Oleh Krysa and Irina Lupines dramatically conclude their rendition of Johannes Brahms’ Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 3 at The Washington Group Cultural Fund’s last concert of the 2016-2017 music series at the Lyceum in Old Town Alexandria, Va.

Oleh Krysa returns to D.C. area

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The renowned Ukrainian American violinist Oleh Krysa returned to the U.S. capital area on May 21, and an enthusiastic audience welcomed him back after his seven-year absence from The Washington Group Cultural Fund music series at the historic Lyceum, in Old Town Alexandria, Va. Accompanying him was pianist Irina Lupines, his colleague from the Eastman School of Music, where they are teaching the next generations of this world’s aspiring violinists and pianists. Introducing the artists, the founding director of the TWG Cultural Fund, Laryssa Courtney, asked all in attendance to dedicate that afternoon’s concert “to the memory of a very accomplished and lovely pianist, Tatiana Tchekina,” Mr. Krysa’s wife, who accompanied him at his last TWGCF performance at the Lyceum in 2010, but died three years later in a tragic auto accident in Rochester, N.Y.

“She is missed not only by her family and her friends, but also by her students – she was a professor of the Eastman School – and by the entire music community,” Ms. Courtney said. The concert began with Mr. Krysa performing Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Ciaccona” from Partita No.

John Herbst, who served as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in 2003-2006, describes Russia’s “brief flirtation with democracy” as sadly ending when Vladimir Putin took over that country’s leadership. Sitting next to him during the Atlantic Council’s panel discussion about “Connecting Ukraine’s Past and Present: from Holodomor to the War in Donbas,” is Nadia McConnell, president of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation.

Atlantic Council panel discusses Ukraine from the Holodomor to the Donbas war

WASHINGTON – For those in the U.S. capital area actively interested in finding a resolution to the dire situation Ukraine and other countries find themselves in because of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s pursuit of military aggression and an active disinformation policy, the Atlantic Council think tank discussion “Connecting Ukraine’s Past and Present – from Holodomor to the War in Donbas,” was a great step forward to a better understanding of how and why that situation developed as it did and what needs to be done to resolve it. The panel and open discussion on February 21, moderated by Atlantic Council Senior Fellow Timothy Fairbank, included Michael Sawkiw, director of the Ukrainian National Information Service; Naphtali Rivkin, a research fellow at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation; Nadia McConnell, president of the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation; and John Herbst, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and now director of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center. As Mr. Sawkiw pointed out in his opening remarks, Russia’s use of disinformation is not something new. He noted that French writer Marquis de Custine, who traveled to Russia often in the mid-1800s, indicated in his book “Letters from Russia”: “Russia lies, Russia denies the facts, makes war on the evidence, and wins.”

And that “informational war” continues today, Mr. Sawkiw said. The Soviets denied until the 1980s – about the time when Ukrainian Americans started raising the issue in this country – that Stalin launched the Holodomor, the artificially created famine in the 1930s that killed millions of Ukrainians.

Oksana Osipova, vice-president of United Help Ukraine, addresses the demonstration held in remembrance of the late Borys Nemtsov.

Demonstrators in Washington recall life and work of Boris Nemtsov

WASHINGTON – On Sunday, February 26, United Help Ukraine Vice-President Oksana Osipova joined with U.S.-Ukraine Foundation President Nadia McConnell and representatives of Russian, Belarusian, Baltic and American organizations and addressed the group of people that gathered across the street from the Russian Embassy in Washington to commemorate the life and work of Boris Nemtsov, a Russian politician, statesman, outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his undemocratic and authoritarian regime, and an outspoken supporter of Ukraine. Two years ago, on February 27, 2015, Nemtsov was assassinated in Moscow near the Kremlin. The Magnitsky Act Initiative and the Free Russia Foundation have outspokenly stated that the Putin regime is responsible for his murder. Nemtsov had compiled an extensive report detailing the takeover of Crimea by Russian troops and their participation with pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine. He supported Ukraine’s sovereignty, visited the Maidan in Kyiv and addressed at a mass gathering in Moscow denouncing Russian aggression in Ukraine.

Holocaust Memorial Museum Collections Director Michael Grunberger (left) and Ukrainian Museum-Archives Director Andrew Fedynsky congratulate each other after signing a cooperation agreement in Washington to digitize the Cleveland-based Museum-Archives’ post-World War II collection of documents and stories about non-Jewish victims of Nazism.

Holocaust Memorial Museum to digitize Ukrainian Museum-Archives’ DP collection

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington and the Ukrainian Museum-Archives (UMA) of Cleveland have signed a cooperation agreement to digitize UMA’s collection of archived materials from post-World War II Displaced Persons (DP) camps. The agreement was signed on February 6 at the Holocaust Museum in Washington by UMA Acting Director Andrew Fedynsky and USHMM Collections Director Michael Grunberger, as witnessed and applauded by representatives of their museums, the U.S. government, and Ukrainian American and other interested organizations. Opening the event, Mr. Grunberger noted that digitalizing UMA’s collection – “one of the world’s most important collections of Ukrainian history and culture” focusing on the post World War II period – will help “ensure that our collections document the stories of non-Jewish victims of Nazi persecution as well.” And having that information digitalized will make it available “to anyone, anywhere and anytime.”

