Breathless, too

She was maybe 20, 25 tops, and wore a long red dress. Her blonde curly locks shone bright under the stage lights and fell about her shoulders like a golden mantle. She moved like a ballerina, with purpose and grace, and when she began speaking, there was silence.

“I’m Yana, from Ukraine. I want you all to know that I am the happiest woman in the world right now, because I became the wife of the man I love this morning. I want him to know that I will be together with him for the rest of my life.” She turned toward a young man in the front row. “Oleg, this is for you.”

Then she began to sing a love song. I’ll be honest. I don’t know which one. I was too mesmerized by her ethereal beauty. But as the words left her lips, I was enchanted, and I know this: she nailed it. In English. On stage. In front of hundreds of strangers. And I know something else: there wasn’t a man out there who didn’t want to be Oleg at that moment, and not a human being that wasn’t amazed by this extraordinary girl.

Karaoke is normally for drunks and wannabes who can’t play an actual musical instrument, even though I’m sometimes surprised by the talent I hear. But it’s innocent fun and I’ve laughed and hooted and even sung a song or two myself after a few; or a few too many.   Yet this evening I was almost brought to tears by a voice so brave and innocent that even today I remember it.

When the applause died down, I had time to reflect on why I was so enthralled. I think it’s because in spite of living in a country on the brink of civil war, a place I know is very poor and getting worse, where the average young person doesn’t have much hope for a better future, a land of incredible historic tragedies-love found a way.

Somehow, these two found each other regardless of the war, the fear, the anxiety about the economy, and even whether they would have a country of their own when the smoke clears. In a place where the demographic decline has been frightening, corruption is expected, and which was racked by famine within living memory, love found a way to win, and this woman-child, this girl, this beauty sprang up from the blood-stained earth like a flower among the ruins of a blackened city-and sang a love song. A song full of joy, and peace, and light, and hope. And if love can find a way in Ukraine today, love can prevail anywhere.

I guess some of you know I lived in Ukraine and have an affinity for the place. So I found the couple later and asked them about their homeland. They were concerned, of course, but not fearful. Oleg told me, laughing, that he wanted “many children”. How many? He told me “maybe 5”. Yana looked startled at this, so he quickly revised down to 3, which, he said, would be “more if not for the war.”

I’m lucky I got to meet these two, so obviously, completely, and gloriously in love. Earnest young people with their whole future ahead of them. It does the heart good. And if love always finds a way, who knows?   Perhaps there’s hope for me.

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