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Benefit concert in Stamford honors 32 years of Ukrainian Independence

Members of the Ukrainian folk dance ensemble Kalynon'ka perform during the Ukrainian Independence Day concert at the Palace Theatre in Stamford Conn. on Aug. 20, 2023.
Eddy Martinez
Connecticut Public
Members of the Ukrainian folk dance ensemble Kalynon'ka perform during the Ukrainian Independence Day concert at the Palace Theatre in Stamford Conn. on Aug. 20, 2023.

Teryn Kuzma, a soprano singer, took deep breaths as she waited to perform at the Palace Theatre in Stamford on Sunday.

But she didn’t suffer from stage fright.

“It's been difficult to perform since the invasion, especially in events for Ukraine. But this event in particular,” Kuzma said.

She waited behind a projector screen, as a video played showing images of the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine,bombed out cities reflected in reverse on her face. Her cousin, a Ukrainian soldier, was killed by a landmine in July of last year.

Kuzma, a Ukrainian American, referred to a charity Ukrainian Independence Day concert, organized by Blue Sky, a nonprofit organization raising money for people impacted by the ongoing Russian invasion.

Organizers say these concerts not only raise money, but shore up support for the country as the war has settled into a stalemate. Kuzma said concerts like these promote Ukrainian culture while allowing her to channel her personal loss in her performances.

Several musicians and a folk dance ensemble, Kalynon’ka performed at the theater as well as an opera singer, and pianist. Senator Richard Blumenthal made an appearance, telling the audience the United States continues to support Ukraine.

He told the audience he would advocate for Ukrainians to receive the same aircraft to be supplied by other NATO members, Denmark and the Netherlands.

“I will fight to make sure that we make those planes available,” Blumenthal said.

Kuzma spoke of her cousin, who served in a mountain brigade. A post on her instagram page shows a photo of him in a ceremonial army uniform, where she wrote of remembering him boasting he could still lift her up as he did when he was a boy.

She’s now raising money to help support his family.

Kuzma also plays the Bandura, a string instrument she said is a mix between a lute and a harp. She now studies at the Bard College Conservatory of Music.

“Playing Bandura in particular right now, it really helps me center my emotions. And it really helps me focus on the beautiful parts of Ukrainian culture,” Kuzma said.

Money raised at the concert will go towards Ukrainian children and the elderly. The money will be used to provide them with food, medicine and hygiene products.

Blue Sky Co-founder Alex Lapkouski,founded the nonprofit with his wife, Yana-Ivanna. Lapkouski said the concert acts as a reminder to Americans.

“It's been (a) tough two years, a lot of things happening right now. So our job is to keep attention to what's happening in our country,” Lapkouski said.

Kuzma took out her Bandura, which was repressed by the Russian Empire and later, by the Soviet Union. She set it down, plucking a few notes. Performing can be stressful, she said, the war never being more than a phone notification away, anxiously checking if the latest bombing has taken another family member away from her.

But concerts like these keep her going.

“I walk away with a sense of home, I walk away encouraged and fortified. And I always feel better when I perform.”

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