Wood and Fire

“I have a last name which is Ukrainian. I am an American citizen. I was born in Poland. I was raised in Belarus. I went to college in Moscow. And I left Russia for Springfield, Massachusetts.” Such was Sergei Gerasimenko’s life as a “rolling rock.” Now a New Havener, he’s a rock of a different kind, working on West Rock Avenue in the shadow of West Rock itself, expertly fashioning custom features made of wood (not rock). It was a trip to the theater, of all things, that started his long roll to New Haven. The year was 1980, and Gerasimenko was a teenager living in Minsk, the capital city of Belarus—a “provincial town at the time,” he says, where few went out to enjoy the arts. Yet it had (and still has) a grand 1920s performance hall in “a clamshell design, a strange mixture between classical and Stalin-influenced architecture”: the National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre, which he says was the city’s only major building to survive World War II.

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