SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) – At her home in South Burlington, Natasha Koval Paden’s fingers dance on the keys of her grand piano.
âLanguage has meaning. For me sound makes sense, âsaid Paden.
Chopin’s Fantaisie-Impromptu is very much like his life – there is joy and melancholy. His talents were recognized from an early age in his native Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union. She was sent to a music school for gifted children. âI just remember touching the keys and they made noise, they spoke to me,â she said.
Reporter Joe Carroll: And you’ve been playing the piano ever since.
Natasha Koval Paden: Well, not during the war years.
In 1941, the Nazis invaded Ukraine and took her mother to a labor camp in Poland where she was killed by a German guard. Paden and his father were also sent to labor camps. Without a piano, his mind has filled the musical void. âI would draw a keyboard on the wooden bed,â she said. “I had typhoid because I was very weak, I survived a horrible disease because I drank water from the river and there were dead bodies.”
It was a moment that Paden would like to forget. Those 88 keys, however, would later become his ticket to America after the war.
An American by the name of Bill Sudduth became his guardian. His goal: to find a future for the innocent children who endured the atrocities of war. âWe asked him why do you want to help these people,â Paden said. “He said, ‘Because I know they’ll make good Americans.'”
Sudduth knew his talents and Paden got a scholarship to the Eastman School of Music in Rochester and graduated from Juilliard. âI just play because I like it,â said Paden. In a Ukrainian costume, she went on the airwaves to help her fellow refugees. âI would play on television to try to collect scholarships. “
While teaching music in California, she met her future husband, Bill. They have been in harmony for over 55 years. âWell he’s my life,â Paden said.
Now 80 years old, Paden still teaches her profession. âYou impart what is good in life,â she said. âAnd you try to forget what is bad. I think it’s a survival instinct.
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