Like many of you, I’m watching the situation in Ukraine with dismay, while deeply inspired by the spirit of the Ukrainian people. Last month marked one year since the passing of a great Ukrainian-American musician, Peter Ostroushko, a good friend who performed on Prairie Home Companion throughout the show’s 40+ years. A masterful mandolin player (starting at age 3) as well as exceptional fiddler, Peter was born to Ukrainian immigrants and was fluent in the language. He passed away after a stroke, February 24, 2021 — exactly one year before the Russian invasion.
At the 1986 Telluride Bluegrass Festival a fabled Ukrainian country music star, Hank Chenko, did a surprise guest performance with Red Knuckles & the Trailblazers. Fortunately, a recording has been located of Hank singing “Lovesick Blues”, in Ukrainian of course. Red Knuckles did some handy translating, and the band did its best to accompany him in Ukrainian. Peter Ostroushko attended the festival but was mysteriously and unfortunately absent for Hank’s performance.
I hope you enjoy the recording and have a chance to reflect on how music can provide a common thread bridging cultures.
Long live Peter Ostroushko and Hank Chenko!
In better times, back in 2010 Joan and I and Justin Hoffenberg were invited to Russia to play at the first Russian-American bluegrass festival and several dates in St. Petersburg. Despite the formidable language barrier, we made friends with two Russian bands and performed at the American embassy. Those were better times. I put together a report about that trip, along with photos and two 4-minute videos we received from our Russian contacts. How very sad to think how things have changed… but there is always hope.