EVA President’s Message by Mary Szpur

You may think you know our neighborhood, but maybe you don’t. You may think because
you have visited the restaurants, bars, and boutique retail shops on our commercial streets
that you know what East Village is like, but maybe you don’t, not really. This neighborhood
is more than a destination for drinking, eating, listening to contemporary music, or even going
to the theater. You may know just a segment of the place where you live. In fact, the
place where you live may be even more exotic than you think, but you may never see any of that.

Have you ever intersected in a meaningful way with the ethnic groups that used to comprise this neighborhood,
and still do, to some extent: Puerto Rican, Ukrainian, Polish? Have you ever met or spoken with any
of the senior citizens of our community, people who may have some familiarity with what this neighborhood
once was, and sometimes still is?

Recently I went to a concert of the Ukrainian Bandurist Chorus at the Chopin School on
Rice Street, west of Western. The auditorium was packed with people from our neighborhood.
Being at this concert made me think how there are hidden communities within
neighborhoods, of which many residents are unaware. The Bandurist Chorus was on a
short tour of northeastern United States and Canada. The group often tours Europe. Its
members are of all ages, and come from all over the U.S. Half of them play the bandura,
an instrument that has elements of the lute and the harp, and sounds a little like a harpsichord, and which is
a national instrument of Ukraine. The concert was beautiful, moving. The audience clapped rhythmically. I
felt a little bit like I was in Europe.


Sometimes it feels as though this neighborhood is hyped primarily for its proximity to downtown,
its wonderful selection of restaurants, bars, clubs, and stores, as though that these elements are
what define this collection of city blocks. To me, much more exists here. I hope you can see
that too.