GOSHEN — For weeks, Solomia Soroka focused on events in her former homeland, Ukraine, where a revolution suddenly turned into an invasion by Russia.
She’s used Skype, phone calls and email for updates from her family in western Ukraine and followed news accounts that began with friendly protests, followed by a bloody revolution and then Vladimir Putin’s orchestrated annexation of Crimea.
The rapidly changing turn of events, she said, have left her distracted from work and unable to sleep.
But on Saturday night, the Goshen College music professor and violinist will channel her energies for the good of the Ukrainian people when she and her husband, pianist Arthur Greene, perform a recital.
Free-will offerings from the performance will be sent to a foundation created by the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church to assist victims of the revolution.
Benefit Concert for Ukraine Featuring: Solomia Soroka, violin, and Arthur Greene, piano Date and time: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 22 Location: Rieth Recital Hall, Goshen College Music Center Cost: A free-will offering will be held; suggested donation of $10 per person
Her selections Saturday will feature exclusive Ukrainian music, including works by Maxim Berezovsky, Mykola Lysenko and Myroslav Skoryk.
Soroka said she’ll talk about the music and a little about current events, but she will limit those to avoid politicizing the night of music.
“I want people to know the truth of the revolution and the beauty of the revolution and the desire of people just to live normally and what we in the United States take for granted,” Soroka said while sitting in her office Tuesday morning in the college’s music center.
While Soroka works at Goshen College, she and her husband live in Ann Arbor, Mich., where he is a professor of piano at the University of Michigan.
As the revolution began to unfold, Soroka organized an effort in Ann Arbor to send money to the Red Cross.
Goshen’s recital, though, is one of three that will be used to raise money for the foundation. She and Greene also recently performed in Detroit and will travel to Ann Arbor on March 29 for another show.
She said some of her cousins and friends participated in the protests in Kiev. While none of them were killed or injured, the violence has been difficult for her.
“I wanted to help. I felt very helpless and I felt guilty that I’m here and they are standing there and losing their life defending,” she said.
The aftermath that included a widely disputed referendum and Putin’s claim Tuesday of control of Crimea added to the anguish.
“Today was a very depressing morning for me because of Putin’s speech and … because of the inactivity of the west and the United States and NATO.”
Soroka grew up in an upper-middle class family in western Ukraine and began studying music at an early age. She received a doctorate at the Kiev Conservatory and soon ventured to the United States where she earned a second doctorate at the esteemed Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y.
She is among the most accomplished Ukrainian musicians of her generation and won top prizes in three prestigious international violin competitions held in the former Soviet Union, according to Goshen College.
She first arrived in the United States in 1996 and moved here permanently two years later.
While having settled into an American life, the 43-year-old can recite Ukrainian history with a sense of detail.
She said she fully expected Putin’s overt aggression to begin when the Sochi Olympics concluded.
Soroka said she thinks tough sanctions aimed at Russia’s economy are needed. In fact, she’d like to see the U.S. drop its oil embargo against Iran — a move she believes would significantly hurt Russia’s oil profits and its economy.
The current sanctions, she said, are weak and don't "affect Russia at all.”
“I am personally disappointed with how Europe, Great Britain and even the United States react to this problem," she said.
She said she believes Putin will not stop with the takeover of Crimea.
Putin’s latest move reminds her of Germany’s Adolf Hitler.
She points to Hitler’s invasion of part of Czechoslovakia in 1939 under the pretext of protecting German-speaking people.
“Putin is doing the same thing. He says he wants to protect Russian citizens — they didn’t complain that they needed to be protected,” she says as her voice begins to rise with emotion.
Another fact that doesn’t seem to make sense from her standpoint is that Putin was quoted as saying he isn’t eyeing more of Ukraine.
Soroka said she believes Crimea has very little utilities such as clean water, electricity or gas. That presents a problem for Russia since it is not geographically connected to Crimea.
To provide those services, she argues, he’ll have to invade more of Ukraine.
Her impressions of Putin are as strong as her worries for Ukraine.