Finding Hope In Time of War

Chocolates y Churros San Agustín

by Isabel

For 42 days now, we have been living in war. Although it feels that this war started long ago, we are all struggling to make sense of the terrible atrocities and to comprehend the images coming from Ukraine. I am devastated and want to do something. We should all do something.

For the first two weeks of the war, I had difficulty sleeping. On the one hand, I was terrorized by the news from Ukraine. On another, I had some personal challenges that kept creeping up and keeping me awake at night.

Then on March 5, I was attacked and punched in the face by a stranger while running in Riverside Park. That further shocked and depressed me. Around that time, I had also started a huge project in Bulgaria. The building of the community center where my friends and I hold a chamber music festival each summer was collapsing. Together with my colleagues, we decided to start a charitable society (on January 1, 2022) and raise money for the complete renovation of the building.

The place is simply a jewel that we love and care about deeply — a beautiful concert hall with perfect acoustics, surrounded by mountains and great views in the middle of a remote, old-fashioned village. What can be better? Sadly, like many things in Bulgaria, the building has been all but abandoned. It is up to us, artists and musicians, to bring it back to life before some corrupt, grotesque mafia boss decides to make it into a tacky restaurant.

We raised enough money to start the renovation right away because the situation was dire — the roof was leaking severely. With the funds we collected, we purchased the materials, hired the workers, and pushed to begin the renovation. Doing renovations in Bulgaria is not easy to do from a distance, but with patience and perseverance, we did it. It took many months. And just after the workers got there and opened the roof, there was a huge storm, and the work had to stop for several weeks.

So, I had yet another reason to worry, dreaming nightmares about snow melting inside the building and destroying the concert space further. The war, the physical and psychological assault I suffered and the uncertainty with this project, they all weighed on me heavily.

And then something miraculous happened.

In the middle of March, I decided to go to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, for a Writer’s Workshop with Danielle Trussoni, a NY Times Bestselling author. I have been following her for years — she writes memoirs and marvelous novels about dark angels, mysterious ice creatures, and lately, puzzle masters.

Danielle is also a NY Times columnist, a podcaster, and a teacher. She knows all there is to know about the writing profession and I find her absolutely fascinating — a beautiful, smart, strong woman. In short — she is one of those super-humans that move the world forward.

I fell in love with her writing unexpectedly — I was curious about her because she had lived in Bulgaria and was married to a classmate from my high school. After reading her books, I realized that she is someone I would like to be friends with and someone who would give me great advice on my writing, having experienced life in Bulgaria.

In Mexico, I got a lot more than that. First of all, Danielle had created the perfect retreat and had invited a fantastic group of mostly women writers — all different personalities, ages, and backgrounds. I immediately hit it off with all of them. We stayed in an art house, Casa de la Cuesta, surrounded by beautiful traditional Mexican objects, masks, small courtyards, spectacular views of the city, and scents of exotic flowers. My rooms (and yes, I had two rooms and a terrace) felt like entering a nostalgic journey through a Latin American novel.

Casa della Cuesta

Each day, I walked around the village with the participants in the workshop. After that, we would meet with Danielle in the afternoon, discuss our work, and do multiple writing exercises. Finally, we would go to various restaurants, concerts, and wine tastings. Of course, sharing my writing with everyone was terrifying and joyous all at once, because I got a lot of encouragement as I continued to work on my book, which I hope will be an interesting and engaging journey in my past.

In Mexico, I healed from all the wounds and felt happier and lighter. When I returned to New York, my face was back to normal. Meanwhile the weather in Bulgaria improved, which led to the resumption of the roof’s construction. A few days ago, we got photos of the finished work, and the new roof looks beautiful! Next, we will make sure that the ceiling is in good shape, and then we will continue working on the building until it looks perfect.

Our brand new roof in Bulgaria

I also decided to do something about the war. While I can’t stop the aggression, I am not powerless. I can help a little. On April 11, we are raising funds at the Bulgarian Consulate in New York with the hope to send money to the Bulgarian Music Association, which works closely with the Ministry of Culture in Bulgaria in support of the Ukrainian musicians who are seeking refuge in Bulgaria. We are performing a program of Ukrainian composers and other Eastern Europeans who are inspired by Ukrainian culture — Liszt (Mazeppa) and Dvorak (Dumki).

This concert is our message of hope.

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Gloria and Isabel are the writing pseudonyms of Bulgarian pianist, teacher and concert presenter Lora Tchekoratova, based in New York City.

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Gloria and Isabel

Gloria and Isabel

Gloria and Isabel are the writing pseudonyms of Bulgarian pianist, teacher and concert presenter Lora Tchekoratova, based in New York City.

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