Before 24 February 2022, I had not realized so many things about Ukraine—that the flag is blue and yellow; that it is the largest country in Europe; that Chernobyl is located there; that the legendary dancer, Vaslav Nijinsky, was not Russian but was born in Kiev. I know this and so much more since the horrifying invasion of this sovereign nation. After the global disruption of Covid-19 and all its ramifications, we have to wonder how the world will withstand this next destabilization.

Artwork by Elena Shcherbak

In the face of such events, my little doings pale into insignificance, of course, but life does go on; and I am still somewhat in the thrall of our magical trip back home to Africa, which truly happened, after all, despite omicron. It was the kind of time when, even while it is happening, you know you are living a memory—and I got to write about it for Passager’s Pandemic Diaries.

The Pandemic Diaries began in March, 2020, when the United States “shut down” and all but essential workers were confined to “shelter in place.” We collectively closed our doors, watched and read the news, and worried about our loved ones, ourselves, and, frankly, everyone everywhere. At Passager, we were surprised that people around the world — from Australia, India, Germany, France, Canada, Iran, Belgium, Ireland, Switzerland, and across the United States started writing to us, telling us their stories and wanting to feel connected. The Passager community became global, and each piece of correspondence added a new and important moment to the record. We decided that one thing we could do was to publish as many of these pieces as possible.

Judith Krummeck, Maryland, USA/ South Africa/Zimbabwe

Journal entry, January 26, 2022 As I write this, Sasha is chowing down on her breakfast from a bowl that has a matching black kitty at the bottom of it. Thelma has spent another night firmly locked against my hip in bed. They missed me, and I them. Against all odds, including four touch-and-go COVID-19 tests, I’m just back from that other place I call home. Was it reckless to go? Yes. Was it worth it? Yes, and yes. The omicron variant, identified by my astute scientific compatriots in South Africa, has peaked there and, being summer, we could all gather outside. First touchdown in Cape Town, my soul city, catching up with Erica and Peter; a quick run-up to remote Koringberg for afternoon tea with Hillary and Trevor; then to Hermanus to overnight with them in a family home overlooking the Indian Ocean. On Friday, a flight to Johannesburg, and a drive east to Millstream in Mpumalanga, with the welcome committee being a group of zebras. Where we were married. Twenty-five years ago. On January 18th. How could we not hold fast onto the dream of celebrating our silver wedding anniversary there, COVID-19 notwithstanding? And to be there with Jan and Julia, who celebrated with us all those years ago. The added bonus — a flight to Victoria Falls for me to see this indescribable Wonder of the World for the first time in my life. So now, jetlagged and replete with memories, I remember the smells, the warmth, the unique beauty, the honking calls of hadedas, the irreplaceable friends. I think of having been home, from the place I now call home. This little video (kindly presented, unasked, by Apple) gives a few seconds overview of that extraordinary Wonder of the World, which I was visiting for the  first time in my life despite having grown up next door to Zimbabwe We also get to test what we hope will be the post-pandemic waters in New York City this weekend at The Met and The Jewish Museum.

The Hare with Amber Eyes is an exhibition based on the book by the British ceramicist, Edmund De Waal. He is a descendant of the wealthy Ephrussi family, which lost its fortune and collection to Nazi looting. The book and the spinoff exhibition tell the story of Edmund de Waal’s search for the collection of Japanese netsuke that had been acquired by the French art critic, art historian, and art collector, Charles Ephrussi—one of the inspirations for the figure of Swann in Marcel Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu, and identified as the man in a top hat standing with his back to us in Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party, now part of the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C.

The Hare with Amber Eyes is easily one of the best books I’ve ever read—part moving family memoir-part riveting detective story—and what makes the story even more vividly poignant in light of current events is that the family originally came from Odessa in present-day Ukraine. In the “I wish I could be in two places at once” department; since I will be in NYC, I’ll miss the Baltimore recital debut of mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke at Shriver Hall Concert Series this weekend. I was fortunate enough to speak to her about the recital, though, which was inspired by her CD how do i find you? and is a response to the effects that the pandemic had on practicing musicians. You can hear our interview here. Sad as I am to miss Sasha’s recital, I will have the pleasure of being in conversation with composer James Lee III for Shriver Hall Concert Series at 4:30 pm on Sunday, May 15th, to discuss his new work, A Double Standard for String Quartet and Soprano. It will be the Baltimore premiere of this SHCS co-commission, featuring the Pacifica String Quartet and soprano, Karen Slack. On the writing front, I’ve finished Part I of my novel-in-progress about one of the first American female composers, who lived in the 1700s, and my screenplay inches (or should that be “millimeters?!”) its way towards production. I hope to have some positive updates when next I talk to you—at the start of summer. With every good wish for the spring, Judith

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