Ukraine and A Ripple’s president Suzanne:
“Tomorrow I am going to Ukraine. And I have been there before. I was 19 years old. I didn’t know anything…my college orchestra was going to Romania, Hungary and Ukraine. I had never been out of America, they told me to bring violin and play, so I did. We only had one concert in Ukraine. This is my memory of it, almost 30 years later.
The “Iron Curtain” was supposed to be down but it was still there. The waiting to cross took hours. I remember anticipating what this Iron Curtain would look like and when we finally got there, it was just a checkpoint, disappointing.
The guards wanted to and did inspect our instruments. We were instructed to say on the forms that our instruments were of little value. I was a little offended because my parents paid a lot of money for my violin, but I said it was worth nothing. We used a disgusting bathroom at the station, the first of many in my life.
This was 1994, no cell phones, no notification to the concert location. We were 3 hours late for our own concert! Finally arrived, and to a full house, standing room only, overcrowded. The venue was packed with Ukrainians that looked like they just came from working the fields. I remember one Dad wearing overalls standing with his daughter on his shoulders. Well, we just set up and started playing. We didn’t change into our concert clothes, we looked like a bunch of grungy teenagers that we were. Long-overdue to our own concert playing to a full full house, and all of us could not have enjoyed it more. Even though most were already standing, they gave us a standing ovation after every piece.
It was the best concert of my life!
Afterwards, these hardworking Ukrainians who were just freed from the U.S.S.R. had an extravagant dinner set up for us. I remember the pretty wildflowers in vases set up on the long table. I remember the welcome like no other I had experienced.
Now after almost 3 decades, I’m returning to Ukraine. This time without my violin, only an ultrasound machine, 100 Individual First Aid Kits, 100 tourniquets, my medical training, but mostly with a sense of gratitude and a desire to return the love that I felt so long ago.”