Bezhenar sisters in concert to benefit local Ukrainian families
Stand for Ukraine concert in Sebastopol stars Nina Gerber and Chris Webster
Two Ukrainian sisters, Eleanor and Angeline Bezhenar, will join a lineup of local musicians including Nina Gerber and Chris Webster on stage this Sunday, June 4 at the Sebastopol Cultural Community Center. This “Stand for Ukraine” concert is a fundraiser for local Ukrainian families who were displaced by the war and have relocated to Sonoma County. “We are proud to introduce the two sisters for the first time on a Sonoma County stage with our own legendary guitarist Nina Gerber” said John Namkung who is organizing the concert. He said their songs evoke emotions of sorrow for what has been lost because of war as well as optimism for a future when the Ukrainians will enjoy peace and freedom again.
Two days after the war started, the Bezhenar’s family of six, including mother, father, grandmother and three girls, fled the city of Odessa on the Black Sea. With each of them bringing only a single suitcase, they travelled by car to Romania where they stayed as refugees for three months. They came to America because a Cloverdale family sponsored them as part of the Uniting for Ukraine program and offered them a home to live in. The family arrived one year ago on May 25.
Eleanor and Angelina, 18 and 16 respectively, received vocal training in music school since kindergarten while being homeschooled by their mother. They both learned to play the guitar.
Namkung asked Nina Gerber last summer if she’s do a benefit concert to raise money for all of the Ukrainian families in Sonoma County. She agreed to do the concert and they organized many other local musicians to perform. When Namkung heard Gerber was also recording a song on a new CD about Ukraine, he introduced Gerber to the Bezhenar family. “Nina came to our house and the girls jammed with her,” said their mother, Marii. “There was a real connection.”
Nina invited the girls to record the singing of the Ukrainian national anthem along with “Get Together” by the Youngbloods. “Nina asked me to translate Youngbloods into Ukrainian, which I did and she liked,” said Marii.
Eleanor has finished her first year at the Santa Rosa Junior College and Angelina will go there as well in the Fall. Angelina likes photography and graphic design, and she likes to draw landscapes, according to her mother. Eleanor is always singing around the house; she likes handcrafts as well as being active with sports and games for fun.
Marii also has an eleven-year-old daughter who is learning the violin and takes lessons remotely with a Ukrainian teacher. The youngest played for the first time with her two sisters at a Christmas tree lighting celebration in Cloverdale. Marii said moving was particularly hard for the youngest daughter.
The girls had learned English themselves in the Ukraine but they hadn’t been around native English speakers. The family’s three months in Romania helped them practice their English. “The girls were better prepared for moving to the United States,” said Marii, who continues to guide the education of her three girls.
Tickets for the concert are $40 can be purchased in advance at Stand for Ukraine Concert.
A GoFundMe page for the Bezhenar family has been set up and provides more information about the family and their challenges.
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