Local musicians unite to aid Ukraine
Horrified by Russian aggression in Eastern Europe and inspired by the fortitude of the Ukrainian people, two Western North Carolina residents looked for a way to provide support. John Ariatti and musician friend Tom Fisch (profiled in Bold Life’s August 2020 issue) are staging a Benefit Concert for Ukraine on June 25 at Trinity Presbyterian. The concert will feature local talent led by Fisch plus Mare Carmody, Ellen Trnka, Aaron Burdett, and Jeff Michel’s Folkadelic Jam.
Bringing a set that includes topical songs, Michel is a believer in music’s power to effect change, to be a force for good in the world. “I think that songwriters especially have the power to be philosophers, if that’s the right term,” he says.
A special guest is Ukrainian-born Yulia (Julia) Kashirets, who will sing her home country’s national anthem (she also sang it at the USTA Billie Jean Cup). Kashirets moved to Western North Carolina in 2015. She lives in Flat Rock with her husband and daughter.
What are your favorite kinds of songs to sing?
Yulia Kashirets: I love to sing Ukrainian songs. It’s [awkward] to sing in English, because people can still hear my accent. I am attached to Ukraine, to that language, to those traditions, to that culture.
Do you still have family in Ukraine?
Yulia Kashirets: Yes, and [that’s] the hardest part. My brother is a soldier, and he is defending the country since the second day of the war. That’s very personal and heartbreaking. I can contact him; sometimes he disappears for five days. I know [the army] is doing something and he cannot be available. … If I don’t hear from him [for] seven days, I am going to contact his commanders. Sometimes he just tells me, “I’m fine and I love you.” But nothing specific; they cannot tell the details.
What led you to put together this benefit concert?
John Ariatti: I was really upset seeing the TV news showing women, children, and others being killed. The Ukrainians have shown great courage. … Later I learned that the painter and tile setter for my house, people I know, are both Ukrainians and have families still in Ukraine. The horror of this war suddenly jumped out of the screen and into my life. … Tom Fisch is a friend and neighbor; we both wished we could help in some way. Tom didn’t know of anyone [local staging a concert], so I said, “Okay, let’s do it.”
What is your fundraising goal?
A minimum of $100,000, but Tom and I are hoping we’ll exceed that amount. All proceeds will go to the International Rescue Committee and to Razom, which means “together” in Ukrainian. Razom is working with [international] volunteers and partners to get tactical medical kits to the people who need them and non-medical [navigation supplies] that enable the distribution of the aid.
What would you like people to know about the conflict in Ukraine?
Yulia Kashirets: I think the whole world now knows what is happening. … They came to our land and started to kill, to do terrible things. Our people don’t have another choice [other] than to protect themselves, their homeland, their family and children. It was a hard decision for a lot of people to leave the country, or to leave specific areas in Ukraine. …We have been helping them since the beginning of the war. Some people help with weapons; some people help with money, with prayers. And some people help with their voice.
And it is an honor for me to join this concert and to be helpful. Because we need to unite and show this support and compassion for Ukraine. Ukrainian people are brave. They’ve proved it.
The Benefit Concert for Ukraine happens at Trinity Presbyterian Church (900 Blythe St., Hendersonville) on Saturday, June 25, 7-9pm. $25. Contributions can also be written via check to International Rescue Committee or Razom and mailed to Concert for Ukraine, PO Box 271, Flat Rock, NC, 28731. For more information, call or e-mail John Ariatti (828-606-2391, firstname.lastname@example.org).