As soon as she speaks, I am mesmerized by her accent, this daughter of the Ukraine whose has adopted Dayton as her home and is raising her family in this city that has welcomed us both. I have reached out to her to ask if she will share her story of hunger on the stage because I know that she has known childhood dinners where her family had nothing but onions to eat. But this bright-eyed, smiling women, sitting at this coffee shop with me, tells me that she has no story. She was never hungry. And so I ask her again, reminding her that I know about the onions, and she counters with a story about her grandmother who lived through Stalin starving her country. Her grandmother knew hunger, nearly starving to death when the Russian dictatorship raped her people of their resources and intentionally starved the entire country. Her grandmother’s story sounds surreal and otherworldly and I can see how her childhood stomach grumbling would pale in comparison.
Hunger means something very different to Anastasia than anything I can fathom. She will not allow her onion story to sit next to her grandmother’s experience living through the Holodomor, a genocide that killed millions in her grandmother’s generation. As she describes her grandmother’s fear next to the love and appreciation of this matriarch who is so much a part of who Anastasia is today, I know that this story is one that must be shared. The poetry of her words lures us in and then she reveals a stark reality of her ancestry. History, memory, love, life and beauty play out in her story.
Reliving these stories isn’t easy and Anastasia asks for time to decide whether or not she is ready.
When she calls me back to agree, I sit in the gravity of the decision. Gratitude captures me. Anastasia will be on stage at the LORE Mainstage Hunger event. She will be there to honor her grandmother, her history, her ancestry and her legacy.
Her story will shock you. It is powerful and beautiful and haunting and true.
So buy a ticket. Sponsor the event. Be there.