2013 MV Medal Winners (from left to right):
Introduced by Dr. Gerry Yukevich
Before I introduce Olga I want to thank all of you as members, as board members, of the historical museum because the integrity of democracy is directly related to the education of its constituency. We have to know where we are, where we came from, before we can get to the future that you’re talking about right now and each one of you has in your hands the possibility of doing that. Thank you so much for taking the opportunity to build this wonderful new building in Vineyard Haven. It’s a great traditional old building so I salute all of you and I hope you come and see the Vineyard Playhouse too, which we’re soon to complete. Now back to the moment and the woman. I’m very honored to be asked to introduce Olga who I consider a friend, now yes she has occasionally been a patient, but more often she’s been an inspiration to me and to other members of the Vineyard Playhouse in various capacities. Since we are a historical organization here I can mention a few facts and a few numbers.
Olga Zatorsky was born the youngest of three children of a Ukrainian immigrants’ family. She was a teenage bride with her English teacher, Mr. Cunningham, and she was, at the age of 25, the mother of three sons. Subsequently after she separated from Mr. Cunningham she started a business which turned into an employment agency and of course most of you know this story that she got some phone calls from Joseph Hirshhorn who needed a number of employees for his activities in households and businesses. Joseph Hirshhorn was a native of Brooklyn, a self-made millionaire, and after hiring a number of people he decided he wanted to see what Olga looked like. He asked her how tall she was and she said just about five feet and he said that’s fine, I’m five-four.... and he liked what he saw, they got married when he was 62 and she was 41. By the way, she became his fourth wife, just sticking to the numbers here, and their relationship was extraordinary.
They both loved art and they had the means not only to collect works by the masters but also to get to know the masters on a personal basis. Picasso, Sehgal, Giacometti, Miro, O’Keeffe. Joseph and Olga knew them well and partied with them, I will let her tell those stories. After Joseph died, actually he was coming back from the theater where they had witnessed Annie, and he apparently died in Olga’s arms on the way back from the theater in front of their house. Olga felt that her bubble had burst and it had in many ways but she found a new way to start a new life. Part of that life involved coming to Martha’s Vineyard and she since then, since the early 80’s, has become such an integral part of what happens on the Vineyard that it’s hard to imagine the Vineyard art scene without imagining and seeing Olga in the middle of it.
Personally I know from talking to MJ Bruder Munafo, who is our artistic director at the playhouse, that back in ‘93 when we were undergoing a crisis of how to finance the future of the Vineyard Playhouse Olga came up with some ideas, made some connections, and before you knew it the Playhouse Board owned the theater. Subsequently we’ve gone through many years and in the past two years we’ve developed a campaign to completely restore our 1833 building. We’ve raised 2 million dollars, we have another 250,000 to raise and Olga has been in the leadership role. In fact when you enter the lobby at the Vineyard Playhouse to buy a ticket for one of our productions you will do so over the counter of the Olga Hirshhorn box office. So I think everybody who goes through the Vineyard playhouse doors is going to be very grateful, Olga, after all you’ve done. I’ve known Olga also as a neighbor.
I’ve seen her occasionally for minor illnesses and I’ve always been inspired. I remember a few years ago she was troubled with some headaches and she came to me and I said well just sort of be conservative in your activities, I think things will work pretty well and of course later that day I saw her riding her bicycle down Franklin street. That’s Olga. Most of all I think Olga’s inspiration is historical, it is appropriate that she receive a medal from the historical society because she has added so much to the integrity of everything we do here on the Vineyard. Olga without you we’d be light-years behind. Thank you so much.
It’s tough getting old. I’ve received a couple of awards during my lifetime. Two actually, all within the last couple of the years. And each time it happened my hearing aid would break and I would not have a replacement at the time. So here I am not being able to hear anything you’ve said. But I can tell by your applause and your smile that he said some very nice things about me and I’m grateful for that. I arrived on the Vineyard about 20 years ago and shortly after I was here I had house guests and we took a ride up island and as we passed that cemetery before you get to Cronigs drugstore she looked across the road and said, “What are those chickens doing on that grave?” and I said, “Chickens?” And she said, “Yes, there are a lot of chickens on a grave.” Turned the car around, went into the cemetery, parked our car, sure enough there were artificial chickens stuck all around this little grave in the cemetery. So the next day, I hotfooted it over to the Historical Society to find out what those chickens were all about. Well that was 20 years ago and I haven’t left the Historical Society. It's the most fascinating thing to be involved with and I’ve been closely involved with it for the past 20 years, and congratulate them for all they’ve been doing and hope that they are very successful in the new Museum that they are about to open in Vineyard Haven. I hope I live long enough to come to that opening, thank you all for coming.