A Gift From Afar



A friend of mine from Israel sent me this piece. It was in Russian. I started reading it just out of respect to her and suddenly realized the message echoed my thoughts. The more I read the more I was recognizing that I’ve been thinking the same way.  I felt that I wouldn’t want to change a word.


Portrait of Mario de Andrade by Lasar Segall

The original text was written by Mario Raul de Morais Andrade,  a Brazilian poet who wore many other hats: novelist, musicologist, art historian and critic, and photographer. The poem was first written in Spanish. The fact that I could find the poem in three languages (Spanish, Russian, English) tells me that many people share these thoughts.

My Soul Has a Hat — Mario Raul de Morais Andrade

I counted my years and discovered that I have
less time to live going forward than I have lived until now. I have more past than future.
I feel like the boy who received a bowl of candies.
The first ones, he ate ungracious,
but when he realized there were only a few left,
he began to taste them deeply.

I do not have time to deal with mediocrity.
I do not want to be in meetings where parade inflamed egos.

I am bothered by the envious, who seek to discredit
the most able, to usurp their places,
coveting their seats, talent, achievements and luck.

I do not have time for endless conversations,
useless to discuss about the lives of others
who are not part of mine.

I do not have time to manage sensitivities of people
who despite their chronological age, are immature.

I cannot stand the result that generates
from those struggling for power.

People do not discuss content, only the labels.
My time has become scarce to discuss labels,
I want the essence, my soul is in a hurry…
Not many candies in the bowl…

I want to live close to human people,
very human, who laugh of their own stumbles,
and away from those turned smug and overconfident
with their triumphs,
away from those filled with self-importance,
Who does not run away from their responsibilities ..
Who defends human dignity.
And who only want to walk on the side of truth
and honesty.
The essential is what makes
life worthwhile.

I want to surround myself with people,
who knows how to touch the hearts of people ….
People to whom the hard knocks of life,
taught them to grow with softness in their soul.

Yes …. I am in a hurry … to live with intensity,
that only maturity can bring.
I intend not to waste any part of the goodies
I have left …
I’m sure they will be more exquisite,
that most of which so far I’ve eaten.

My goal is to arrive to the end satisfied and in peace
with my loved ones and my conscience.
I hope that your goal is the same,
because either way you will get there too ..

To reach me:


Twitter https://twitter.com/JannaYeshanova





Now an Audio Book!


, , , , , , , , , , ,

Today I am announcing that Love Is Never Past Tense is now available at Audible and Amazon and is expected soon on ITunes.  If you sign up for a 30-day trial on Audible, you can get it free.

Love Never AudioSound brought a new dimension to my story. Getting it just right was very important, which meant selecting the right narrator was vital. Over the past few years, I listened to dozens of samples. Finding someone with the right voice and the right technical skills was a big effort. I was looking for a person who could not only read the text, but feel it.

I went through many voices: actors, students, voice over artists—you name it. None of them seemed good for the book.

One day, when I nearly decided to leave the project alone, I went to ACX — a market for matching authors with freelance narrators who have the talent and access to the technology.  ACX had samples available, thousands upon thousands of samples. I clicked on a sample of Daniela Acitelli — I was attracted by the beautiful name.  To my wonder, this was the one!

The Right Voice

Daniela is a narrator from the UK who has created numerous audio books and logged hundreds of finished stories. When she sent me the sample, I was thrilled to realize that she picked up and expressed feelings, intonations, and character features perfectly!  She brought out the characters, the romance and the drama so vividly!  This wasn’t a simple reading. It was a story—the story I heard in my head as I was writing the book.

And More

I included a short fragment of a beautiful violin piece by my dear departed friend Karo Hayrapetyan, the famed Armenian master. His son who lives Armenia gave me permission.

I dedicated the book to my Mom and my daughter Alla.

Find It Here

The eBook is available exclusively on Amazon. If you are a Kindle Unlimited user, you can download it for free.

Here is where to get the audio book, the eBook or both.

Kindle: https://amzn.to/2zXsp1y

Audible (includes a sample): https://adbl.co/2FryMjR

Book Trailer: http://bit.ly/2LtdlfS

How could he possibly know that she, a complete stranger, would inexplicably impact his life and be with him forever, whether she was at his side or not?


How could he possibly know that she, a complete stranger, would inexplicably affect his life and be with him forever, whether she was at his side or not? Drawn together in Russia on a romantic Black Sea beach, Serge and Janna fall headlong in love and rush into marriage. Their divorce months later leads to years of “if only …” Pressured apart by family and fate, they repeatedly cross paths, never quite reconnecting, never quite letting go.

He faces Soviet corruption and self-doubt, his life falling toward disaster. She pushes out through Soviet bureaucracy to safety in America. As they build separate lives and families, their destinies, shaped by post-Soviet political intrigue, collapse into a struggle for their very survival, and dreams of a better life. Years later, distant memories of young, passionate love spawn emails that lead to international calls reviving an intimate, romantic connection.

They meet in the town they first met.  It was as if they had been apart only a day.

“How did you end up abroad?”  And the story of her unbelievable exodus follows; an exodus from a crumbling country with her child, her elderly mom, and $126 in her pocket.

The world had tried to tear them – and itself – apart, but years have made them wiser. They decide to give their romance another chance, proving that Love Is Never Past Tense.

I look forward to your comments.

Janna Yeshanova



Honoring Memories: Veterans Day 2018

Here in the United States, Veterans Day is coming up November 11. Originally tied to the end of World War I and honored by different countries under various names, the day has more significance than we sometimes give it credit for. I’ve shared a bit in the past about my mother’s service in uniform during World War II. As a Baby Boomer, it isn’t surprising that others in my generation have stories to share as well.

R Grey Hoover is an Air Force veteran with a family tradition of military service that dates back to the American revolution.

RGreyHoover Photo

R. Grey Hoover

He wrote his book KICKER (The Forgotten Front): A WWII thriller about a family’s hardships on the home front and the Army airmen who flew unarmed missions over Japanese territory in China, Burma and India to honor his father and the other veterans of World War II who fought in the China-Burma-India (CBI) theatre.  During the war, the European and Pacific theatres got most of the supplies and media attention leaving the CBI theatre with the leftovers. Even in today’s media coverage of World War II the CBI theatre is never mentioned. The author’s book is an attempt to correct this gross oversight.


We have scheduled this blog post to coordinate with the launch of your book. Can you tell us why you selected this date?

Every year I watch the TV programs on Memorial Day and Veterans Day that are presented to honor the veterans of World War II, and every year I am disappointed that a segment of those veterans is forgotten.  The history and actions of veterans of the European, African and Pacific theaters are always well represented and honored, but the veterans of the China-Burma-India (CBI) theater are never mentioned. The CBI gave us such notable units as the Flying Tigers, Merrill’s Marauders and the first military use of gliders. It was the largest WWII theater with the worst weather conditions imaginable and it featured over 700,000 allied troops completely supplied from the air for over 3 years.  As the son of a veteran of the CBI theater, it is very disappointing to me that such an important segment of our honored military is always overlooked.

This Veterans Day I want to see that the men and women who fought in the CBI theater are recognized for their service. I intend to do this by making my ebook Kicker CoverKicker (The Forgotten Front) available on Amazon for free during the Veterans Day holiday. Kicker is based on actual experiences and military records and tells the story of my father and many other CBI veterans through the eyes of a single protagonist. The book does not contain vulgar language or erotic scenes and is acceptable for teens as well as older generations. It tells the story of our forgotten veterans both on the home front and the CBI front.

You must have done a huge amount of research. How did you select your sources?

I spent 7 years researching my book. The primary sources of information about the CBI theater came from attending meetings of many CBI veterans groups. They called their groups Bashas which is the Indian term for house. I was lucky to be able to meet with those groups because most have been disbanded due to the loss of members. Another excellent source of data was a monthly magazine called the Ex-CBI Roundup which contains many stories submitted by CBI veterans. I was given about 10 years worth of these magazines by a veteran I met and befriended. Of course I had the actual experiences of my father as my most intimate source.

