Three Ukrainian exchange students arrived Monday in Sonoma for an extended visit. Thrilled and amazed at all the sights, so very different from their homeland, the girls were nearly speechless in two languages.
“Wow….” said one, when asked for a first impression. “Is that enough?”
The trip was coordinated by Friends of Kaniv and Sonoma Sister Cities. The students, girls ages 15 and 16, will stay with local families and attend high school for two weeks.
“It has been a dream of the whole life to see America,” one of the teens said.
Tarney Baldinger coordinated the visit. After months of planning, she met the girls at the San Francisco airport and was nearly excited as they were. “They’re so adorable,” she said. “They are just so thrilled to be here.”
Baldinger said the girls marveled at all the houses with trees, a rarity in their city of Kaniv which is dominated by Soviet-style block housing. “The things we take for granted they really notice,” Baldinger said.
Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge was another example. “I am dream of many years to see this gate,” said one of the awed travelers, “and now I’m riding on it.”
Baldinger said the three teenage girls are lively and charming, and they are fluent in English. “They are extremely talented girls,” including skills in dance and photography. “They are quite accomplished.”
The trio is accompanied by their teacher, Alina Kharcheno, who participated in the earliest exchanges between Sonoma and Kaniv.
The girls are planning exhibitions of their culture to include a dance recital and a workshop in painting Ukrainian Easter eggs.
“They want to make a contribution to the community,” Baldinger said, “a true cultural exchange.”
Meet the young Ukrainians
The public is invited to meet the teenagers during their cultural exchange visit.
Welcome reception. Friday, April 1, 5:30 p.m.. Potluck reception in the Bear Flag room of the Best Western Sonoma Valley Inn. Family friendly. No charge.
Plaza art walk, Thursday, April 7, 4 p.m. Photo and sketch walk around the plaza to experience “Sonoma through a visitor’s eyes.” Photographers Jim Tonery and Will Murray and artist Scott Sherman will be assisting. Meeting in front of City Hall at 4 p.m. Suitable for ages 10 and up. No charge.
Ukrainian Easter egg workshop. Saturday, April 9, 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Workshops on making Ukrainian Easter eggs (pysanky) at the Sister Cities’ headquarters, 205 First Street West. Please bring four blown eggs, other materials provided. Donation: $5 for ages 6 to 10, $7.50 youth and adults. Pysanky books and supplies available for purchase courtesy of Fine Line Arts. Ukrainian snacks, music, crafts, and recipes will be also be available. Space limited; RSVP requested at 935.1225 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Ukrainian dance and cultural exhibition, Sunday, April 10, 6 p.m. Sonoma Ballet Conservatory, 561-B Broadway. The exchange students will present a modern version of traditional Ukrainian dances and modern aerobic dance, and also lead singing, share their culture, and display photos, craft and art. $5 suggested donation. Ukrainian snacks, music, crafts, and recipes will also be available.
For more information contact Laurie Langton at email@example.com or Tarney Baldinger at 935-1225.