AZ Central Obituary

Zinieda (Zina) Constantine Zovalov Stolov-Stolinska Kuhn  - entertainer, World War II veteran, linguist, civic activist and patriot -- died August 15th, at the age of 91, in Scottsdale.

For the first half of her amazing life, Zina Kuhn survived the horrors of war, exile and oppression. She dedicated the second half of her life to ensuring that Americans, particularly Scottsdale and Valley residents, never took their freedoms in America for granted. Passionate about giving back to the country she called "paradise," Zina used her painful experiences to teach us all about the true meaning of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Zina was the only child of Paula and Jakob Zovalov, born in St. Petersburg, Russia May 24, 1914. She was raised in Wilno, Poland (now Vilnius, Lithuania), living a life of relative privilege at the home of her maternal grandparents Esther and Nathaniel Matz. Her father was an opera tenor; her mother a concert pianist. Aunts and uncles had distinguished themselves throughout Europe: her great uncle was Marc Antokolsky, the renowned Russian sculptor; an aunt married Count Sforza, the Minister Foreign Affairs of Italy; another aunt married Russian Prince Tarkhanov who was a university professor.

She studied music and French in Wilno private schools, then married Russian violinist and composer, Ignace Stolov, in Wilno in the 1930s. Their happy life was interrupted in 1939 by Poland's partition, invasion and mass deportations to the USSR. They were relocated to a work camp in Minsk in the U.S.S.R., then fled for their lives as the Germans invaded Russia during World War II.

During her traumatic travels she lost both her mother and her husband. Forced by the Soviets to move several times among different labor camps in 1940 and 1941, she was eventually rescued by the Polish-Army-in-exile. To escape from the Soviet Union, Zina donned a Polish Army uniform and crossed the Caspian Sea into Iran. She spent the rest of the war serving in the 2nd Polish Corps as a USO-style entertainer. Her troupe provided shows for Polish and British troops at desert encampments throughout Iran, Iraq and Palestine.

After the war, Zina worked as a nightclub singer in Beirut, putting her life back together, despite the loss of her immediate family and access to her native country. In 1951, an uncle, who was a professor at Columbia University, offered to sponsor her entry into the U.S. She vividly remembers entering New York harbor May 30, 1951, passing by the inspiring Statue of Liberty. Within a year, she added English to the five other languages she spoke: Russian, Polish, German, French, and Arabic.

She got a job as a manicurist, and began meeting interesting people through her uncle and cousin. Among her close friendships were violinist Isaac Stern and his family, voice teacher Lydia Chaliapin (daughter of the Russian virtuoso) and Max and Ray Schuster (of Simon & Schuster).

Shortly after gaining her U.S. citizenship in 1957 she met U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Coleman Kuhn while on vacation in Greece. They married a year later, and Zina relished life as an Air Force wife, traveling to Cole's assignments in Louisiana, France, Libya, Turkey, Germany and Little Rock, Arkansas. While he was in Vietnam, Zina lived in Hollywood and befriended many television and movie stars and producers.

During their military moves, Zina performed in on and off base musical productions, helped a town in France establish a monument to John F. Kennedy and received special recognition from NATO for her volunteerism while living in Izmir, Turkey. When Colonel Kuhn was selected to attend graduate school at Arizona State University in 1963, the Kuhns got their first taste of Scottsdale. Wanting to return, Cole retired from the Air Force in 1975, became a civil engineer at Williams Air Force Base and the Kuhns became early residents of McCormick Ranch. Zina plunged into community projects. She continually volunteered to speak at local schools about her wartime experiences and her patriotism, tutored students in Russian and French, acted as a translator, served as a Scottsdale Center for the Arts docent, served on the board of the Scottsdale Sister Cities Association and helped host dignitaries at Arizona State University, ranging from Henry Kissinger to authors Ariel and Will Durant.

Between 1985 and 1989, Zina orchestrated bringing a dilapidated boxcar to Scottsdale's McCormick Railroad Park, raised money to restore it, then established a display to commemorate its history as part of the famous Merci Train, a gift from the people of France after World War II. During the restoration project, Scottsdale Mayor Herb Drinkwater made her the city's cultural ambassador, and she traveled to France to meet with French veterans groups who gave her plaques for display on the boxcar.

In 1989 Zina organized the now annual City of Scottsdale-sponsored Veteran's Day observance at McCormick Railroad Park. A long-time booster of the Scottsdale Police Department, in 1999 she raised over $4,000 to buy a horse for the department's mounted unit.

As an ardent Republican, she befriended many of Arizona's elected representatives, worked on their campaigns and always gave them her opinions on subjects ranging from national defense to historic preservation. She also established a scholarship at Arizona State in memory of her late husband, Coleman Kuhn, who graduated from the Arizona State University School of Engineering.

For her years of work with the Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce, she was twice honored - with its 1986 Pride in Scottsdale Award and as one of its volunteers of the year in 1988. In 1997, the Scottsdale Elks Lodge 2148 named Zina Kuhn its Scottsdale Citizen of the Year. To honor her lifetime of accomplishments and significant impact on Scottsdale, Zina Kuhn was inducted into the Scottsdale History Hall of Fame in 2004.

In 2004, at age 90, she realized a lifetime dream of visiting her native St. Petersburg, Russia and Vilnius (Wilno), Lithuania, cities she had not been able to return to since her youth. She also visited Crepy-Laonnois, France to see the Kennedy Memorial she helped the town develop in the 1960s but never saw completed. Zina Z. Stolov-Stolinska Kuhn lost her first husband Ignace in 1941 near Saratov, USSR. She lost her soul mate and husband of 34 years, Coleman Kuhn, in 1992 in Scottsdale.

Visitation will be Tuesday, August 30th, from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. at Messinger's Mortuary Chapel, 7601 E. Indian School in Scottsdale, Arizona, followed by a memorial service at 2:00 at the same location. Burial beside her husband, Cole, will take place at Paradise Memorial Gardens, 9300 E. Shea, after the service. Friends can gather at a reception immediately following the burial, to continue the celebration of her life.

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