John Kern and his wife Jackie Koney as new residents of Vicksburg, have jumped right in to helping in the community. Kern will give a talk about their experience living in the Ukraine in 2014, a calamitous year for the citizenry there.
By Syd Bastos
On February 11, the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center will host an evening of Ukrainian food and drink at the Creekside Grille at Angels Crossing Golf Course. The event will culminate with a presentation by John Kern, originally from Muskegon Heights and recently relocated to Vicksburg.
Kern lived and worked as a high school teacher in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, during the Euromaidan protests, also known as the Revolution of Dignity, which spanned from late November, 2013 to its violent conclusion, resulting in the collapse of the government of then president Viktor Yanukovych, in February, 2014. The Creekside event will feature a multimedia presentation of his experiences, including photographs taken in the months following the protests.
During the unrest, Kern, who lived a short distance from the city center, was witness to many of the protests and the government’s attempts to disperse the increasingly large crowds.
“Living so close to the City Center was harrowing,” Kern said. Located just a few blocks from the epicenter of the clashes, he witnessed the thick, black smoke of burning barricades as it billowed over downtown, and heard explosions of percussion grenades meant to disperse the crowds and monastery bells rung by orthodox monks to call protesters to the streets.
“It was all so surreal,” he continued. “While all of this happened, grandmothers served hot tea and sandwiches at the barricades and my students missed homework deadlines in order to participate in whatever ways they could. Life went on. The subways ran, bars and restaurants were full, grocery store shelves were stocked. But then the shooting started.”
Once the government started to violently crack down, tensions and confusion grew. Ultimately, John and his wife, Jackie, barricaded themselves in their apartment for three days as violence engulfed the city.
The experience prompted him to learn as much as he could about the history of the region. That is the foundation of the evening’s presentation.
“Everything has its foundation in the past,” he said. “That understanding compelled me to learn as much as I could about the region and how those events have impacted current events. Once you understand things a little better, you can start to make some sense out of both points of view. It’s all really fascinating and, given the current state of our relations within that region, very topical.”
Tickets to this unique event are $40 per person and cover the presentation and dinner. A cash bar is available and will feature specialty drinks from the region. You can purchase tickets in advance at the Arts Center and Gallery at 200 S. Main Street in Vicksburg, or on line at http://www.vicksburgdda.com/events or call (269) 501-11347.