One of the hardest aspects of traveling through Eastern Europe this summer has been the language barrier. While the core of our group's studies have been in Yiddish literature and language, in the places we’ve traveled to (Belarus, Poland, and Lithuania), we have had to pick up parts of each country's spoken language. Over the past 2 weeks I’ve had to learn some Russian, Polish, and Lithuanian just to get by. Not knowing the language of the people in the country one's traveling in has been both overwhelming and difficult.
In the nick of time, the rest of the helix group got out of the lake and walked over to us. As a full ensemble, we sang to the girls one of our Yiddish songs that we had been taught on the trip. They were amazed, they had probably never even heard of Yiddish – they even clapped for us. The girls’ mother walked over, as did our translator, and the family invited our group to their small home in the countryside, where they would put on a small concert for us. Let me say that when a group of small musical prodigies invite you to their home to play more music… there is only one way to respond.
I may not have understood a word of what the little girls said to me, but when two of the sisters played an Ave Maria duet on the violins and we sang back to them in Yiddish, we were speaking in an even more beautiful – universal – language. I thought, “Wow, this is it. Music is what connects us.”
Music has played such a large role in my life and up till now, I never realized how much it connects me not just to feelings within myself, but to other people. I will always remember the family we met in Suvalki – complete strangers that we shared such a beautiful moment with, and for that, we have music to thank.