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Back in November, I was invited to participate in a reading of Ukrainian American writers at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art in Chicago.

I’ll admit to being a bit nervous before the reading at UIMA. It was a new venue for me, and I was uncertain of the audience: Who would attend? How would the Ukrainians like my selection from The Silence of Trees?

Any anxiety was unfounded; the audience was gracious and enthusiastic. I even ran into a few people I hadn’t seen in years. I thoroughly enjoyed the readings by the other Ukrainian American writers: Anya Antonovych-Metcalf, Michael Beres, Ksenia Rychtycka, and George Wyhinny.

Ukrainian American Literary Voices Reading at UIMA. Here we are pictured with the two organizers (Anna Golash and Sonya Arko) on opposite sides of the group.

Three of us had been students (at St. Volodymyr Ukrainian School) of the artist Alexandra Kochman. Pictured: George Wyhinny, Alexandra Kochman, Valya Dudycz-Lupescu, and Anya Antonovych-Metcalf

Such diverse voices, genres, and themes in our writing, and yet there were familiar echoes . . . of sacrifice, displacement, hope. There were references to Chernobyl, to WWII and the DP camps. Ukrainian words peppered the prose: familiar names and places.

As I listened to the other readings, I found myself thinking about our little sampling. Was there something that connected our work as Ukrainian American writers? Something that set us apart from other ethnic American poets, dramatists, novelists, artists?

Clearly our worldview and voices have been shaped by certain defining historical events of the 20th century. Shared traditions and language influence our imagery and help to define our characters. But what does it mean to be a Ukrainian American writer/artist in this day and age?

I didn’t come up with answers, only more questions. But I think that for writers and artists, questions can be better. They encourage us to seek, to stretch, to challenge, to uncover, to make connections. Questions fuel us. They certainly motivate me.

I was grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the event and happy for the time I had to chat with the other writers. I would have liked a few more hours to sit down with them around a large table, perhaps over coffee or tea, to talk about our inspiration and experiences. I look forward to the next time our paths cross, and I hope that it’s soon.



( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 4th, 2010 02:11 pm (UTC)
My Point of View
First of all, congratulations!

As an audience member who has attended many author readings, no matter where I go, I go with the knowledge that I will be entranced. No matter who the author, no matter where, it takes me to a place of peace. Jim has read to me when I've had anxiety attacks, as has Lindy, and my mom read to my sister, brothers and I every night when we were little. I've never been to a reading that did not thrill, entrance, delight me. I love being read to.

I wish I could have been there, and I'm happy it was a success for you (of course it was)!

Have you ever been to Ukraine? Just curious.

Now I will ask a really ignorant question. I *know* you don't know all Ukrainian people because you are Ukrainian, but on the odd chance... would you happen to know an artist (usually woodcuts/prints) named Inara? This is so bad, I don't remember her last name. She has one son, a brilliant boy. Anyway, I used to work with her, and would love to get in touch with her again. I don't know how large or small the Chicago community is, or the artistic community, so, who knows. I have a print she made of a lobster that she gave me over 20 years ago. It says, in Spanish, "my life is like a lobster," something her son, when a little boy, said to her one day out of the blue. If you know an Inara, around 50 - 60, only she would know this! There I go again, I don't know how popular the name is, either.

When I visited an island in MA, I met two gay women who Jim & I chatted with about birds (they had binoculars, too). We talked of where we lived. They lived in MA, we in Chicago. When we got home, I said to a gay friend, teasing her, "Hey, we met two sisters on an island. Do you know them?" She about fell on the floor laughing.

Anyway, enjoy all your readings, know you are delighting folks.

love, Sandy
P.S. Did you know Pictures at an Exhibition was originally written for piano? You don't hear it much (it's incredible) because very few pianists can play it. Mussorgsky had a finger span of an octave and three...
Dec. 4th, 2010 03:48 pm (UTC)
Re: My Point of View
Hi Sandy! Thank you!
I haven't been to Ukraine. Yet. I hope that changes soon.
No, I don't know the artist you mentioned, but if I come across her, I will be sure to pass along her information.

I first heard Pictures at an Exhibition on the piano (online) and it's amazing. I don't know much about Mussorgsky, but I'd like to learn more someday.

Dec. 4th, 2010 05:13 pm (UTC)
I learned a lot of interesting stuff about composers from an amazing piano teacher I had years ago. I loved him so much! Mr. Davis. He was so brilliant, so gentle, so inspiring.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )