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Philharmonic’s Kuchar squeezes in tense visit to Kiev, Ukraine


It can be exhausting just keeping up with the Fresno Philharmonic’s globetrotting musical director, Theodore Kuchar. (He just emailed to tell me he’s in Istanbul in two weeks with the Istanbul State Symphony.) His travels earlier this month took him to Kiev, Ukraine, one of the globe’s most troubled hot spots.

Kuchar has a strong and abiding connection with the city, having served for many years as artistic director of the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine. He was there Jan. 31-Feb. 7, first conducting the orchestra with violinist  James Buswell and then playing a chamber-music concert sponsored by the American embassy and attended by the American ambassador and much of the embassy’s senior staff.

I asked him how close he got to the continuing unrest in the city:

I walked on the Maidan, the center of all the present unrest, at least several times daily. I saw every small protest camp, where those “in residence” had their fires going, big pots of soup were the life support yet, in many cases, it was on offer to whoever was walking by and supporting the cause. The protesters were in massive abundance everywhere but the quality one was most aware of was how extremely dedicated these people were towards the cause but how peaceful and civilized things were at all times.

Still, Kuchar could tell things were about to blow. On a Facebook post today he explains:

I was impressed as to how intelligently, even with restraint, the opposition was so clearly making its universal case. At the same time, as I would have said to you then, something underground was boiling intensely and the question which nobody knew, at that time, was how high the temperature would go. At a very delicate moment, what boils overflows. To be honest, I expected something similar to what has happened, but never as soon or immediately as what began nearly 72 hours ago. I have absolutely no doubt that this was a carefully designed provocation, not necessarily planned from Kyiv.

I am truly horrified by all that I see and read from my dear friends and family in Kyiv and could never have imagined that in today’s civilized world something which equals or surpasses the atrocities of World War II could be realized in one of Europe’s great cultural centers. My soul suffers for every Ukrainian while I am appalled and embarrassed for those who continue the demonic legacy of the past four centuries.

And he continues to keep in touch with people in the city:

I am receiving correspondences from my friends in Kyiv, who are my family. What you may be reading from Russian news sources and what is actually taking place could not be more conflicting. Such atrocities as what are being experienced at this present moment have not been seen by the civilized world since the Second World War. For over 400 years, Ukraine has lived under the fear and terror of Russia. History is continuing to repeat itself.

The New York Times reports this afternoon that the Ukraine crisis is deepening as the death toll climbs.

Pictured: Activists on Thursday pay respects to protesters killed in clashes with police, during clashes with riot police in Kiev’s Independence Square, the epicenter of the country’s current unrest. (AP)

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