Former Ukrainian Ambassador, Musicians to Support and Celebrate Ukraine at Springfield Symphony Hall


SPRINGFIELD — Peter Mosijchuk, pastor of Bethesda Ukrainian Pentecostal Church in West Springfield, traveled to Poland, his luggage full of donated ballistic vests and military-grade first aid kits.

Tanya Shvyryd, relief coordinator at Full Gospel Church in Westfield, is setting up Amazon wish lists for arriving refugee families — friends and relatives of the heavily Ukrainian congregation — so they can be equipped with pots, pans, towels and toys here at Western Massachusetts.

“We continue to try to support our country in every way we can,” Mosijchuk said.

Jewish federations across the country have raised a staggering $28.5 million in just two weeks to help secure Ukraine’s Jewish community and others facing wartime hardship, the federation says Jew from western Massachusetts.

They are not the only ones.

The Springfield Public Forum and Pioneer Valley Symphony will host “An Evening for Ukraine” on Wednesday, May 25 at 6 p.m. at Springfield Symphony Hall. Former Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor will speak at 6 p.m. A benefit concert of Ukrainian music performed by the Pioneer Valley Symphony, featuring violinist Solomiya Ivakhiv will follow.

In an interview, Taylor said cultural exchanges are an important part of Ukraine’s survival and a cornerstone of its recovery.

“The world has learned more about Ukraine, its culture, its history, its language, its geography in the last three or four months than it has in the past,” Taylor said.

Taylor’s speech is free and without reservation. He is now vice president of the US Institute of Peace. In 2019, he was Chargé d’Affaires at the United States Embassy in Kyiv. During the Arab Spring, he oversaw U.S. aid and support to Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Syria. He served as United States Ambassador to Ukraine from 2006 to 2009.

“My message is that Ukrainians are on the front line,” he said in an interview. The Ukrainians are fighting the Russians on their own account. They fight for themselves. They fight without any other soldiers by their side.

And when the world, NATO including the United States, supports Ukraine, it supports the right of a people to govern themselves.

“They are the ones who decide – not the Russians – how they live their lives and how they organize themselves,” Taylor said.

In contact with Ukrainian friends and colleagues, Taylor said they were confident they would emerge victorious. Especially, he says, with Russian offenses bogged down or unable to hold their ground.

“We saw the Ukrainian army preventing the Russians from trying to capture the nation’s capital kyiv,” he said. “Now we see the Russians making another attempt from the east, and again the Ukrainians are holding them back and in some cases pushing them back.”

Need proof? The retreating Russians blow up bridges behind them.

“That indicates they’re not going to try to come back,” Taylor said.

He and his colleagues see two possible outcomes. And in both scenarios, Ukraine wins.

“The question is over what period of time,” he said.

The Russian army could collapse if pushed east and south.

The third is a second scenario where Russia retains territory, notably in the Donbass or Crimea.

“It takes longer,” Taylor said. “It’s more of a dead end. And there is a low-level conflict going on that will take time to resolve.

Meanwhile, Putin’s miscalculations are now apparent. Above all, Taylor said, Putin’s apparent thought that NATO would collapse.

“NATO will emerge much stronger”, “NATO will emerge confident in its ability to push back the Russians. NATO will emerge greater.

Taylor’s speech on Wednesday will be followed by a concert that will raise funds for Ukraine relief.

Sponsored by MassMutual and the Thomas de Hartmann Project, 100% of proceeds from the performance will benefit humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

The beneficiaries are Vostok SOS, an organization that works on the ground with internally displaced Ukrainians to connect them with medical, housing, food and psychosocial services; Project HOPE which works with grassroots medical networks in Poland and other neighboring countries to provide medicine and care to refugees; and the Friends of the Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine, which supports professional musicians in Ukraine who have lost their instruments and livelihoods in this conflict.

The Springfield Public Forum and the Pioneer Valley Symphony are joining forces to host “An Evening for Ukraine” event at Springfield Symphony Hall from 6-9 p.m. on Wednesday, May 25. The event will include a talk with former US Ambassador to Ukraine Bill Taylor and a concert of Ukrainian music performed by the Pioneer Valley Symphony, which will include Ukrainian violinist Solomiya Ivakhiv. Maestro Ng Tian Hui is pictured here. (Courtesy of Ng Tian Hui)

Janna Walters-Gidseg, executive director of the Pioneer Valley Symphony, said the response has been good, but there are still places available.

Tickets for the concert are required by donation and are available online at pvsoc.org, by phone at 413 773-3664, or at the door before and after the Springfield Public Forum on the evening of the event.

“We were able to work with Ukrainian musicians who brought their experiences and those of their families to our orchestra,” Walters-Gidseg said. “And that has been so valuable to us. It’s really moving.

Born in Ukraine, Ivakhiv is Associate Professor of Violin and Viola and Head of Strings at the University of Connecticut and Professor of Violin at Bard College’s Longy School of Music. The concert will be conducted by American laureate Tianhui Ng, Music Director of the Pioneer Valley Symphony, Boston Opera Collaborative, Victory Players, White Snake Projects and Mt. Holyoke Symphony Orchestra.

Before the war, Ng traveled to Ukraine with the Thomas de Hartmann project to collaborate with the Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra on early recordings of salvaged works by Ukrainian-born composer Thomas de Hartmann.

Mosijchuk said he and his parishioners are keeping in touch with Ukraine as best they can. While confident of victory, he is now busy either sending aid or preparing the refugees to join their family members here in the Valley of the Pioneers. Arriving Ukrainians need sponsors here in the United States

“Not everyone has enough money to support an entire family,” he said. “We want to get together and see if we can help.”

“The more sponsorships we can get, the more people can come,” Mosijchuk said. “In the future, let’s hope this war ends soon and then we can help rebuild the country.”

  • The American Red Cross on its website via RedCross.org.
  • Saints Peter and Paul Ukrainian Catholic Church, Ludlow has an Amazon Wish List.
  • Full Gospel Church of Westfield is accepting cash and material donations. There is a link for Ukraine relief on the church’s website, fullgospelchurch.org.
  • To donate to provide essential support to Ukraine through the Jewish Federations of North America, visit jewishfederations.org or jewishwesternmass.org.
  • Catholic Relief Services has a donation page on CRS.org.
  • Vostok SOS – an in-country organization that works on the ground with internally displaced Ukrainians to connect them with medical, housing, food and psychosocial services. vostok-sos.org
  • Project HOPE – an organization that works with grassroots medical networks in Poland and other neighboring countries to provide medicine and care to refugees. projecthope.org
  • Friends of the Lviv National Philharmonic Orchestra of Ukraine – directly supporting Ukrainian professional musicians who have lost their instruments and livelihoods in this conflict. philharmonia.lviv.ua/en/
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