You’ve been involved in independent books since before we met, but this is your first work as an author. Tell us about that transition.

I started out with the intention of just documenting my father’s war time experiences for my family. However, as my research let me to meet many veterans of WWII, I felt I needed to tell their stories too. That is when I decided to write a book in their honor.

Your bio says you were a commercial airline pilot. Can you tell us about that?

I have always been interested in flying, and although I am not an airline pilot, I used by GI benefits to obtain both fixed and rotary wing commercial licenses and I was a flight instructor. I enjoyed flying all kinds of aircraft, but I enjoyed flying helicopters the most.

I’m ready for a flight lesson if you are? Is there anything you want to share that I haven’t asked?

Thank you for this opportunity to share my concerns about our forgotten WWII veterans from the CBI theater. During my years of research I met many of them and was impressed with their dedication to our country and to our freedoms. I can also say that about all of our past and present veterans.


And where can people find more about you?

Amazon URL for Kicker   http://mybook.to/Kicker

Links to my website and pinterest boards that honor veterans



Social media links:

Twitter https://twitter.com/rgreyhoover

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/rgrey.hoover

Excerpt from Kicker

April 4, 1944 – Dinjan Airbase, India

                Sam and Bobby Joe were totally exhausted when they crawled into their charpoys. The harrowing events of the day had taken its toll on them physically and mentally. In spite of the heat and noise of the jungle, Sam felt the blessed relief of sleep approaching soon after his head hit the pillow. However, as he drifted off, a feeling of unease came over him. It was a feeling that something was wrong, not here in India, but at home. He didn’t know if he felt uneasy because he still hadn’t received mail from home or because of some unknown reason, but the feeling stayed with him until he finally succumbed to his exhaustion and slipped into a deep sleep.

Thankfully, his slumber was not disturbed by his recurring nightmare, and he slept soundly until the wee hours of the morning when he suddenly awoke not knowing what had disturbed him. A light rain was falling outside, and except for an occasional flash of distant lightning, the basha was in total darkness. He lay very still, listening to the sounds around him. He strained his hearing, but no sound came except for the steady breathing of the sleeping men around him. After several minutes, he relaxed, thinking his imagination was playing tricks on him. He was almost asleep again when he thought he detected a faint unfamiliar sound coming from somewhere in the basha. Once again, he listened intently, not sure he had heard anything; but then he heard the sound again—only this time it seemed closer, and he was sure it came from within the basha. He couldn’t quite place the sound, but it seemed like something soft brushing against an object. He listened closely, but all was silent. None of the other men in the basha stirred, and after an extended period of silence, he relaxed once again in anticipation of sleep.

He was in that dreamy state just before slumber when he felt the presence of something or someone nearby. Once again, his senses came to full alert, and he made a conscious effort not to move. He listened carefully, bringing all his senses to bear. He could see or hear nothing, and yet he was sure something was there. He was startled when someone at the other end of the room moved, but then all was silent once again. He was lying on his back, so he slowly moved his head to the right and scanned the darkness.

At first he saw nothing, but then attention was drawn to a slight movement at the foot of his bed. He couldn’t make out what it was. It appeared to be an undistinguishable shadow against the darker background of the room. As he watched, the shadow moved, and he held his breath as it silently glided along the side of his bed. There was no sound as it moved, and it slowly drew nearer and stopped near the head of his bed. He could tell that it was something large, but due to the extreme darkness, he was unable to see what it was. His instincts told him this was something dangerous and evil, and the hairs on the nape of his neck stood erect. At that moment, a distant flash of lightning faintly illuminated the scene, and in that instant of light, Sam could see the large form of a tiger standing beside him.

The animal’s head was enormous. Its eyes, momentarily reflecting light from the faraway lightning, gave the beast an evil, devil-like appearance. This was death incarnate staring directly at him.

Sam was frozen with fear, and his heart seemed to stop. His .45-caliber pistol hung on the wall not three feet away, and he cursed himself for not keeping it inside the mosquito netting with him. He knew the tiger could see that he was awake, and he feared any movement would cause it to attack. The animal stepped closer, and Sam could see its dim outline and smell its damp fur and the fetid odor of its breath. The tiger appeared to know its victim was helpless. The great beast took its time as it sniffed the mosquito netting as if testing its strength. Slowly it raised a huge paw and placed it against the puny impediment. The tiger’s claws caught in the netting, and with a mighty swipe, it ripped the flimsy material away from the bed.



Tommy McClure – Putting the Pieces Together


, , , , ,


Thomas McClure

Over the past 12 years, Tommy McClure has created opportunities for himself and others in Columbus at the intersection of fashion, film, and design. I’ve asked him to let us peek behind the curtain to see how various disciplines integrate to reinforce each other. Since arriving in Columbus in 2005, he has been Director and Partner of the Heyman Talent Agency, Founder and Executive Director of Fashion Week Columbus, Executive Director of the Columbus Film Commission, and, most recently, Director of Business Development for OneKreate. I met him in his role with the Film Commission, but I was intrigued because of all the other places he has shown up.

I understand your time at the Columbus Film Commission was a turnaround exercise. How has the Commission changed through and since your leadership?

As their executive director, I was tasked with reactivating the non-profit organization. It was badly needed, as Cleveland and Cincinnati were getting all the Ohio films due to them being active and available for local and visiting film productions. Reactivating Film Columbus included: obtaining city funding, creating a working new website, restructuring and reforming the board of directors, developing programs focused on local filmmakers, rebranding the organization, developing PR opportunities, and making sure the phones and emails were answered when film productions would contact the office. This was a lot to accomplish within a three year time period, and it was all accomplished.

Films like Aftermath (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Wrath (John Travolta), and Bad Grandpa (Johnny Knoxville) most likely wouldn’t have filmed here, if we didn’t have an active Columbus Film Commission available and ready to take their calls. The film commission serves as a central resource for local and visiting productions while also promoting Central Ohio as a filming destination.


John Travolta’s film “I Am Wrath” included filming at the Ohio State House

What attracts these projects here, Tommy?

Some films chose Ohio, most likely for the Ohio Film Tax Incentive. This is an important factor for productions choosing cities to work in. Columbus may have been chosen due to the ease of transportation, central location to the rental houses, central location to the union crew pulled from Cincinnati and Cleveland, and of course because Columbus is such a diverse city. However, having a Film Commission in place for visiting productions to utilize is also important. The Film Commission can help guide productions when it comes to location scouting, crew, and other resources. Funny story, the film Parker came to Columbus because they needed to film during a state fair and Columbus was their choice as it was hard to find other state fairs in the US during that production time.

From an outside perspective, your various projects seem like something to launch on the East or West Coast. How did you end up building your vision in heart-of-America Columbus?

It all started at the Heyman Talent Agency, where I was able to quickly figure out the inner workings of both the modeling industry and filming industry through booking talent for various local and national projects. I soon realized how much Columbus needed a Fashion Week and started putting all the pieces together.

You recently finished Fashion Week Columbus 2017. I understand that’s about more than clothes and runways. How is the community benefitting from this series of events?

Yes. Fashion Week Columbus is about much more than the clothes and the Runway Shows. Fashion Week Columbus is a non-profit organization that’s helping local fashion

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

designers and fashion design students through developing programs and providing scholarships. We consider our Finale Runway Show a program, as it serves the purpose of spotlighting local fashion designers and connects them with buyers and the press. Throughout Fashion Week, we also partner with other non-profit organizations to help bring awareness to their mission and to help them raise funds through the way of a fashion event/program. Fashion Week Columbus is one of few non-profit fashion weeks in the nation.

Take us through what a typical day looks like for you.

