before the United States gained its independence), in the Cossack settlement of Petrykivka.

Petrykivka Folk Artist Lyubov Artyomenko at Pyrogove Spring Fair

She explained how the style was first developed by the women of the village. After they had whitewashed the outside of their homes, the women would paint bold beautiful colorful floral designs on the outside walls.  It became a contest to see which woman could come up with the most beautiful patterns.  Later these same styles were being used on all kinds of items like household goods (spoons, trays, chests, plates). Decorating-With-Ukrainian-Folk-Art-Collectibles

Lyubov said all Petrykivka Folk Art is about nature – mostly flowers, berries and birds.  However, the birds she paints are different from other folk artists.  Her birds are like seeing a painted dream. She uses her fingers to paint flowers and berries. In order to paint the very delicate and detailed feathers and bodies of her birds she uses special kitty fur brushes  made from the hair under the front legs of her cat (no her cat doesn’t suffer during this procedure because her cat’s hair grows back, rendering her Petrykivka Folk Art sustainable and ultra Green!).

You can see her works on sale at Ukrainian Petrykivka Art.  Her extraordinary Petrykivka home accents will give any kitchen a bright beautiful and bold organic natural lifestyle look.

Lyubov told us an interesting story about the symbolism of the painted Petrykivka mortar and pestle she had on sale.  It represents a happy family life and the two have to be kept together because they symbolize the nature of husband and wife. These two pieces are now a keepsake of ours.

The Fantasy Birds from Petrykivka at Pyrogovo Spring Artisans Fair
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Bee Cowboy. Introduction

Local sacred place

The names of the individuals I have written about have been changed to protect their privacy

We begin our trip homeward from the Carpathians on the weekend of the 4th July. The marvelous thing about teaching English to professionals is, it allows my wife and I the opportunity meet and become friends with many of my students.

On our trip home we had made arrangements to stop and meet the parents of one of my former students, who had gone to America to do a year internship in New York City.  While there, she met a very nice man, fell in love, and has since married.

I have been blessed to meet many wonderful students while teaching English as a second language.  Olena is one of the most special.  When she smiles her aura and personality radiates with warmth and kindness.  You can’t help notice that she is an uncommon soul with a zest for living and adventure. When she speaks, you know instantly that she isn’t just another pretty face.  She is a young lady, who is extremely positive with a lot of talent.

Unfortunately, when my wife and I flew to New York, we weren’t able see Olena and her new husband because of airport security. However, when she returned to Ukraine with her husband I greeted her with a hug and said, “Good job, life is good!” And turned to shake hands with her husband, Mark for the first time, I was beaming like a proud father and took an instant liking to Mark. We all met again this past Christmas season on our way back home to Kiev and stayed a few days with them in New York City.

SightseeingOlena’s parents live in a small town in Western Ukraine.  It is an interesting place with lots rich history that goes back many centuries.  After a few cell phone calls and some misguided directions from a few of the locals we found Olena’s mother waiting for us near one of the city’s landmarks, a short distance from her home.  She got into our car and we drove the short distance to her home.

Her husband arrived home a short time later after helping to move his friends and his beehives to a field of grechka (buckwheat).

The first thing I wanted my wife to translate to our guests was, “I was the one who encouraged your daughter to go to New York and do you like the young man she married?”  They answered, “Very much so!”

By the river

Having met Olena’s parents I understood better what makes Olena so special.  Her parents were great in every way.  The four of us had a terrific first visit and we set a date to meet again when it was time to roundup the beehives and harvest their honey.

Story to be continued