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Life, Freedom & Resilience

Welcome to my first blog post.

It’s not about my work or my consulting services.

It’s about life, freedom and resilience.

Why now?

As war is unjustly raging in Ukraine, my thoughts are with those already lost, at risk and in danger. It's hard to believe that this insurgence is actually happening in modern times in the year 2022. My heart aches for Ukraine and its people - and for the Russians who did not and do not want this war. I am, as we all are, deeply moved and inspired by the leadership of Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the resilience and spirit of the Ukrainian people, the solidarity of many countries and companies to unite in the fight and the many acts of individuals to support Ukraine. I just received a message this morning that an acquaintance of our family is opening up their home for a Ukrainian family.

At times when I feel the weight of this tragedy, I sit in meditation, send peaceful wishes and blessings to all people and do what I can to maintain my own inner calm. Falling prey to the fear and anxiety serves no one. I also practice gratitude that we are blessed with freedom and safety, which should never be taken for granted. If what we experience is higher gas prices and economic strain, I’ll take it. For the lives of others, I graciously embrace that discomfort. It pales in comparison and is a small sacrifice to make.

I also reflect on those who have been in harm’s way before – and how are we here yet again? I feel compelled to look to my own family history that speaks volumes of past aggressions and resilience. Both my grandparents on my father’s side fled persecution. They and their families were the fortunate ones – and were able to thrive in America. They were once “refugees” of their time. I share these stories to remind me, and us, that we have a lot more peace to make and need to evolve as humans. We need to stop with the greed, discrimination and tyranny and learn from the past and do better.

This is my grandmother. Born Natasha Aberman in the year 1900 in Odessa, Ukraine. In 1911, at the age of 11, she and her family fled and immigrated to the United States, settling in New York. As many Jewish immigrants did, they changed their last name to Abbey. She also changed her first name to Marie. Well, Marie Antionette to be more specific. She pursued costume design as a profession, so this makes sense! This is how she met my grandfather, an opera singer.

This is my grandfather. Born Armand Tokatyan in the year 1894, his family was forced to flee Turkey to Plovdiv, Bulgaria because of the Armenian genocide. His father, who was a pharmacist, had fled Istanbul and the problems Armenians were encountering with the Turks. According to a relative’s blog, “At one point early in the 20th century, he decided to return with his family to Turkey. They sailed to Istanbul, but were not allowed to disembark. As Armenians, they were probably considered persona non grata. He inquired from the captain where the ship was going next. ‘To Alexandria,’ he said. So they went and settled in Alexandria, Egypt." Eventually Armand made his way to Europe with the understanding from his parents that he would study tailoring in Paris. Well, he didn’t study tailoring. He pursued his singing and eventually gained support from his father. Armand went to Milan, Italy in 1919 to seriously study voice. His operatic debut took place in 1921 as de Grieux in a production of Puccini’s Manon. On February 14, 1923, he had his debut at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, where he regularly appeared with The Company until 1946, concentrating in French and Italian repertories. During his career, he sang in most European capitals, was applauded by the world critics, was crowned with success, acted and sang in Mexican films. On March 10, 1940, Armand made television history, by participating in the first televised performance by the Metropolitan Opera, as he sang Canio’s “Vesti la giubba” to conclude the telecast of Act I of Pagliacci.

I never got to meet my grandfather. He died before I was born. How I wish I could have heard his life stories, and his voice in person. My grandmother died before I was mature enough to value and appreciate her stories and life experiences. If I could go back in time, I would cherish any time I had with her to learn.

As we go about our days, focusing on our work and personal lives, may we remain grounded and humble. May we value and honor those who came before us – and prioritize those who need us NOW and help in all ways we can. Our task list will always be there. Work will be there. We cannot take for granted the precious people in our lives, our fundamental safety and wellbeing, and our FREEDOM.

Peace and love to all.

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Peter Kane
Peter Kane
Mar 10, 2022

So well written Jennifer.... And so "right on."

Mar 11, 2022
Replying to

Thanks, Peter.

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