Paul Wagoner
Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

July 28, 2013

Jan–

I am rushing to express something now so it does not get away from me, even though I don’t know how to express it clearly.  Your chronicle has helped me to know my own family better, and I am very grateful for that.  Through it I feel that I have met so many interesting people, about whom I may still learn more.  Father Teilhard de Chardin is just the most recent; I knew his name, but not even his century.

Throughout the story, and especially recently, we see cases in which someone needs to respond to a situation that turns out to have deep ethical and moral aspects.  I believe that it is easy in retrospect to focus attention on a particular choice as though it would have been highlighted at the moment as a critical choice.  But I feel that that our lives as we live them forward are not so clear, and that in most cases the greater effects of our actions flow from many small choices we make.

And I believe that the small choices of many people outweigh the few large choices made by a few people that appear to be so crucial in historical developments.  Those few large choices are visible and clear, with consequences easy to see and follow; it is hard to notice the results of the choices made by multitudes.  I feel that it is easy to look at choices made in the past by one person and ask, “Why did he do that terrible thing?”

If this leads us to greater attention and care in our own choices, that can be a good thing.  But it can sink to blaming, and failure to focus on our own choices.  I feel that we have ample opportunities in our own lives to make better choices, in fact almost limitless opportunity to transform the world through our small choices.  And I feel that the stories you have told here can help us to realize the long-lasting consequences of our choices.

–Paul

Jan’s note:

Paul Wagoner’s grand-mother Faye was the twin sister of Fern Scull, Vladimir Baranovsky’s wife from 1924 until his death in 1976. Before 1922, Vladimir was Moussia’s first husband, and he has figured prominently in the first 31 articles of the Moussia series.

Fay and her husband Chester Meal have a large offspring of talented men and women, active today in the medical, scientific, legal and art world. Vladimir Baranovsky is for all of them a legendary uncle, Uncle Vladimir.

It is my luck and privilige to have found them when the Moussia chronicle took off. They helped me with anecdotes, photographs and even a tape recording and, last but not least, they have become passionate readers of my blog and treat me as part of the family.

In his thoughtful and moving commentary, Paul Wagoner refers to the life stories of our protagonists Vladimir Baranovsky, Mousssia, Alexander Borovsky and Giacomo Antonini who all had to make choices in difficult times, without being able to foresee their long term repercussions. I share his feelings and I am very grateful for his reaction.

Paul added, as a footnote,  a short reminiscence of ‘Uncle Vladimir’:

I have about a dozen cousins, and I might be the only one of them who met Vladimir.  I must be the only one who met him both in Indiana and in NYC.  I could be wrong, but it has always felt that way.  I was born in 1952, so I was too young to retain much from those meetings, but the stories have been part of our family all my life.  I was a very small child when Vladimir visited my family in Indiana and I have no real memory of that.  I have little memory of visiting him in NYC a few years later.  But I always grew up knowing that I had met him, and with him as an example of what I could do (especially as I became an engineer).  And I knew that he and Fern had been great friends of my mom when she visited NYC.”

Thank you Paul,

Jan Doets

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