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July 14, 2014

Ukraine is a personal tragedy for one Ada resident

Ada —

Democracy is the worst form of government, the sage has said, except for everything else. All one needs to do to understand just how fortunate we are to live where we do is to be reminded that people from other countries are still literally dying to get here. Thousands of children coming across our border from South America, for example, did not get here on a whim. They risked their lives.

As a more distant case in point, we turn our televisions on to see the latest turmoil in Ukraine being played out on our small screens. Perhaps similar to the illegal child immigration story, we view it with detached and vaguely sorrowful interest. We are sorry for their situation and glad life is not so desperate here.

But for one Ada resident, watching events unfold in Ukraine is a personal, deeply emotional experience. East Central University’s Dr. Mara Sukholutskaya is a native of Ukraine and in daily contact with relatives, friends and former students from that troubled country. 

My family got to know Mara when my daughter was deciding which foreign language to take in high school. Her choice was Russian, one of five languages in which Mara is fluent. Despite my attempts to talk her out of it, Russian was what she had her heart set on and Russian is what she took while taking concurrent classes at ECU.

My concern was the language’s difficulty and the possibility of lowering her grade point average. Dr. Sukholutskaya’s teaching and my daughter’s avid interest saw her through safely to the end. 

If you’ve lived here a while you no doubt remember it was Mara who raised the $100,000 it took to get Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union’s last head of state, to speak in Ada. She visited me ahead of time to tell me what she had in mind to do and my skepticism must have shone through. Sometime after the Soviet leader departed she visited me again and said, “You didn’t think I could do it, did you?” I had to admit, I did not. 

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