A Call to Ukraine

When the world fell apart and Ukraine was invaded, I kept searching for ways to help in some way. I watched an interview at DU where the mayors from occupied Ukrainian territories came to speak about collaboration and partnership with cities and universities in the U.S. I was blown away by the brilliance of the concept and the necessity & power of working together in this way. It is my dream to parter with a ballet, dance, theater school in Ukraine — to help children come back to dance, their passion & their future. If there is one good thing I could possibly do in this world, this would be my wish — to help Ukrainian children to dance, sing and live again. I hope my dream will come true & thank you for your support today to bring this dream one step closer. 💜🇺🇦

The Pop Giselle fundraiser performance is an opportunity to build experience for both younger artists and professional artists (dancers are often type cast. It is difficult to break out of that unless someone sees you & gives you a rare opportunity). 🌸💗 Even these sets were built by young artists from our cast & team. Karl “Vince” Voll in the following article is a shining example of how we could help and he is even a volunteer for our performance tonight.
Pop Giselle, June 28, 6 pm at the King Center. BalletButterfly.com

Q/A Interview with special guest:
Vince Voll, Ukraine Humanitarian Aid Volunteer from the U.S.

Vince Voll, in Ukraine, with rescue dog

Q: Why did you choose to go to help Ukraine?

A: When the full scale russian invasion occurred in February 2022, I was outraged by what I was witnessing through the media. I wanted to do something to directly support Ukraine and when President Zelensky asked for help from the people of the world, I knew in my heart that I needed to answer the calling.

Q: What most struck you about your work there?

A: What stands out to me most about my time in Ukraine is the resiliency of her people. The Ukrainian spirit is mighty indeed and can be witnessed by observing the grace with which Ukrainians are dealing with their plight. I never witnessed anyone just sitting around feeling sorry for themselves or lashing out at others in anger. People everywhere were coming together to support one another as a unified community. Their collective response to the darkness which has invaded their land is one rooted in love. Love for each other and their nation as a whole.

Q: How and where did you live?

A: Ukrainians are the most hospitable people I have ever met. I was blessed to be invited to live with so many people, I can’t possibly name them all. And I was offered opportunities to break bread at more tables than I can remember. My heart was filled with the love of the Ukrainian people.

Q: Did you feel safe?

A: The reality is that russia is intentionally targeting civilians. It’s their attempt to break the will of the Ukrainian people. However, that’s not possible. Any and all attacks only strengthen the collective resolve of the Ukrainian people. I also felt this sense of courage, however, I must admit that there were a few times when fear entered my heart. I think perhaps I felt a tiny morsel of what millions of Ukrainians felt and are feeling when they were/are directly under attack. At one point, I remember having the realization that the defenders of Ukraine are helping to protect ALL of the people and since I was inside their country, I was one of those people. It made me even more appreciative of what they are doing and for the sacrifices they are making. I did my best to show respect and gratitude to the warriors of Ukraine when I saw them at checkpoints or in the streets.

Vince Voll, with Ukraine Civilian

Q: How was the transition back to the US?

A: My transition back to the USA was quite difficult. It was surreal being back in a land where there is no war; no buildings lying in rubble, no military checkpoints or anti-tank obstacles on nearly every street, no bomb sirens going off every day. It didn’t feel right being in a land of peace knowing my Ukrainian brethren are still living through the horrible realities of war. To be honest, it still doesn’t feel right being away from Ukraine. I would love to go back to chip in and lend a helping hand.

Q: Would you like to go back to Ukraine?

A: I would absolutely love to go back to Ukraine. I miss my Ukrainian friends. I miss the babusyas and their amazing cooking. I miss the beautiful natural world of Ukraine. I miss the feeling of waking up in the morning and knowing that what I’m going to do that day is going to make a profound difference in the world.

Q: What would most help the future of Ukraine?

A: I believe what will help the future of Ukraine are symbolic bridges which can connect it to many nations of the world. One major set of bridges are the economic ones. Ukrainians are highly skilled, hard-working, resourceful, and resilient beyond measure. Any business would be fortunate to employ people with those qualities. Another important set of bridges are the children and youth. I think we could implement a system of school-partnerships where a school in a country like America could be paired up with a school in Ukraine. They could write letters and video chat with one another, teaching each other about their own country and what they are learning in school. I think the kids would also benefit from government sponsored study-abroad programs. Another set of bridges would be citizens of other nations working hand in hand with Ukrainians to rebuild Ukraine. Let’s sponsor people in our countries to go to Ukraine to spend time working to repair and rebuild. We should all see the effects of war and share love with those who have been attacked.

Q: Do they need art, theater and dance schools?

A: Ukrainians are experiencing widespread trauma. They will benefit from any and all healing modalities including the arts. One sad reality is that art is likely to take a back-seat to all of the other needs of their society. They need to rebuild a massive amount of infrastructure and fund their military. They now have less tax revenue due to the economic effects of the war. The reality is that they don’t have the resources to invest in the arts. That will be up to the rest of us to do. Remember that some of the most amazing art created comes from intense pain and trauma that the artist has experienced. Imagine the art that will come out of Ukraine if we will support them in this way.

Q: Do you see peace in their future?

A: After witnessing the grit of the Ukrainian people, I know there will be peace in the future of Ukraine. There is no other way. And when those who are now children grow older, they will be some of the most powerful peacemakers that this world has. They will have seen the effects of war and will be empowered to speak out against such atrocities. And if the future version of the world is wise, we will listen to what they have to say.

Q: What is your favorite memory from Ukraine?

A: My favorite memory of Ukraine occurred in Irpin during May of 2022. The invaders had been eradicated from that area only weeks prior. Nearly every home and building had been destroyed or badly damaged. There were unexploded munitions detonating in the area. Rain was pouring down. A woman was picking through the rubble of her destroyed home to find pieces of wood to add to a small fire she had started. She was making soup in a caste-iron pot and when I realized she was cooking food for me and the other volunteers, my heart melted. That experience was a microcosm of my time in Ukraine where people used what little they had to feed me and make me feel comfortable. I went to Ukraine to try to help people, but everywhere I went Ukrainians helped me more than I could ever repay them.

Vince Voll, helping to rebuild Ukraine

Q: What would you like people to know about Ukraine and your experience there?

A: I would like to tell people five lessons I learned during my time in Ukraine:

1) I want people to know that Ukrainians are peaceful people. They don’t want war — war came to them and they must defend themselves.

2) Ukrainians showed me how to deal with adversity with grace. From young refugee children to elder babusyas whose homes were completely destroyed, there was no despair only an attitude of accepting reality and doing what they can to move forward.

3) I learned that hatred is a spiritual disease. The Ukrainian people are resisting the invaders, not out of hate, but from a standpoint of love for their own people and nation. In doing so, they are free of the disease which the invaders have carried with them.

4) Helping others has the indirect effect of letting them know that they are loved and supported. Of all the work I did, I think that perhaps the most important thing of all was just showing up to help. My presence there demonstrated to Ukrainians that people in America love and support them. We should all feel loved and supported during our darkest hours.

5) I learned that war is not only of the flesh. There is a spiritual war happening at the same time, we just can’t see that part of it. Aligning with Jesus Christ is the most important thing anyone can possibly do right now. The Bible says “no weapon formed against you shall prosper” and that is entirely true for Ukraine. We just need to ask Jesus to be with us and accept Him as our savior and he will deliver us from evil.

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Anna Duvall

BalletButterfly.com founder, ballet dancer, ballet teacher, choreographer, designer and producer. (Colorado Ballet & Bolshoi Ballet Academy)