There is no typical day! Ha! But, since I’ve joined OneKreate (full-service production studio specializing in photography, videos, and design) as their Director of Business Development, my days are much more consistent. I’m basically working two full-time jobs (Fashion Week Columbus and OneKreate), so I must keep everything organized and be flexible with meetings even if it’s a weekend meeting request. I do try to hold the rule I set for myself several years ago: no meetings on Mondays. Sometimes my days are full of meetings and other days I’m endlessly answering emails. On some days you could catch me meeting with a client needing photography or video from OneKreate or a sponsor interested in being part of Fashion Week Columbus. This past Sunday, I emceed a sold-out fashion event gala (not an FWC event) showcasing and honoring local fashion designers and models. Yesterday, I was moving FWC’s items from a 3rd-floor storage unit to a 1st-floor storage unit. I get my hands dirty too!

What are you planning to do in your latest role as Director of Business Development at OneKreate?

I joined OneKreate in May of 2017 as their Director of Business Development, focusing on developing relationships with new clients while also engaging with the Columbus community through partnerships. OneKreate is part of the largest network of creative studios in the world. It’s my goal to elevate OneKreate in Central Ohio as a premier creative studio, working with both large and small clients.

As a content creation studio, OneKreate and Fashion Week Columbus’s partnership was a perfect marriage. Fashion Week Columbus utilizes a lot of imagery and video to platform the mission and to showcase our designers. OneKreate was excited to be the content creation partner with Fashion Week Columbus because of the heart put into the organization and the programs/events. The day of the FWC17 Look Book shoot was one of those magical days spent in OneKreate’s 25K square foot studio space.

Models, designers, hair professionals, makeup professionals, stylists, creative directors, and photographers all came together to produce the 2017 Fashion Week Columbus Look Book. The hustle and bustle in the studio created an unexplainable energy that drives a project like this from conception to the final product. The FWC17 Look Book is the best Look Book we’ve produced yet, and much of the success is because of OneKreate’s amazing team.

Fashion Week Columbus was lucky to have OneKreate on board as a creative partner for all photo, video, and design needs. The level of talent and expertise at OneKreate can be seen in the FWC17 Look Book and the FWC17 Designer Interview Videos and Finale Show opening video.

I understand that the Runway event is a fundraiser. What did do with the proceeds

Fashion Week Columbus is actually a program, as it serves our local and student fashion designers. Much of the funds go towards creating professional productions to showcase our designers. We have many in-kind partners which help us save dollars. This year, we gave a $5000 scholarship check to a CCAD student, which will greatly help her with her Senior Collection.


Natalia Monserrate (CCAD Fashion Design Student) was awarded the Easton Fashion Week Columbus 2017 Scholarship presented by Sprite (amount of $5000) on the runway with Shannon Hardin (City Councilmember), Karina Nova (10TV), Scott Schweitzer (FWC Board President), and Thomas McClure (FWC Founder/Exec Director). 

What can we be watching for from you in the near future?

In 2018, the FWC board and I are developing a new organization, the “Columbus Fashion Council”. FWC will fall under this new organization as a program. Also, FWC17 Fashion Designer Gerardo Encinas and I will be taking over the Columbus Creative Industry Mixer for 2018, bringing this event back to its roots.

What do you think you’ll be doing in five years? Do you have a vision for the community?

Honestly, I have no clue. Planning this far ahead restricts organic creativity and innovation. Maybe I’m a rebel like that. Ha! However, I do hope to see Columbus play a much more spotlighted role in the fashion world. We have all the right ingredients to make this happen. And Fashion Week Columbus (or the Columbus Fashion Council) will most definitely play a large role.

Do you have any thoughts to take your projects beyond Central Ohio?

Sometimes. We shall see what happens.

How do you select projects and businesses to participate in? Some people have a detailed plan. Others follow their nose. Which are you?

My gut. Seriously, I’m well in tune with my spirit…my gut. Trust it.

As a Director and Producer, what is the biggest part of your job? What do you like and dislike most?

The biggest part of my job is project management. All committee chairs report to me as the Executive Director. They’re empowered to run their own committees and make decisions for the betterment of the organization. Keep in mind though, the committee chairs and members are all volunteers. At the end of the day, I have to put my stamp of approval on major decisions or offer solutions/suggestions. There are a lot of moving pieces that must all stay in sync for FWC to be successful.

Do you have any tips on balancing or managing projects?

Surround yourself with those that can do what you can’t do.

Surround yourself with those that can do what you can’t do.

Are there specific personality characteristics that contribute to your success in these roles?

Passion, Positive Attitude, Confidence, Ability to Manage, Adaptability.

Has social media changed the way you do business?

Social Media

It wasn’t too long ago when I refused to conduct business on messenger, text, LinkedIn message, Facebook, Instagram message, etc… only through email and phone call. Now, I conduct business on all listed platforms! Convenience is highly valued in our busy world.

“Convenience is highly valued in our busy world.” ~ Tommy McClure

Is there anything specific that inspires your passion?

Beautiful and delicious food. Culture. Much like fashion, food creation is also art.

I have heard conflicting stories about you and restaurants. In one, you vowed never to go back into the restaurant industry. In the other, you talk about owning your own restaurant/bistro someday.

Although I swore to never get back into the restaurant industry, maybe I should’ve added that only if I owned the restaurant. Culinary Arts is a passion of mine. My Instagram is all about Food, Fashion, and Fun. There are lots of images of the cuisines I’ve prepared for myself and for others. I find that creating in the kitchen is another way to communicate with people as it says so much about you as an individual and it immediately lets your guests feel the love you’ve put into their meals. Not to toot my own horn, but I have a skill of creating cuisines (even first attempts at a new recipe) with ease and having them turn out incredibly delicious. The next chapter in my life will include culinary arts.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Do you have a favorite quote?

“There is nothing permanent except change.” ~ Heraclitus

“There is nothing permanent except change.” ~ Heraclitus

If you could offer a message that could reach everyone in the world, what would you say?

Be more empathetic to others. With more empathy, the world could get rid of hate and discrimination.

Tommy, thanks for your visit! I am wishing you a happy 2018! How can people get in touch with you? (websites, phone, email, whatever you want them to know.)

www.FashionWeekColumbus.org – info@fashionweekcolumbus.org


Instagram: @officiallyTommyTime

Kindness Will Save the World – Samvel Yervinyan


, , , , ,

The concert was amazing, but that wasn’t why I decided to go backstage afterward. As the show ended, Yanni introduced his orchestra and I heard a name that drew my attention. I didn’t know the name itself, but I knew it was Armenian. My thoughts flew back to my ten-year-old search and a question left unanswered all that time.

There aren’t many great violinists in the world and you can count the great Armenian violinists with one hand. There I was, seeking one musician after a concert, hoping he might lead me to another. Backstage, I found Yanni himself.  I asked if he knew anything about my long lost friend, and the name Karo worked magic.  Minutes later, I first met Samvel Yervinyan. Samvel is the First Violin in Yanni’s orchestra and one of the best concert violinists in the world. This isn’t just my opinion or Yanni’s: here is a bit of a recent review.287754_10150344046725351_7376212_o

“His virtuosity is unrivaled against any other violinist I’ve seen live. His agility and delicate approach to seventh-octave harmonics is spellbinding.”

When I asked if he knew Karo Airapetian and told him I was a friend, he became enthusiastic. He shared the painful news I had long suspected, that our mutual friend had passed years before. This introduction paved the way to a warm relationship that has endured since that night nine years ago. Now, I want to share that with you. Please make a little allowance for the translation into English. Samvel wrote me his responses in Russian, with his charming Armenian accent.

Hi Samvel, I’m so glad to have you here! I am absolutely impatient to ask you a question about the Storm. Whenever I listen to this masterpiece I am blown away. It’s wrath, and happiness, and the victory of unbridled nature!  What can you tell us about this piece?

Of course, this is a genius masterpiece from the cycle of The Seasons of the Year by Vivaldi. Centuries have passed since he wrote it, yet it remains modern.  The Storm is the third part of the concert Summer. The version that we play with Yanni begins with the phrase which is in the first part of the concert Summer. Instead of playing the third part in the original three quarters, we play in four. This was the idea of Yanni. I helped him as an instrumentalist. I think it turned out very well. Wherever we play it around the world, it gets huge applause.

When and how did you fall in love with music? Do you come from a musical family? How did your parents inspire you?

I owe many thanks to my parents. They are not musicians, but they love music. Our house has always been filled with good music. I still hear the voice of my maternal grandmother, who sang best of everybody. My mother sings beautifully too. She has impeccable intonation, crystal clear voice, and soul – without any musical education. I admire my parents for giving me a good upbringing and education.



Have you managed to pass your passion on to your children, Samvel?

I think so. To be honest with you, I am lucky with my marriage. My wife and I have known each other since we were 14. We studied together in the special music school in Yerevan named after Tchaikovsky. We have two sons. The senior goes to university and the youngest is in high school, both are excellent students. This is mostly due to their mother since I’m rarely at home.

Are there other instruments you considered growing up? Why did you choose violin?

Samvel with his first teacher Armen Minasyan.

Samvel with his first teacher Armen Minasian

My first instrument was a piano, I started playing it when I was 6 years old  (1972) and from the age of seven, I went to the violin class of Armen Minasyan, a brilliant violinist and teacher, whom I consider my mentor. He’s the best teacher in the world and I’m very lucky to have been able to study under him.

I can’t help but speak of my second teacher, whom I studied at the Conservatory and in graduate school. He was a great musician and teacher, a wonderful person, one of the best students of David Oistrakh, Professor Edward Dayan.

Tell us about your favorite violin and why it is your favorite. Is there a story behind it?

My favorite violin, the one I always play, is more than three hundred years old. Its maker, even its country of origin, is unknown. Some violin makers say it has a French origin. There are musicians who compare its sound with a human voice.

When I am asked for my favorite writer, movie or artist, I can’t find an answer. I cannot limit to one name the wealth of the world talents. I want to name several, at least. 

Now, I am asking you the same question: who is your favorite composer and what is your favorite composition? Feel free to list as many as you like.

And it’s hard for me as well to pick a favorite composer. There are a lot of them. My favorite concert for a violin is the Beethoven Violin Concerto.

Do you prefer violin solos or being a part of an orchestra?

I prefer to play solo.

Once during tough times for Armenia, in 1988, I spent some time in your hometown of Yerevan. I was impressed with the beauty of the city, culture and hospitality of the people.

When you compose, do you ever draw from your Armenian heritage and folk songs?

Of course, I rely on the heritage and culture of my people. I can tell you, in secret, I wrote my best works in Yerevan.

I promise you, Samvel, I’ll keep this a secret between you, me, and the World Wide Web.

When did you join Yanni and his renowned group?IMG_791311

Yanni and I began to collaborate in 2002. We make a very good team in all senses of the word.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This is not a surprise – Yanni draws on amazing music from around the world.

What does the connection with the audience mean to you when you play?

I always get positive energy from the audience. I think that this is from the fact that I really love my listener…

How do you select something new to play?

I play what I like … I play what touches my soul.

What other violinists or musicians do you appreciate?

My favorite classic violinist is David Oistrakh.


Karo Airapetian – artist George Shiskin, 1995

My thoughts returned to the search that ended when I first met Samvel. Would you like to say anything about our mutual friend Karo Airapetian, who is no longer with us?

About Karo Airapetyan you can talk a lot … I will say a little. He was a genius violinist, musician and a great innovator in violin history. Karo was very kind and a good man. We had an idea to make a recording with our two violins. Regrettably, he left us too early. In my younger years, I learned a lot from his notes…

When I still lived in Kishinev, many interesting friends were coming to my house. Once, one of them brought a new person – Karo, who had been invited from Armenia by Moldavian State Philharmonic to play in the famous folk group Lautary. He was a frequent visitor for the five years he was in town.

He never separated with his violin and willingly played when requested. If I asked him to play, I did so very cautiously, like I was afraid that something precious can be spilled by chance and not much of it will be left for later.

Do you think that you and Yanni’s orchestra are helping to make the world a better place?

Of course, yes, as they say, beauty will save the world!

What is coming up on your calendar?

Concerts with Yanni in Saudi Arabia are planned at the end of November. At the same time I am writing two discs, one classic in which will be the works of Mozart, Sarasate, Bach, Gluck, and Paganini. The second project will feature a variety of music including my works.

What Concert Halls were lucky to embrace your music?

Yanni’s orchestra and I have played in America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia … There is a list on the website. http://www.yanni.com/tour

How do you get your day started, Samvel? What does it look like?

I start with a cup of coffee and a conversation with my parents over Skype.If I’m not at concerts, I exercise to keep myself in shape – I live!

Your Internet biography talks about trying to get better every day. How do you measure that?

“Samvel is driven to be the best in his profession, being more and more perfectionist every day.”

I think that every person should always improve in his profession and life in general, especially spiritually.

Dear Samvel, I want to thank you so very much for visiting my blog and answering my questions. I have saved one more I like to end with. Do you have any final thoughts to share?

I want to add that for me the most important human quality is kindness. I think that beauty and kindness will save the world!

Web page http://samvelyervinyan.com/home/

Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PiFv7cICWRU

Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Ambassadors-Hidden-Moon-Samvel-Yervinyan/dp/B009EC9VQ4



Happy Second Birthday, Mom!


, , , , , , ,

My Mom (in a white dress) with her cousins just before the war.

Senior Lieutenant Malka-Galina Lerner, 1944

Today, May 9, I celebrate my Mom’s second birthday. I call this day her second birthday, as she did, because her actual birthday was on another day years earlier. She chose this second birthday herself because it represented a huge change in her life and the lives of everyone around her. It wasn’t that this was a beautiful spring day, or that the lilacs were in full bloom. May 9th is the day Russia marks as the end of World War II in Europe.

On 22 June 1941, the Germans broke their agreement and invaded the Soviet Union in ‘Operation Barbarossa’. It was a Sunday. The day before in Soviet schools there were graduation parties. When bands stopped playing, yesterday’s classmates, by tradition, went to meet the dawn. Young Muscovites headed to the Red Square, those in the Crimea – went to the seashore, in Kiev – to the banks of the River Dnieper, and in Leningrad to the River Neiva, to greet the white night. That far north, the June Sun never sets completely.

An unidentified witness described what happened next. “That day the dawn began in Moscow at 3:45 AM, but at the country’s border the engines of German tanks were already rattling and fascists’ airplanes were already in the air to bomb major Soviet cities. They had already set their course and 15 minutes after the dawn they opened their bomb bay doors, and bombs showered down on the cities and the Great Fatherland War began!”

Drawn suddenly into the War, the Soviet Union mobilized its military, activated its weapons industry, and called out to ordinary citizens to do what was necessary to stop an existential threat. Millions were called into service and many more volunteered. My Mom joined the army.

When the Soviet Army retreated from the German advance in the winter of 1941, the Nazis took all the food for their Army from the people they were invading. Only those who could not move away remained in their homes. Lots of abandoned houses were burned and a few rare people stayed home with the hope they could survive.

Once, my Mom shared one story that gave me a glimpse of that part of the war. She had not eaten in two days and had no shelter, so she knocked on the door of one such house. A woman with a baby in her arms opened the door and invited my Mom in to warm up. My Mom felt so happy to have the warmth of the house around her, and the cheerful smell of potatoes frying on a tiny stove made her head spin. Here was a family – someone else’s family but a family nonetheless.

Potatoes frying on a tiny stove made her head spin

The woman went into another part of the house with her child, closing the door after her. Mom stood there several minutes, trying to absorb all the warmth, but the potatoes frying in the skillet were screaming her name. Mom could have taken a piece – no one was looking – but she opened the outside door and left, knowing those inside would need the food. Mom’s part in the War was just starting.

1973 reunion of women – WWII participants – in Stalingrad (now Volgograd) near MOTHERLAND CALLS statue. My Mom is in the second row on the left.

She was wounded near Stalingrad, the bloodiest battle in the history of humankind. Her left arm was hanging on the tissue and a bomb, that fell close to her created a deep funnel, pulling out soil and stones and throwing it on my Mom’s head. Others, who were near her, did not survive.

In another story, she shared how she was dragging a wounded soldier from the field where many were shot from airplanes, and a German airplane was flying in circles above her head. He flew away for a short while and then, returned. getting closer to the ground. Then, he was going up circling and circling above her hand and she was holding her arm above her head trying to hide behind her arm. The pilot let her live.

Youth is a very bright time in our lives, but my Mom’s youth synchronized with four years of blood and destruction. She talked about this time her whole life. She was a hero, my Mom — carrying wounded soldiers from the battlefields to help them to extend their lives.

42 relatives on her side were killed by Nazis

If she had not gone to the war, who knows if Mom would have survived. She told me that 42 relatives on her side were killed by Nazis during the holocaust. She knew they were buried somewhere in the area they had lived. Suddenly, on October 1, 2015, I found out watching 60 Minutes that a Catholic priest from France had gone to Ukraine, Poland and Moldova and discovered the mass graves where they were buried. My Mom survived, but I lost an opportunity to have many cousins and uncles and aunts if these guys hadn’t been killed.

My Mom survived, and here I am and here is my daughter and my grandkids. Needless to say that I dragged all of them to the USA, the safest place that one could imagine. Picture. Needless to say, this gave my Mom a chance to see her descendants.

May 9, 2007

Mom understood how lucky she had been to survive – twenty million fellow Russians had not been so lucky. By the time the Germans signed the surrender, it was May 9, 1945. In Russia that became a national holiday. It was a beautiful day — the lilacs were in bloom and Mom felt reborn. From that day forward, she adopted May 9 as her second birthday.

This May 9th I am putting flowers on her tombstone once again, but she is always alive – for me!


Here is some music you would enjoy to celebrate.

Carving a Happy Life


, , , , , , ,

I was always taught that our history builds our future. Is this true? In my case it is. You can change geography, you can get a new profession, you may get new people around yourself, you may travel to different countries, but those who contribute to your vision are still with you. This is what I was taught.

I often accept friends on Facebook, and I’m usually reminded that Mark Zuckerberg’s definition of the word doesn’t match Webster’s. I was thrilled recently when I recognized the name of a true friend on an invitation. Roman Manevich and I share a common motherland and a long friendship between families. When we left the Soviet Union, we headed different directions. I got an occasional letter, or less frequently a phone call, but the opportunities to connect were rare. Suddenly there he was, surrounded by sculptures of his own devising, just as I had imagined.

15873108_137910210041631_1441918186595231916_nI brought with me to the United States some memorabilia from childhood and surely, from a couple generations earlier, and I am happy to have around the things that are dear to me. One of them is the book of Titus Maccius Plautus’s Selected Comedies. This book has Roman’s signature. Sure, it’s in Russian, and it says: Look at the world with happy eyes! I have thought about these words many-many times!  This message was a great support on numerous occasions….

Look at the world with happy eyes!

One of the great challenges to the immigrant is rebuilding your life in the new homeland. Culture and language are predictable obstacles, but many are forced to find a new livelihood as well.  Roman was able to keep his career as a sculptor, but he had to develop a new way to run the business behind his art. He shares his lifetime of carving, cutting and molding by starting where stories always do – at the beginning.

Hi Roman! It was a little bit challenging to have you talk about yourself, but I am glad you are here, and you are about to share some of your story. I asked you numerous times the same question as if I were hoping to get a different answer from you. Roman, I am asking it again, and it will be the last time. I promise! Did anyone else in your family have a talent for art? Your Mom?  Your Dad? 

No. My Mom used to say: “I do not know whom he took after. I cannot even draw a cat…”

So, how did you come to sculpture?

I came to sculpture by chance. I was attending a drawing class for children at a community child development center called the Palace of Pioneers. A local sculptor who was teaching the class got interested in the structure of my face and he started to mold my portrait. He was the one who convinced me to apply to the department of sculpture at the local art school, and after the seventh grade I applied… This man became my favorite Teacher! 

What were your studies like? What did you learn?

We studied at the school for five years — every day molding clay and drawing from nature. Once I asked the Teacher why he doesn’t teach us to work in wood or stone. The answer was simple: “Everything you can mold, you can cut and carve.” And all my life I am becoming more convinced of the correctness of these words: in my wood and in all grades of stone, my sculptures are not worse than in bronze – and bronze is just a copy of what I mold. This school was followed by six-year education at the Surikov Art Institute in Moscow.

I Devoted 11 years to my artistic trade. The trade for me means not something low.  It means something that is a necessity for any artist, musician, or a poet. And the highest level of trade is art!

The highest level of trade is art!

I still have some pictures from your downtown Kishinev outdoor exhibition. Do you want to share with our readers what it was like to work as a sculptor in the USSR?

I have been a sculptor all my life – for 60 years now. In the USSR it was necessary to be a member of the Union of Artists in order to receive orders from the state. The state was the only customer. I was often asked to do a sculpture of Lenin. Because it went well, I got more orders — for statues of Lenin! A private order was for the cemetery only.

Our families went different directions. Mine went to the US, yours to Germany. We left just before the Soviet Union was about to fall apart.  And you?  How did that change things for you?

We left for Germany after the collapse of the USSR. In Moldova, where I lived at that time, the war began, and I am a man of peace.  A lot of surprises were waiting for me in the new country, but the main surprise was that there were no state orders.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Private orders significantly expanded the themes of sculpture – from animals to portraits. As the themes got more diverse, I could tell stories with my work.

Are you primarily staying in Hanover or do you travel?

While in the USSR, I attended three symposiums in Latvia. Two months of communication with colleagues on a full pension, without the need to think about making money – good! But living in Germany, I discovered a whole world: symposiums in China and Brazil, in France and in Denmark, in Turkey and Austria. Different materials: the oak, the linden, the sandstone, the granite, the marble… It’s always interesting, exciting. You get acquainted with sculptors from all continents, compete with them, and rejoice if your work succeeds!

Rom, are you in touch with friends and colleagues?

Unfortunately, I could not learn German as a native. The language barrier interferes with close communication with German sculptors. My Russian colleagues are scattered around Germany. We meet only at symposiums and large exhibitions. In Hanover, where I have been living for 22 years, I am the only Russian sculptor. I am an optimist, and modern means of communication save me from loneliness.

You wrote me years ago about your Max and Moritz wax sculpture. I understand this presented an unusual challenge.

About Max and Moritz: writer and cartoonist Wilhelm Busch wrote in 1865 a wicked tale about the mischievous boys Max and Moritz, and he himself made illustrations of them. This detail is very important in my story since the public knows these characters only from Busch’s drawings. I received an order from a private wax museum in Austria.

The principle of all wax museums is absolute naturalism, deceitful figures, like living people. Clothing is made from real fabric that would fit the body. The hair, eyes, and teeth are like natural.

And the problem with Max and Moritz?

Max and Moritz are Busch’s caricatures… not mine! It was necessary to make natural boys, recognizable as caricatures without having a life model.  I had to draw a sketch.FullSizeRender45

I worked on them for half a year. It was 2001. For the first time in my life, I dealt with wax. And the client and the public loved the result!

Later, for the same museum, I made the nude figure of Christ on the cross and the Virgin Mary with Mary Magdalene at his feet.

And all these characters are life size?

Of course! God made man in His own image, but I made this Christ in my own image. This is why his height is 170 cm. The only thing is that he is dark haired and I am not. IMG_6314

Where are they today?

Kerzenwelt (World of Candles), the German wax and candle maker, has a private wax museum in Ramsau.

Has living in Germany inspired any other work?

Perhaps the most German work of all was Lorelei.