Also focusing on the importance of having this information available to all, Mr. Fedynsky stressed that it is needed by people and nations as well. “If you don’t have a past, you don’t have a future,” he said. “That’s why we have a Holocaust Museum.


Solomia performs to raise funds for Ukraine’s orphans of war

WASHINGTON – When the Ukrainian singer, composer and poet Solomia entered the stage at St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral on December 4, the people in the audience knew that all the proceeds from the ticket sales would go to help feed, clothe and care for the many orphans who lost their parents in the armed struggle being waged in the eastern part of Ukraine. But they could hardly have imagined what they would be getting in return: the deeply touching performance of Solomia’s own songs, her poems, her musical accompaniment and explanations of what was being presented and what Ukraine was undergoing. Solomia (Olena Karpenko is her real, off-stage name) wrote the words and music of all the songs she performed, as well as the short poems she recited. She noted, however, that some were based on other authors, like Lina Kostenko, or novels, like “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors,” or foreign songs, like “Anyone Can Fly.”

Near the end of the two-hour presentation, Solomia performed what she wrote last year about her brother, “Ty” (You).

Ukraine’s first president, Leonid Kravchuk, discusses the successes and challenges experienced in Ukraine and other countries after the collapse of the USSR.

Leonid Kravchuk speaks in Washington about historic break-up of the USSR

WASHINGTON – Leonid Kravchuk, the first president of the independent Ukrainian state established 25 years ago after the break-up of the Soviet Union, came to the U.S. capital last weekend to discuss that historic event, how it has progressed since then and what can be expected in the future. “I can give you a lot of examples of mistakes that were made, but Ukraine lives on,” he told a large gathering on November 18 at the Atlantic Council that came to hear him, and two other post-Soviet leaders – the first president of Belarus, Stanislau Shushkevich, and the first deputy prime minister of Russia, Gennady Burbulis – discuss the “Soviet dissolution, the birth of nations and the successes and challenges 25 years later.”

Despite the many challenges it has been receiving from Russia, Mr. Kravchuk stressed that “Ukraine is growing and doing so in a democratic way, in a European way, and now Ukraine cannot be pushed off this path.”

Not unexpectedly, the issue that came up most often during the discussion was the Russian annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. “The question of Crimea is very painful for Ukraine. And the idea that Crimea has always been Russia is an illusion,” Mr. Kravchuk said, pointing out that until 1789 Crimea was a part of the Ottoman Empire. “So the question of who Crimea has historically belonged to is not so easily answered.”

He pointed out that today’s world is based on a few “great principles: sovereignty, territorial integrity and untouchable borders.” Those principles – of which the United States is considered to be a major guardian – must be adhered to if the world is to remain that way, he added.

Kyiv Chamber Choir conductor Mykola Hobdych joins his choristers in responding to the audience’s ovation at the conclusion of their Ukrainian sacred and folk music concert at the National City Christian Church in Washington.

Kyiv Chamber Choir performs concert of sacred and folk music in Washington

WASHINGTON – Choral music lovers in this area received a very welcome present from the Kyiv Chamber Choir on November 6 at the National City Christian Church: an emotionally and artistically moving concert of Ukrainian sacred and folk music. This was the last of nine concerts on the Ukrainian choir’s 10-day 2016 “Sounds of Ukraine” tour that began October 28 in Chicago and continued through Cleveland, Toronto, Rochester, Hartford, Boston, New York and Philadelphia. Under the direction of its founder and conductor Mykola Hobdych, the 21-member choir (10 women and 11 men) began their concert here dressed in formal attire, singing eight examples of some of the finest Ukrainian sacred music, among them medieval chants, like “Blessed is the Man” from the Kyiv Pechershka Lavra; classical period compositions, such as Maksym Berezovsky’s “I will sing of your love and justice, o Lord,” Dmytro Bortniansky’s “Glory to the Father and the Son”; and, before breaking for intermission, a few more-contemporary compositions, among them Valentyn Sylvestrov’s “Three Sacred Songs” and Petro Turchani-nov’s “God Is with Us.”

The second half of the program was completely different, as was the choir members’ clothing, changed from formal to a modernistic Ukrainian embroidered attire when they walked back in front of the church to perform, this time without their conductor. The second half was devoted completely to Ukrainian folk music, as arranged by 10 contemporary Ukrainian composers, among them Hanna Havrylets, Ivan Nebesny and Volodymyr Zubytsky. And the Kyiv Chamber Choir’s performance was as contemporary as the music itself: singing without their conductor, with all the songs blending together without any pauses for audience applause and with the choreographed and animated movement of sections of the choir on, off and around the stage as they sang.