Several examples from recent experiences. Earlier this month we met with the friend of a recently deceased Ukrainian painter, who showed us a portfolio of this artist's work and told us a little about his life. This man was born in Molochansk. His mother died in childbirth; his father was recruited into the war where he met his death. He was raised by his grandparents. Later he moved to Melitopol where he received an education and became known as a painter, eventually becoming a member of the European Union of Artists. Twenty years ago he fell ill. Due to poverty and poor medical care a leg was amputated. A subsequent broken marriage led to depression and alcoholism. An artist friend supported him through this low period and helped him regain a measure of health. They married and he continued to paint. He had exhibitions in Poland, Belgium, Netherlands and America. Two months ago he died; had he been able to afford medication this needn't have happened. Friends are now hoping to commemorate this artist by publishing a book of his collected works. The question: "Would we be willing to help?" He had lived in poverty and there is no money from the State. We visited his little home and saw a number of his canvases. There is a wonderful vibrancy about his work. Sadly he is better known outside the country than in Ukraine.
Perhaps it will be Ukrainian children who will eventually lead the way and Ukraine does love its children. Last week 30 little kindergartners visited the Mennonite Centre to perform for seniors coming for lunch. What a delightful energetic concert! They sang and danced without inhibition; the seniors love it.
A day later we accompanied a group of 18 young people from the Tokmak Music School to a state dance competition in Dnepropetrovsk. This meant a 3 hr. drive by marshrutka and an overnight stay in an internat. We watched 100 performances, 30 of which were chosen for the Gala Concert the next day. The weekend was a visual extravaganza.
The older group of 6 girls from Tokmak distinguished themselves by winning two awards. We were struck by the high calibre of dancing and choreography. FOMCU had made it possible for this group to compete and we were thanked over and over for providing assistance. Not only did the group work very hard to make it happen; it was also a great learning opportunity for dancers and their teachers as well. No doubt, Ukraine has a culture and needs to learn how to be proud of it.