The first time I saw a picture of Lorelei you sent to me, I couldn’t take my eyes off it. It was mesmerizing. How did it come to be?

At one of the symposiums, a theme was set: “Legends and Myths”. I recalled about one old German legend…

Once upon a time, in fishing village on the Rhine, there lived a beauty. A rich knight noticed her and took her to his castle. He took a little amusement, and then returned her to the fisherman father. However, the girl fell in love in earnest; all the grooms were driven away by her dreams of the knight. The local bishop ordered her to be taken to the monastery.

On the way, Lorelei asked the guards to let her take a look from the high cliff above the Rhine at the castle where she was happy. And under the cliff a whirlpool was churning. A canoe sailed on the river, and in it Lorelei saw the beloved knight.

She called to him, and the young man raised his eyes and let go of the paddle. And the stream whirled the boat and sank it. Then the girl rushed from the cliff into the river and also died in the waves. And since that time, at sunset, local people began to notice on the rock the ghost of the beauty. She strokes her long golden hair with a comb and sings. Look at her, fisherman or a traveler on a boat, and die in a whirlpool …

Poets have written about the beautiful Lorelei, including the great Heine.


Lorelei by Roman Manevich

I carved out of Carrera marble not a fisher-girl, but that ghost. This is why, she is sexy and naked, with a comb in her hand.

Oh! Roman! What a moving story!  I wish they’d still be alive! Years ago, you sent me a pictureTo hear each other 001 and told me a little about a project you call “To Hear Each Other,” How did they show up?

I first made the initial composition while in the Soviet Union, at the House of Art in Latvia. I molded them 50 cm tall from chamotte (ceramic), and then I glazed them in a kiln. So, I brought them with me to Germany. Once, they were seen at a local exhibition in Hanover and were adopted by a local church.  Being a Godless commie, I was so surprised, and I felt very happy that my screamers found a great home for themselves.Uslyshat'_drug_druga_granit1

In 1998, I finished carving my screamers in granite while in Austria. These are 1.5 meters each. They found a spot for themselves near the gate of a quiet country cemetery in Schwarzenberg, Austria.  You can see a great contrast: they are screaming at the gate of the absolutely quiet cemetery, and they can’t hear each other.

What was your motivation to do them?

It was absolutely philosophical. I am convinced that all wars we have are because people don’t listen to each other. So, they scream and scream something of their own, but they cannot hear the other. And not being able to listen to each other is the main reason for wars – starting with the family and ending with the world.

Not being able to listen to each other is the main reason for wars …

 I won’t ask you to shout and I’ll trust the readers to listen. Would you like to share anything else with them?

At the end, I want to say that my life is very fortunate. I know many people who had to bend, change their lives and their profession due to various circumstances.

I have belonged to sculpture all my life, and am happy with this!

Check out a map of some of Roman’s works.

Link to Roman Manevich’s  Facebook page.

A Path I Didn’t Take


, , , , ,

I shared my story in my book Love Is Never Past Tense, but my life could have gone in a very different direction.  For those who have never gone through it, immigration is only a political problem. All immigration is personal to the immigrant, and each person takes a different path. Today, my old friends help me explore a path I didn’t take. You met them in my Exodus story, but they have a story of their own. They offer a great example of rebuilding lives and contributing to their new homeland. It would have been a great American success story, except they didn’t go to America.

It is very difficult to leave the country where you were born, raised and established yourself as a human being, to relocate even when you relocate to a safer place, to make sure that your family is not threatened by the unpredictability of the next day, and your kids are not in danger. 


Boris and Marina Bubis

In 1989, inspired by my friends Boris and Marina Bubis and motivated by the USSR crumbling around me, my family and I fled the country in search of a brighter future. Boris bravely took the first leg of the train trip with us to help with luggage and see us safely off the Soviet state, putting his own safety at risk by doing so. He escorted us as far as Chop, a border city that required special permits even short visit. We had them – he did not. We were ordered to get off the train with our luggage, where we would need to wait two days for the next train.

Excerpt from Love Is Never Past Tense – Part Three: Exodus

Boris grabs the trunks and carries them to the door.  I go to the conductors. “Guys! What can be done not to make us leave? My mom is sick and I have a child.”

“Nothing,” the boys say. “We’ve been on this route for several years. Everybody leaves. The visas are already collected. We gave them to the customs officers.”

“Boris!” I shout. “Put the trunks back into the compartment!”

“You are out of your mind,” Boris was taken aback. But he drags the bags back. Then he takes off from the train car and hides behind a night train, so as not to be caught by the frontier guards. A person without the special permit is, at the minimum, sent to a prison cell with a long time to figure things out. For us, especially for him, this is not needed.

My story, including the harrowing train trip across Europe, is in the book.  For all I knew, that would be the last time I saw Boris. I had to get back to the train and find a way to survive the next couple days. He had to sneak back home through the country I had just escaped, knowing he could be asked for a permit he didn’t have at any moment,  and find a way out for his own family.

Fortunately, my plan to move to America succeeded and his plan to take his family to Israel did as well. In spite of the chaos, we kept in touch. My exodus story is told in the book. Almost 30 years later, I chatted with my old friends on Skype and I heard their version of what happened after he left us.

Both of them have made their mark on their new home (Israel) and the world at large. During our conversation, Boris masked his courage and expertise with characteristic modesty. Marina offered a bit more about her work and what’s happening with their children—toddlers in my story now grown into adults following in their parent’s footsteps on a path of their own.

J:(Janna) Hi Boris! I am so glad you agreed to the interview! So, I never asked you what happened after you jumped out of the train.  Can you tell me?

B:(Boris) Sure. Practically, nothing exciting. It was November 29. It was around 12 AM or so, and you remember how cold it was outside.  Thank God, I was in a warm jacket!  I was looking for dark corners to hide to be unnoticeable, after I bought a return ticket.  Luckily, the clerk was changing her shift and in a hurry did not ask me for the permit. Still, when I came back home it was a relief. Marina and kids were happy to see me back safe. Remember, at that time we did not have the cell phones?

J: Marina, I am assuming that for you it was very scary to let him go with us to the border. I remember, having this thought, but I did not want to ask you anything about your feelings not to amplify the fear. I thanked you for this in my mind so many times!

Close friends in our culture are the same as family

M:(Marina) Yes, Janna, it was pretty tough, but we are friends, and close friends in our culture are the same as a family. Isn’t it what friends do for you? We were waiting anxiously for him to come back home safely and learn that you left safe. So it happened!

J: I appreciate you, guys, for instilling in me the thought about the departure. I even have this very moment in my book at the time we had a vacation in Crimea:

The days flew cheerfully in Koktebel. In the evenings we gathered at Anna and Vladimir’s home, local residents who provided simple living for people on vacation. We sang songs with a guitar, told jokes, laughed a lot, drank plenty, and ate heartily.

“It is time to split,” Boris said.

“You’ve only arrived! Why do you have to leave?” I asked.

“But not in this sense …” Boris stretches his words in thoughtfulness. “There is no place to come back to, as a matter of fact. Before our departure from home, someone scratched a cross on the door of our house. Do you know what this means?”

“No,” I answer.

“It means, that we are marked by these thugs-nationalists. Nobody stops them. Not law, not government, not militia. Tomorrow a battle cry will resound: Beat the Jews!—And the Holocaust will begin with a new interpretation. And the most repugnant thing is that at work they hint to me about another nominee for my position. Fortunately, they let me go on vacation. They even paid me money. But I think it is just a tribute to good manners. When I return, they will show me to the door.”

Boris broke off, filtering sand through the thin palm of his hand.

Boris knows everything

Boris is my close friend since childhood. He is handsome and very smart. Boris knows everything. Even when he has no answer, he, all the same, knows everything. I knew too, that in Moldova anarchical forces were rising. They are gathering in parks and plazas, crying out chauvinistic slogans: “Moldova—for Moldavians!” All the others—Slavs, Jews, and other ethnic minorities, should in their opinion, leave the country. But I did not give it much thought: they were just youth gatherings, I thought, nothing more …

“Hitler’s Germany began with street processions too. And then six million Jews went to the gallows and to the gas chambers. To leave, it is necessary—you understand, Jannoshka? Or are you immune? ”

“Where to split to, Boris?” I whisper.

“Where? Probably, to Israel. Where else can you split?”

“And what will you do there?”

“I want freedom. I want to live easy!” Boris stands up and with long steps goes to the sea.

In fact, everything is so good: the hot sun, the sea. What slaughter? What gallows? But, in fact, Boris said that. And he knows everything.

“Marin, what do you think on this occasion?”

“I think like Boris,”—was the short answer. It was August 1988.


My last evening in the Soviet Union with my dearest friends Boris & Marina Bubis

Shortly after I came home from that vacation, I found a Star of David scratched in my door 

J: It was tough to understand that you were going in a different direction. Now, when all is quiet, tell me please why you chose Israel over the United States?

M: I doubted whether to go to Israel or to the United States. My aunt, who lived in America, asked Boris’s profession and whether he spoke English. My Mom said ‘He is a very good person.’ My aunt said ‘This is not a profession.’ We understood it would be better to go to Israel. We knew Boris’s parents and sister would not go to America. This is why the vector was directed toward Israel.

B: I felt Israel is closer to my heart and better for me. I had relatives here, cousins, aunts, everybody was here.

J: It means to me that not everybody wants to come to America…

Not everybody wants to come to America…

B: You wanted! You were saying you wanted to live in a free and diverse place. I didn’t have a second thought of going anywhere but Israel. I never wanted to go to America. Maybe, in the United States it’s more comfortable, but I am comfortable here. I am good here! My friends are here! I hope my kids will have nests of their own here.

J: Did you have any moments you were sorry you went to Israel?

B: None.

J: What kind of difficulties did you have when you came to Israel?

B: It’s a bunch of difficulties like everybody else when they relocate for good: language barriers, mental barriers. I didn’t read or write as well as a native speaker. And this was before, and still, the language is not native. Still, I’m sure I made the right decision to move here.

J: Marina, I remember your parents had difficulties to leave. Why?

M: When I was leaving, I practically said farewell to my parents. At that moment, it was absolutely not clear if they could go with us. My Dad had clearance and his dissertation was under clearance as well. It was very problematic that he would be allowed to leave the Soviet Union, even at that time.

J: This is so horrible, so horrible Marina! I can’t even imagine how you felt leaving your parents behind.

M: OK, Janna, I was leaving because I wanted to take the kids out of there, because it was scary to stay there. Do you remember when you came to our house and said pogroms were about to start? By the time of your departure, there started to appear signs of hope that my parents would be able to leave, and my Dad’s classified dissertation was no longer a problem.


Marina’s Mom, Boris, Mark, Ettel, Marina, Marina’s Dad and Nely, Marina’s aunt in Israel (1996)


J: Yes, I remember! This was the time when my family and I, and even our birds in the cage came with us. You guys had a metal door, and it felt safer at your house.  We did not know how long we would stay, and the birds had to be cared for every day. So, we had to bring that screaming crowd in the cage with us.

With everyone safely out of the country and accounted for, our conversation turned to their lives after leaving the Soviet Union. Immigration doesn’t end a story. It merely starts a new chapter.

J: I am sure you could write your own book about your immigration and new life. So, can you please share, Marina, what was the reason that during a long period of time you were flying to the US several times a month? I remember you came to our house for a whole week years ago,  as you were earning your Ph.D. in Biochemistry.

M: I actually came at 1998 at the end of my postdoc. I visited you on my way to the 2 weeks “Cold Spring Harbor course”.

J: Oh! Yes! You were at an International Conference in Las Vegas before that…

M: I presented our company’s work at APS (American Paraplegia Society) – 7-9/09/2004 in Las Vegas.I was working in a team of the cell therapy company named Proneuron. Those times we conducted phase 2 clinical trials in Israel and the US. We worked hard to transfer the experimental technology developed in Israel for the treatment of severe spinal cord injuries to its US manufacturing sites and also flew to take a necessary part in the manufacturing of this therapy for the US patients enrolled in the trial.

J: Marina, what’s going on with your kids, Ettel and Mark? Mark was my best buddy when he was three years old. Do you remember, he listened only to me for some time?

M: Both of them served in the army. Both of them are professionals.  Ettel is in the beginning of her Ph.D.  Mark is studying in Jerusalem University to be an engineer in Electronics.

J: Boris, now, back to you!  I recall that you worked as a worker in Israel, although you were an engineer by profession. I am so proud of you that you became an engineer again!

B: I finished a certification course, and those who went through this program had access to engineering jobs like the one I am doing. It was very hard to start. Everyone who started the course was an engineer already. At the beginning, we were just workers. After a few years, we got back to our engineering positions.

J: When I visited you guys in Israel a couple of years ago you took me to the 9/11 Living Memorial in Jerusalem and you shared your role in it.


Janna Yeshanova & Marina Bubis, 2014

I was so proud of you that you had such an input into world peace, Boris! This makes me feel closer to Israel. 9/11 was so shocking to me as a US citizen!  It shook the whole world! How did you become the Quality Engineer for this world monument?

B: Janna, it’s so simple. Do you know how many huge projects I had?  This one has a big significance, but by volume, I have bigger works. For me, it’s just my job. During this project, I learned how to solve some technical problems we were trying to solve. I had the blueprints for this Memorial, and I had to make sure they were followed.


Boris Bubis at the 9/11 Living Memorial, 2014

J: What about this project was special for you?

There are plaques with three thousand names on this monument


Commemorative plaque on the base of the Monument

B: There are plaques with three thousand names on this monument, and I found the name of my friend who died on 9/11. He was an architect and we worked together for the same company back in the Soviet Union. We weren’t close friends, but …


Someone told me that he died or disappeared…  His name was Adik Zaltsman. He was a gorgeous young man. He was very talented and goal oriented.

By the way, the architect of this project is the son of parents from Moldova.

J: This is a huge thing, Boris. We started new lives being adults. We did not play Four Square in these countries as kids. And suddenly you were responsible for engineering works, quality engineering for a monument important to Israel, to America and to the whole globe.


The 9/11 Memorial in Jerusalem

B: There are a million people like me. There could have been another person working on this Monument.

J: And instead of Yuri Gagarin there could have been a different person as well!  Yes, Boris? And you and me could have been different people too!  But we are who we are, and WE do what WE do! We live in the free countries we chose, and we are talking now without being threatened.  So, we made it, Boris! WE, Boris, made it!

So there you have it, the path I didn’t take but others did. Immigration is always personal and always painful. I hope that our grandchildren, and their grandchildren, will know of immigration only through old stories!

Dirty Bomb Film


, , , , ,

Today, I am talking with Valerie McCaffrey.  She is a producer and Casting Director in Hollywood  with dozens of film credits.  She  recently shared her new project with me, and I decided to introduce it to you.  In light of the current events it’s hard not to mention that Valerie is the third generation of immigrants to the US.


Valerie McCaffrey

I want once again to stress the point that people come from other countries not because they just decided to take another trip, to forget their culture, their social level, or to leave their friends behind.  Those who are lucky not to have this experience need to know that it takes a lot of courage to go through these tremendous changes and adjust to a new culture.  Valerie is an example of how immigrants, even generations later, contribute to their new culture that in time becomes native.
We have a common interest in socially relevant stories, which is why her latest project touched me. If you are interested in seeing films that matter produced, I hope you’ll join her Indiegogo campaign mentioned at the end of this article.
Please meet Valerie!

Valerie, when we met at the Columbus Film Festival you shared with me that your grandparents are from Armenia.  What was the reason that they left?

My grandparents are survivors of the Armenian genocide in 1915. Religious profiling happened both in the Armenian and Jewish community. It was horrific.

