Stories, history and the flow of kindness by Misha Lyuve

Apr 28, 2013

Family stories hold keys to past in special ways. They make history into more than just textbooks, but vivid alive experiences passed through the words of people we know and love. They allow us to honor the past in a way that forwards the future…

Dora Shapiro, 1930ies

…After my album release party in February, Elena, my doctor since the day I landed in the US, approached me with an idea: to host a private performance and a fundraiser for Worldwide Orphans for her friends at her home. Two months have passed and now Elena’s living room is tightly packed with guests. Before the performance, Elena approaches me: “I will need a few minutes. I want to share something, something very important.” And now that everyone quiets down, Elena stands fragile and beautiful in front of the guests, her husband and daughter. “I would like to dedicate this evening to my mom and my aunt Dora,” her voice cracks.

Back in 1920 when they were 1 and 7, their family decided to venture on a long and dangerous journey. They left their hometown Genichesk in Ukraine, where food and jobs were sparse and many were starving to death, for St. Petersburg in search of a better life. During the grueling move their parents died from typhoid and the sisters ended up in an orphanage in Sumi, Ukraine.

Incidentally the orphanage was built and supported by an American Jewish organization and it became home for Elena’s mom and aunt for years to come. It provided food and shelter and made them into generous and ‘full-lifed’ humans. Aunt Dora became a teacher. During the World War II Leningrad blockade, when the German troops surrounded Leningrad taking away all access for food and supplies for 872 days, she was a director of an orphanage. She starved herself, but she made sure whatever little food they had went to kids. She saved many lives…

Sonya Shapiro, 1930ies

Sonya Shapiro, 1930ies

As Elena continues with her speech, I get a vivid glimpse into the universal flow of kindness – American philanthropists a century ago, women at the Ukrainian orphanage, lives of kids who survived the Leningrad blockade, my free visits to Elena in her Brooklyn office when I had neither an insurance nor money, another doctor Jane Aronson who founded Worldwide Orphans and works tirelessly to improve lives of orphans, abandoned kids in Haiti whose eyes are still following me and these people in front of whom I am about to perform…

We honored Elena’s family and raised $2,145 for Worldwide Orphans. The universal flow of kindness is continuing, touching more people and creating stories that will turn into history.

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  1. Dr. Jane Aronson

    I loved this story; it made me cry. Misha, you are the best.
    Dr. Jane