One of the oldest and most widespread stories, found in some form in just about every culture, is the tale of Cinderella, a young woman who endures neglect and abuse and finally finds love and happiness.
A Multi-Cultural Cinderella program, open free to the entire community, will be presented at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Pittsburg Public Library.
The event is sponsored by the Pittsburg State University Tilford Group, founded in 2007 and composed of volunteers from PSU faculty, staff and administration who are committed to promoting diversity and multiculturalism  on the campus and in the community.
The concept of doing a program based on Cinderella was developed by Dr. John Franklin of the PSU English department faculty.
“Cinderella is one of the most popular tales, found in an array of cultures,” he said. “I thought that my Chinese daughter, Josie, might want to know that there’s more than one kind of Cinderella. I wanted a strong role model for her.”
At that time, Franklin was in charge of the writing center in Grubbs Hall.
“I’d taken my Tilford idealism into the writing center,” he said. “I asked two tutors there, one from China and the other from Kenya, if  they would do the Cinderella presentations.”
The second multicultural Cinderella program was in April of 2010, and involved Mexican and Hebrew versions of Cinderella. Roberta Shilane of the PSU communication faculty brought the youth group from the United Hebrew Congregation, Joplin, and they performed a puppet show based on the Book of Esther.
“Since the second one, we went back to China and adopted a second daughter, and I think it’s time for a third multicultural Cinderella,” Franklin said. “Our daughters will be at the library Saturday for the program. We have enjoyed the assistance and cooperation of the library. Bev Clarkson, the library director, and Gail Sheppard, the children’s librarian, are incredibly supportive.”
This time the program will focus on a Jazz Age Cinderella, as told by Dr. Susan Knell, PSU professor who teaches children’s literature, and on the Russian version of the tale, presented by Yulia Senkiv, Fulbright Scholar from Russia.
“In visiting with John Franklin, he asked if I’d be interested in doing this,” Knell said. “Then he gave me a copy of ‘Ella’s Big Chance.”
Written by Shirley Hughes, the book received a Kate Greenaway Medal for the story of Ella Cinders, who helps her father in his dress shop during the Roaring 1920s. Then her father remarries and her stepmother makes Ella sew in the dreary basement while her stepsisters mock her shabby clothing. Thanks to the help of a fairy godmother and her own courage, Ella discovers that dreams can come true in unexpected ways.
“I’ve been trying to get an app with jazz on my cell phone, and my friend Babs Tims has given me some props,” Knell said. “However, I am not going to wear a flapper dress.”
She said that some youngsters today are not so familiar with classic fairy tales as children were in the past, and that’s unfortunate.
“I have them come as students in children’s literature class, and when I ask them about their favorite fairy tale, some of them have a hard time coming up with it,” Knell said. “I think some of them think that Disney came up with the ‘Little Mermaid’ and all those stories. He did not write classic fairy tales.”
She encourages adults to read traditional fairy tales to children.
“It gives them such a head start to know these tales,” she said. “Some of them come into kindergarten and don’t know the stories.”
Cinderella is a very familiar story in Russia, according to Yulia Senkiv, and their version is not based on Disney.
“Our Cinderella is a translation of the story from the Brothers Grimm, but is a little bit changed,” Senkiv said. “Everybody knows Cinderella very well. The image of the girl is different in Russia, she is very small and so cute. Her father is afraid of his new wife.”
She said the story follows familiar lines, though Cinderella’s experience at the court ball is a little different also.
“The king has a problem with his clothing, it’s torn, and Cinderella helps him fix it,” Senkiv said. “She is very popular at the ball and everybody wants to meet her.”
But Cinderella has to flee at midnight, and her carriage and team of horses turn back into their original forms.
Senkiv enjoys talking to students and others about Russian culture.
“We have Russian Club meetings twice a month and I tell about Russia, we play games and watch movies,” she said. “When Dr. Franklin suggested I give talk about Cinderella, I thought it was a good idea.”
Originally from Siberia, she was successful in her third attempt to become a Fulbright Scholar.
“The first time I applied, I went to the second round for an interview in Moscow,” she said. “I didn’t get it. The second time I applied, I didn’t get to the second round. I worked three years teaching English, and the third  time I applied, I got it.”
Senkiv will be returning to her home in mid-May, but hopes she may be able to visit America again.
“I really like this country and I hope I can come back here some year,” she said.