Carol of the Bells – A Celebration of Ukrainian Culture and Aid for Displaced Children

Carol of the Bells is a Ukrainian Christmas concert that is set to both entertain and make a difference on Dec. 5, at the Annex. Presented in part by the Ukrainian Canadian Advocacy Group (UCAG), the benefit concert represents a significant effort by the Ukrainian Canadian diaspora to aid displaced Ukrainian children while showcasing the rich tapestry of their culture. Proceeds from the show will go towards funding a rehabilitation retreat program for grieving Ukrainian children for trauma, art therapy, and other extracurricular experiences.

“I felt I had a responsibility to do everything that I could to raise awareness about the war and the suffering and to raise money for programs that are helping displaced Ukrainians,” says Sabrina Furminger, director of development for UCAG.

A concert for a cause

Founded in February 2022, Furminger says UCAG’s goals are threefold: preserving Ukrainian culture, honoring Ukrainian heroes, and healing children. These objectives resonate deeply within the Ukrainian Canadian diaspora, which Furminger describes as a “sleeping giant” now awakened by the current Ukrainian crisis.

Recognizing the far-reaching impact of their efforts, Furminger and her team at UCAG sensed the urgency of the stolen childhoods and the sense of safety of Ukrainian children and felt the need to step in and help.

Their rehabilitation program, which takes place in the Ukrainian Carpathian Mountains, is a testament to that effort. The program, founded in the summer of 2022, aims to provide emotional and psychological support to over 150 children of “fallen heroes” who have been directly affected by the war. The program seeks to give back a piece of lost childhood through experiences in nature and therapeutic activities.

“I am doing this [out of] passion and from love. We want to help these children stabilize emotionally, psychologically, and physically and get some of their childhood back,” Furminger says.

A celebration of Ukrainian culture

In addition to being a charitable event, the concert is also a cultural showcase.

Anna Pidgorna, the composer, vocalist, and musical director for the concert, intends to immerse the audience in Ukrainian musical heritage. The program includes familiar tunes like ‘Shchedryk’, known in North America as ‘Carol of the Bells’. This piece, originally Ukrainian, was adapted and popularized in the West, reflecting the cultural exchange and influence Ukraine has had globally. Pidgorna will be joined by the guitarist Denys Panchenko and the Kolo Ukrainian Choir.

The Carol of the Bells benefit concert will support the Ukrainian Canadian Advocacy Group’s retreat for grieving and displaced Ukrainian children. | Photo courtesy of Ukrainian Canadian Advocacy Group.

“We wanted to show Ukrainian talent and as much Ukrainian music as we thought we could,” Pidgorna says.

Furminger emphasizes that the benefit concert dual looks at supporting children affected by the war while celebrating Ukrainian culture. For Furminger, it’s a festive kickoff to the holiday season, uniting the community for a common cause.

“This concert is a lot of things. It is helping kids. It is bringing the community together,” says Furminger.

Anna Pidgorna also reflects on the significance of showcasing Ukrainian culture in Canada. With Ukrainians having immigrated to Canada for over a century, she feels it’s crucial to exhibit the richness of Ukrainian culture beyond what is commonly known in Canada.

“What’s important for me is to showcase the Ukrainian culture in a little more depth. [This show] kind of shows a greater range of Ukrainian culture than a lot of people in Canada know,” says Pidgorna.

With 70% of the show already booked, the event looks to be a significant milestone in the Ukrainian Canadian community’s efforts to support their homeland.

All in all, Furminger hopes it will serve as a powerful symbol of cultural pride and a crucial step towards healing for the Ukrainian community, and invites all to enjoy the show and support the cause.

“In the diaspora in Canada, we have not forgotten Ukrainians,” says Furminger. “If you are not Ukrainian, you are welcome to attend as well and to stand with us.”

For more information about the event, visit: