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Smith: Ukrainians have so very little, yet give

  • Chris Smith.

This is one reason the crisis in Ukraine cuts deeply into Windsor's Martha Adelle Dunlop and Fred Ptucha of Santa Rosa.

They've been in Kiev and Santa Rosa's sister city of Cherkasy, and they found that the people, generous to a fault, have yearned terribly long to be free of corruption and tyranny.

Dunlop is a post-retirement Peace Corps volunteer who traveled to Ukraine on a health mission in 1992, just after it became independent with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Before she went she was warned not to admire anything a Ukrainian owns — because he or she is likely to give it to you.

It's true. Dunlop, who has released a book on her travels, “I Was There ... When,” was struck by how poor, kind and generous the Ukrainian people were.

“I was happy they were breaking away” from the Soviet Union, she said. More than 20 years later, it pains her that they're caught in this current staredown.

Ptucha has visited Ukraine as the prime mover behind Santa Rosa's sister-city kinship with Cherkasy. He remembers innocently telling a woman there that the beautiful stone in her necklace was the color of his wife's eyes.

He said, “She took it off and said, 'Give this to your wife.' She absolutely insisted.”

Before leaving Cherkasy that time, Ptucha asked his hosts to return the necklace to the woman. Today he pulls for a people who've given so much and been robbed of much more.

HEARD OF 'SPARKS'? It's a indie film based on a graphic novel and rating a special screening Friday at the Roxy in Santa Rosa.

The limited release is big to Corey Tocchini of Sonoma County's Tocchini theater family. He conceived the film adaptation of the superhero noir thriller and he acts in it with William Katt, Ashley Bell, Clancy Brown, Jake Busey, Chase Williamson and Clint Howard.

Some of them will be there Friday night for Q&A after the 8 p.m. showing.

SAME NIGHT & TIME, Anton Chekhov's tragicomedy, “The Cherry Orchard,” opens at SRJC.

If you go, keep a close eye on Firs, the play's 87-year-old footman and freed serf. Beneath the costume and makeup is the remarkable and versatile Craig Mason.

Before he became director of Meals on Wheels in Petaluma, Mason was a lawyer and an actor/singer who soloed on Broadway and toured with the three Richards — Burton, Harris and Chamberlain — in revivals of “Camelot” and “The Sound of Music.”

It won't spoil anything to note that he tells of being deeply moved by Firs in several scenes, certainly the last.

(Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and chris.smith@pressdemocrat.com.)

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