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Whirlwind Weekend Tour: Ukraine, India, Latvia, and Croatia via CLE

Friday, June 8

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On Friday evening, we decided to go to the Ukrainian Museum in Tremont to attend the opening of an exhibition devoted to the works of Ms. Dianna Derhak, an artist born in Buffalo, NY, to Ukrainian parents who came here as refugees following World War II.

We talked to Ms. Derhak for a few minutes and found her to be utterly charming. We later learned that she became an artist after successfully pursuing careers as a trial attorney, international consultant, and executive coach.

As we read in Ms. Derhak's biography that was posted at the museum, "the beauty of nature and travels to far-off places inspire her work. Dianna's current body of work focuses on bold, closely cropped flowers—particularly poppies—which are prevalent in Ukrainian imagery."

These paintings of poppies were on display at the Ukrainian Museum, as were handbags with Ms. Derhak's colorful designs imprinted upon them. Her exhibit will run there until September 6, and we urge our readers to check it out.

In the course of our conversation with Ms. Derhak, she told us her family came from the city of Ternopil, which is located in the west part of Ukraine on the banks of the Seret River. She is very excited because the process is underway to designate Ternopil as a partner city of Parma, Ohio, a Cleveland suburb where many people who have immigrated here from Ukraine now reside. 
 

Saturday, June 9

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On Saturday, the 29th annual Parade the Circle event took place, which begins and ends at the Cleveland Museum of Art in University Circle.

This year the designated theme for the parade was "cadenza," which means "a flourish of individual creativity," although this attribute has been very much evidenced in all of these yearly events we always try to attend.

This year, however, there seemed to be an abundance of people, primarily children, outfitted in beautiful butterfly costumes, which was a special project of the various locales of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland.

We enjoyed shaking hands with a friendly robot, but our own favorite creation was a large green figure that looked like a spooky spirit of nature from a Tim Burton movie like "Alice in Wonderland" or "Sleepy Hollow."  Perhaps this is because our phone's camera wasn't working properly when it initially passed by us, so we had to sprint after it in order to take a photo once we finally got the camera to work again.

Check out the testimonies about Parade the Circle from those who have been involved in it over the years.

We would like to pay special tribute, though, to Ms. Robin VanLear, the Cleveland Museum of Art's Director of Community Arts, and Mr. Chuck Supinski, an ever-active volunteer who we see each year directing the parade participants as to when to step-off and how to proceed, as if they were directing a special kind of traffic. Which, come to think of it, they were.


Sunday, June 10

On Sunday, we spent the better part of the day hurrying to three events located in separate parts of the Cleveland community.

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First, we went to the Greater Cleveland Shiva Vishnu Temple on Ridge Road in Parma for the second part of the Ratha Yatra Celebration which began the previous week. In India, this is the second largest festival of the year and more than a million people participate in Puri. As far as the temple in Parma, the Ratha Yatra has been taking place here for 20 years and has been known to draw quite impressive crowds of 350-500 people.  

We were greeted warmly by Mr. Sham Gautam, who introduced us to Dr. Prasanta K. Raj, who explained to us the importance to the Hindu people of the chariot procession that would take place that morning. Here's the best source we could find for a detailed description. Basically, the procession we observed signifies the accessibility of God to people of all castes, sects, and religions.   

Dr. Raj told us that we should view the 10-day Ratha Yatra time period as a learning experience for those who partake, in which bonds to family, traditions, and faith are strongly emphasized.  

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We then drove to the United Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church on Andrews Road in Lakewood, where we attended a very powerful ecumenical prayer service in remembrance of the Baltic victims (i.e., those of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia) of mass deportations by the Soviet Union primarily on June 13 and 14, 1941.

The service was conducted by the Reverend Dr. Sarma Eglite, who eloquently urged us to never forget the atrocities that occurred 77 years ago, and to never allow them to take place again in the Baltic countries or any other place on this planet.

Along these lines, Reverend Dr. Eglite reminded us that aggressive actions against the innocent by totalitarian/communist regimes are taking place even at this time, and maintained that if we choose to follow our hearts and our conscience, God will give us the strength and courage to fight for peace and justice. 

Sadly we couldn't stay for the reception and program that followed, in which such leaders as Ms. Mylita Nasvytis, Ms. Erica Puussaar, Hon. Ralph J. Perk, and Ms. Ruta DeGutis were scheduled to speak, as were Ms. Mary B. Nippert and Ms. Ingrida Bublys, the Honarary Consuls of Estonia and Lithuania, respectively.

Thus, we want to thank Ms. Inese Abols (who greeted us at the door and showed us the way out) for being so understanding of our schedule.

Our last event of the day was the 61st Anniversary Concert of the American Zagreb Junior Tamburitzans (AZJT) that took place at the American Croatian Lodge in Eastlake. Also performing were the Cleveland Junior Tamburitzans. The concert was dedicated to the recently deceased Ms. Kay Makarich and Fr. Mirko Hladni, who both had contributed immensely to the AZJT over the years. Ms. Makarich was a longtime board member and always helped with costumes and Christmas celebrations. Fr. Hladni was the Pastor of St. Paul Croatian Church in Cleveland and always had kind words of encouragement for the performing youngsters.

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One thing that was special about this day was the acknowledgement of graduating seniors of 2018 who were now preparing themselves for college after performing with AZJT since childhood. These special young people so worthy of praise were Mr. Quinn Thornhill, Miss Gina Kucmanic, Mr. Dominic Woods, Miss Karla Anic, and Mr. Cole Fallon.

During the intermission, we chatted with Mr. Ronald Zivic who was working the sound board. Mr. Zivic has been involved in many capacities with Tamburitzan groups since 1967 both in Cleveland and the Pittsburgh area. He introduced us to Mr. Tom Salopek, AZJT's music director, who (along with choreographer Ms. Deborah Jennings Faraguna and others working behind the scenes) contributed greatly to the success of this concert.

In the souvenir booklet, there was a letter from Ms. Julia Thornhill, AZJT President, which in part read: "For 61 years, AZJT has dedicated itself to the preservation and promotion of the rich and beautiful folklore and culture traditions of Croatia. Our mission has been to foster an appreciation in our children's Croatian heritage, enrich their lives with music and dance, and build lifelong friendships. An additional goal is to continue to build a community among our children, parents, teachers, alumni, and supporters."

Accordingly, we know that generations of families have participated in the AZJT. When we asked a young mother if the baby she was holding was a future Tamburitzan, she grinned and replied, "Oh yeah!"

 

Michael Patterson

Community Liaison

Margaret W. Wong & Associates LLC

 




 

Aimee Jannsohn