SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) – A benefit concert to help the people of Ukraine wrapped up Sunday afternoon in San Francisco. Local and professional musicians used the power of music to raise money that will supply food and medicine to war survivors.
Ukrainian folk songs filled the Herbst Theater and the halls of the Veterans Building. Musician and event headliner Svetlana Nikitenko was singing with a heavy heart.
“I have to fight my emotions. I’m a professional and I have to be professional, ”Nikitenko said.
The classical singer was born and trained in Ukraine. Many of her relatives and friends are still in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. Some have escaped to nearby countries.
“I just talked to my cousin who is now in Hungary and they say how long they’re going to be there, they do not know,” Nikitenko said.
Organizers said some of the money raised will go to house and feed refugees like her cousin. The rest of the money will go to war survivors still in the country.
“They do not have food. They are refugees now and they need something to survive, ”Nikitenko said.
She was among a dozen musicians and composers performing at the benefit concert. The musicians organized the concert in about a week. Their goal was to raise a quarter of a million dollars.
A few hundred people packed the small theater.
Musician and event co-organizer Lucas Spangher’s late grandmother was from Kyiv.
“I kind of always had in the back of my head that I would visit Kyiv and walk around where she had breakfast, where her family lived and stuff and just to discover part of my family history. And that Kyiv is just irrevocably gone, ”said Spangher.
He said that, while military aid is important, he wanted to focus on humanitarian aid. That was why he partnered with the non-profit Nova Ukraine to direct the money to help people affected by the war.
“I want to send money but I also want to send the message that people care about this a lot,” Spangher said.
“We’re trying to save as many lives as possible so we supply medicine to people who are still inside Ukraine and in the cities that are under siege,” said Yana Rathman, a spokeswoman for Nova Ukraine.
Nikitenki said that, among her many performances, this hastily-put-together concert meant the most to her.
“It’s very sad. When brothers go against brothers, it’s unbelievable, ”Nikitenko said.