Janet Kuschak decorated her front yard with blue and yellow ribbons while Claude Lapalme wrote a new orchestral arrangement of the Ukrainian National Anthem.
The married couple, both members of the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra, are among dozens of Red Deerians who are “heartbroken” for Ukrainian families living under the barrage of Russian artillery.
Kuschak heard from overseas friends and relatives that the Feb. 24 invasion feel like a re-boot of the Second World War.
“People are wondering where is the food going to come from, and who’s being conscripted?” said Lapalme, the RDSO’s music director. “They say it is surreal, like watching a historical movie.”
“My sense is one of great sadness,” said Kuschak, an RDSO cello player, whose mother and father emigrated to Canada from Ukraine as children.
To show solidarity with embattled Ukrainians, including distant cousins, Kuschak hung yellow and blue ribbons on a tree in their front yard.
RDSO music director Lapalme created an new orchestral arrangement of the Ukrainian National Anthem.
His arrangement, initially requested by the Surrey Symphony Orchestra, doesn’t mess with the stately melody line composed by Mykhailo Verbytsky in 1863 (lyrics by Pavlo Chubynsky), but sounds less heavy with sparser instrumentals than some other arrangements that are available online.
Lapalme said he will not take payment for it. Instead, he’s posted his new arrangement of the Ukraine anthem on Facebook, making it available for free to any orchestra wanting to perform it.
Kuschak said she is glad her late parents are not around to witness what’s happening to their homeland.
Her mom and dad were such proud Ukrainians they put their Canadian-born children into Ukrainian Saturday School in Toronto. “I think my first language was Ukrainian,” said Kuschak, who also played in a Ukrainian string orchestra with one of her sisters, while another sister danced with a Ukrainian folk group.
This sense of heritage came with a knowledge of the country’s difficult history. Ukrainian borders constantly shifted through a series of wars.
Some of Kuschak’s family members lived through the Holodomor, a mass starvation created in the Ukraine by the policies of Russian dictator Josef Stalin, which killed millions of people in 1932-33. Other relatives were sent to Siberia — “and survived to tell the tale.”
Kuschak knows Ukrainians are strong — as exemplified by so many regular people taking up arms against Russia, even returning to Ukraine from abroad.
She also knows they can be shrewd. Kuschak particularly likes the country’s latest PR ploy: The Ukrainian defense department reached out directly to Russian mothers through social media, telling them their captured soldier sons will be released if they come to Kyiv to claim them.
Kuschak thinks this is “brilliant,” showing empathy while also encouraging Russians to some see for themselves what destruction their soldiers are wreaking on their neighbours.
The Red Deer couple is heartened so many citizens around the world are showing support for a country that’s the victim of unprovoked aggression. Kuschak believes people are realizing it’s a small world and what’s happening in Ukraine could happen anywhere else.
At last count, Lapalme said at least six orchestras — from Trois Riviere, Que. to Rocky Mountain House — are interested in his arrangement of the Ukrainian national anthem.
If the Russian invasion continues and in-person concerts of the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra resume in May, he added the RDSO will be certain to play it too.