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January 11, 2010

The Impact of Heritage…

Michael Kurtianyk

I am proud to be a first-generation American. You see, my father (rest his soul) was born in western Ukraine, outside Lvov.


I am very proud of the Ukrainian flag, its blue and gold colors resonating strongly with me. The blue, representing the sky above, brought much promise to Ukrainians throughout history. The gold, representing the wheat grown throughout the country, brought much income to Ukraine and its citizens. It was fortuitous that I went to a high school whose colors were blue and gold (Go Wildcats!).


My mother was born in Poland, specifically in the southeastern tip, at the base of the Carpathian Mountains. She worked hard on the farm, as did my father, and life there was all she knew. I spent six weeks with her there in the summer of ’75, when I was nine. Yes, I worked on the farm also, mostly baling hay (to the extent a 9-year-old could help with that), and stacking wood.


I remember one morning when my mom’s mom asked me to stack a pile of wood along the barn. I remember how I took those wood-stove sized wood splits, and, since they were cut at the pith, stacked nicely. The triangular splits nestled together like puzzle pieces.


When I was done, I asked my grandmother what she thought of the stacking of the wood I’d done. (I guess even at that age I was looking at ongoing evaluations!). My grandmother laughed and said that it was by far the best job anybody had done. I probably beamed a smile, because she had given me such a great compliment.


I thought of this moment earlier this weekend when I was stacking my own wood in the garage. I have a system where the wood is stacked outside, and when I build a fire, I bring a bunch of the wood splits into the garage. This way, as I need to feed the fire inside, I don’t have to go outside. I stack that wood the same way I did that first time when I was nine.


It must be because I’m getting older that I seem to go back further in time. I touched on it in a recent article, but isn’t it interesting that we do something, and it reminds us of something else? I stacked wood, and I went back about 35 years. The things we carry with us….


I miss my father, but I thank him for the work ethic he and my mom instilled in me. They left their farms for a better life. We all make tough choices in life, and we never know what others have had to go through to make it here. I may not have been the best child a parent could have, but I thank them, and respect their sacrifices. They came here for a better chance, along with millions of others.


This is why I’m proud to be an American.


On the Frederick County Public Library System…


What other library system in Maryland, and maybe even the Atlantic Coast, will host events featuring Nikki Giovanni and Elizabeth Gilbert?


On Sunday, February 7th, at 2 P.M. at the Weinberg Center for the Arts, distinguished poet Nikki Giovanni will be the guest speaker. This is great news! She is brought here through the C. Burr Artz Trust Lecture Series, and the event is completely underwritten by the C. Burr Artz Trust. I thought that following up on the visit by poet Billy Collins last year would have been impossible, but this is quite the coup!


It only gets better. In April, Elizabeth Gilbert will speak. She is the author of the Eat, Pray, Love, a staple of many book clubs around the country. She will be promoting her new book Committed.


I applaud the efforts of the staff and volunteers who worked together to make this happen. Frederick is quickly becoming the envy of the state, and the place where established authors have a desire to come to and speak to us.


On ESPN in 3D….


ESPN announced that they will offer sports in 3D, beginning with the World Cup Soccer tournament this summer. This will be followed by NBA games and college sports. It’s not clear whether this will be on a premium (pay-per-view) channel, but this is the logical evolution of television. It might just bring in more revenue for ESPN. I’d like to experience it.


On astronomers discovering five new planets….


Using the Kepler telescope, scientists have discovered five new planets beyond our solar system. In its continuing search for life (however defined), scientists found one planet that has the density of Styrofoam, and another whose surface temperature is over 3,420 degrees.


On Pride in My Alma Mater….


The Syracuse Center of Excellence has partnered with the Syracuse University School of Architecture, Home HeadQuarters Inc., a local nonprofit developer, in a breakthrough development The group is leading a project to redevelop a dilapidated neighborhood near downtown Syracuse, where the construction has begun on homes that emit almost no carbon and costs less than $150,000 to build. Three homes should be completed by this summer.


This is a project that should be looked upon as a model for others throughout the country.


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