Note: strictly personal, and of no practical value. So if the feelings of one old fool mean little to you, read no further.
My loyal readers may remember that I fell in love with Russia years before I thought of looking for romance in former Soviet lands. For ten years, Sankt Peterburg (the tsarist capital from the time of Peter the Great until the Bolshevik revolution) was my favorite place in the world. No matter how long or short my visit there, on the final day I would feel wistful, and wonder how long it would be before my circumstances would allow me to return again.
On my first visit, I spent a day wandering about, map in pocket, in a wonderstruck (for Brits, gobsmacked) condition ... if you've been to Peterburg, you will know what I am talking about.
As afternoon gave way to evening, it seemed prudent to figure out where I was. I was approaching a large and very remarkable building nearby, which ought to make a good point of reference for locating position on the pocket map. At the front of building I was lucky enough to find some signs I could decode (I hadn't yet studied any Russian), identifying the place as the Mariinsky Theater.
The Mariinsky! Since I was a boy -- and up to this day -- my great musical hero has been Russian composer Igor Stravinsky, and I knew the name Mariinsky from reading Stravinsky's biography. I later learned that the house where Stravinsky spent most of his youth, is about five minutes' walk from the theater.
Not only was this theater still resolutely standing, but during the high season maintaining a schedule of ballet and opera almost daily, as well as orchestra concerts in a modern building less than fifteen minutes' walk distant.
Not only did I often attend the Mariinsky on subsequent trips, I several times planned trips around performances I dearly wanted to see. I spent many thousands of dollars there over the years, often taking friends -- from Russia, Ukraine, or even my home country.
The super-star director of the theater is one Valery Gergiev, who certainly deserves a real credit for the enormous status today of the theater, its ballet company, its orchestra, and some very distinguished singers in its opera. Many times I have seen him take the baton to conduct the Mariinsky orchestra.
In my last year or two of visiting Russia, I also became aware that Gergiev is a great friend and supporter of Vladimir Putin.
Nothing I can write here will express strongly enough, how deeply Russia has been part of my inner world since 2004. I will ask you to take my word, that it's a Big Deal.
Exactly 11 months ago, was the last time I made plans to visit Russia. Indeed, I picked travel dates allowing me to attend a late-March performance at the Mariinsky, of ballets that I love very dearly. As I was working on these plans, Russian soldiers invaded Crimea. After agonizing for two weeks over the question of going or not, I understood that if I again "played tourist" in the New Russian Empire, I would feel physically ill.
One of the many, many losses I have felt in response to Russia's tragic moral collapse, is my loss of the Mariinsky Theater.
Gergiev, his orchestra, and sometimes his ballet company (or soloists from his opera) often come to the USA, so in principle I could still make some Mariinsky connection without going to Russia. But in July, a Ukrainian friend (now a US citizen) invited me to go to a Gergiev concert with her in August, and I replied that I couldn't go: Gergiev is one of Putin's men.
Only today, I learned that in spring of 2014, Gergiev was one of many famous Russian artists who signed an open letter endorsing Russia's invasion, occupation, and theft of territory in Ukraine.
There is no surprise in this ... even so, I feel the ache anew.
I would not wish to have my child wear a white hood. I would not wish to have my child dressed in brown shirt and short with a swastika on his sleeve. I told my woman I do not want my child raised under a Russian flag.
American people (some) can recognize the enemy but Odumbass doesnt really give a flying fark about Europe because there is too many non-Muslim white people there.
If Ukraine was a Muslim country then there would have been 100,000 US troops here with a week.