"His poetry is unique, creative," said 83-year-old I. Myrostechenko, beloved historian of the local community and author of several books, including the story of Russian poet Gaston who briefly lived in Starobilsk. A plaque marks Gaston’s house, which is badly in need of preservation.
We were at the Library, about 30 people, celebrating the publication of Anton Palanadis' new book of poetry, "Almost Twins." I knew most of them from the English Club or social gatherings or my ramblings about town, and felt at home. Several people spoke about Anton’s work and read from the anthology--his former teachers, fellow poets, his mother (a librarian), and the director of the Cultural Center, Alexander Andrynov, himself a talented musician. I sat next to Olga, who translated from time to time. I couldn't understand it all, but the feelings were strong, admiring and proud. Vitaly Romashka of Starobilsk TV was there to cover the event. Mikhail, the photographer working on the Starobilsk Heritage Calendar, took photos.
Alosha played the guitar and sang a piece he had written himself. Here is another young talent, only 15 years old, but a serious student of voice and music. Olga leaned over and said she hoped Alosha would be able to study in America, "maybe at Julliard," she said. How I wish I could make that happen.
I feel like a witness to a hidden treasure. This village of 18,000, so far from large cities or urban centers of culture, proudly claims many artists, poets, folk art painters and craftspeople, scholars, musicians, singers and dancers. It claims great teachers who recognize and nurture this talent. Like Anton's Ukrainian language and literature teacher, also a poet, who early saw Anton's gifts and encouraged him to write. She spoke glowingly of his growth as a poet, of his dedication to truth and the written word.
No doubt about it. Starobilsk has talent. I believe it deserves a larger stage. I hope it is discovered, publicized, proclaimed to all the earth. “Let heaven and nature sing.” But how will this happen? Will these talents remain hidden, the beautiful gifts of a far-away village, or will they soar, rise above the village to achieve greater awareness and appreciation, wider audiences, broader acclaim. Only time will tell.