Dirty Bomb is a Jewish prisoner trying to survive, but in the end he secretly saves the lives of others by sacrificing his own. I want to tell that story.

So, tell us about your latest film project.

“Dirty Bomb” based on a true story… Signing his own death wish, a Jewish concentration camp prisoner sabotages the construction of the V-2 bomb against the Nazis, while American soldiers struggle to advance against the Germans.

dirtybombvintage7psdThere are so many stories during the war, this one is essentially unknown. I want to bring them to life and light. v-2missileHere is a very little known fact: Werner Van Braun, who designed this V-2 missile, designed the Apollo 13 space shuttle. Hitler took advantage of Van Braun’s passion for space travel, which ended up killing thousands of soldiers while 200 Jewish prisoners were hung for the sabotage causing the bomb to misfire.v2

How will you promote the film? 

I plan on doing a festival run and develop into a feature. Whiplash was developed that way.

Where and how do you plan to distribute it? 

Online, HBO, Sundance channel are all possibilities. Also, schools, museums.

Who is involved in the project?

Bob Shaye, former owner CEO of New Line is one contributor—he is our Associate Producer. We have wonderful actors such as Ido Samuel from “Fill the Void”, (the largest grossing Israeli film in the US) Christopher Heyerdahl from Twilight, J. Michael Trautmann from Shameless.

I understand the current phase is being paid by crowd funding?

Indiegogo is a site where crowd funding makes things happen and making this short film, is one of the many projects Indiegogo supports.  The goal is to get the community involved in this  project— they believe in it and support the story. Each project has a deadline to raise contributions. Our end date is February 28. Here’s a brief video that explains it all. https://youtu.be/CypSN8Het3Y

What’s the goal for this Indiegogo campaign?

The goal is to raise enough money to create/build the concentration camp and tunnel where the V-2 bomb was built. I want to develop this story into a film. There is interest now.

How can readers get involved?

Readers can contribute money to make it happen. Even from $10.00 on up-anyone can be involved and receive a perk from the movie!  As the film begins shooting, we will keep everyone in the loop on the progress.  It will be everyone’s film.

Join the Indiegogo campaign: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/dirty-bomb-film-pt-2-history#/

Valerie’s IMDB Bio: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0564559/?ref_=nv_sr_1

IMDB link for Dirty Bomb  https://pro-labs.imdb.com/title/tt6342324?s=8ead22f6-db34-2d05-8150-e63800ae79af


What Willpower Won’t Power

Happy New Year!

This time of year, people set resolutions with good intentions, but their lofty goals often get abandoned.  Does it need to be the fate of our goals?

Today, I talk with my friend and my Life-Spark, LLC business partner, Jay Elkes. After a long career as a software developer, Jay has switched to thinking about systems that make life better. Recently, he blogged about one of his key strategies on his personal blog, and I’m excited to share his thinking with you.

Jay, your article focuses on a topic we are both interested in — achieving goals, which you’re taking it one more step to maintain the result.

That’s right, Janna. Anybody can set a goal.

Many people can achieve it. When it comes to lifestyle goals, the real challenge is maintaining the results.

About five years ago, I re-engineered my life to lose 35 pounds, and I’ve kept it off ever since. I did this over a period of six months without name-brand diet plans, medical supervision, or surgery. I didn’t understand what I had stumbled into at the time, but I recently recognized the underlying principle to my success.

Why don’t we, Jay, start with the moment you decided to take action? What was going through your mind?fullsizerender

In April, 2011 I wanted to lose some weight . I lost a couple pounds right away, but then I started coasting. Over the next six months I lost another six pounds. Any progress I made was quickly overwhelmed by moments of celebration.

By the end of October, I realized that at that rate it would take me years to get to my target. I decided to make it a formal goal, complete with measurable targets and a plan. I wrote out the plan in a Moleskine pocket notebook that I still have today.


Jay’s Plan from 2011

So what did you decide?

I set a specific target weight to achieve over a period of three months and outlined what I was going to do to achieve it. This was a classic SMART goal and I used every trick I know to make it happen.


S –  Specific
M – Measureable
A – Action oriented
R – Realistic
T – Time bound

I have used SMART goals before and after, but this was one of the clearest examples I’ve seen. If you look carefully, you’ll see that I missed the target by a couple months.

Was that a problem in this case?


In this case, no. Nobody else was depending on my result and I was pleased with my progress. The real issue would come later. Anyone can set a goal, and a lot of people can achieve it. I knew from the start that I could reach my target weight, but the real goal was to maintain it long term.

You’re talking about a lifestyle goal. Correct?

Exactly. If you want to visit the Grand Canyon, you can do that, check the goal off as done, and pick another destination for your next trip. Reaching a target weight is a great feeling, but it’s just another data point on a graph of maintaining health. I waned to change my life to maintain that weight. Today, almost five years later, I wrote about my success and why I’ve succeeded this long.

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. What exactly do you mean by success?

When I checked my weight this morning, the scale reported 153.8 pounds. For my height of 5’9″, this maps to a body mass index of 22.7 — perfect according to even my fussy primary care doctor whom I see once a year for a checkup. Even better, I’ve maintained that weight since ending a diet that dropped 35 pounds in 2011-2012. What I realized this year is that back then, more by dumb luck than insight, is the master key to long term success.

Willpower won’t power long term success

I’ve known you long enough to see the result. If willpower wasn’t the answer, what did you do?

I began with exercise. mostly walking…

Yes! I remember, you shared this with me.  I also remember that I asked you “How did you make it, Jay?  And you said:

Walking  is a two-step process: you take a step with one foot, then a step with the other, then repeat five thousand times (for 10,000 steps) a day.

This took willpower at first, but after a few weeks it became habit and finally I enjoyed it. If I miss a day now, I regret it. I also know that one hour at a fast food restaurant destroys several hours of exercise.

Come on, Jay! It can’t be all exercise!  Can it?

fullsizerender111Losing weight is 20% exercise and 80% diet. About half the diet effort is cutting out the stupid habits.  First, I cut from my meals (and my snacks) the items that were totally self-destructive. A burger, fries and coke can provide 1700 calories in a meal. Replace that with a grilled chicken sandwich, a small salad and water and your calorie count is at most 600. I used willpower to make good choices until good choices became a habit.

Then you recommend both diet and exercise?

Correct diet can help you lose weight, correct exercise will make you fit. Weight control and fitness are two separate but related goals. If you want both results, you need to do both.

You’ve already said that willpower doesn’t do the job. What’s the missing piece?
What I didn’t catch at the time was that over time I went from applying willpower to adopting healthy habits, and from there to craving them. Lots of walking became a habit, then a reward in itself.

Do you have any tips on the diet side?

Use your willpower to fight the biggest problem. For me, it was too many calories in liquid form. The most effective rule I had was don’t drink your calories. Today, I’d say make a habit of not drinking your calories.

So, what’s wrong with willpower?

When it comes to goals, willpower eventually loses to the power of won’t. Buddha said “In the confrontation between the rock and the stream the stream always wins, not because of strength but because of persistence.”


Willpower can’t last long enough to power persistence. It can power you long enough to reshape habits and habits are the tools of persistence. When you crave the walk and happily select the salad, you’ve won the game.

So you need both willpower and habits?

Think of it this way. Use willpower like tinder to start a fire. Use habits like firewood to keep it going long term.

Thank you Jay. Where can my readers can get more inspiration from you

I blog at  https://jayelkes.wordpress.com/ and tweet as @jayelkes. You can also look for me on LinkedIn. You can see my blog post on this topic here.

Make a New Year’s Resolution to change your habits and use your willpower to get the process started.

Hey, Jay!  Why won’t you show us  your trick with the belt?

O! This is my favorite!  In 2011 this is the belt I was wearing, and it felt uncomfortably tight! I’ll let the result speak for itself.

Be the stream. If you want help plotting the course of your stream, we can help.

Contact: http://www.life-spark.com
Twitter: @JannaYeshanova
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lifesparkllc/