Ukrainian opera singer launches Refugee Festival Scotland in Glasgow

Oksana Mavrodii at the launch of Refugee Festival Scotland. Photo: Paul Chappells

A Ukrainian The opera singer whose father is still in the war-torn country helped launch Refugee Festival Scotland in Glasgow today.

Oksana Mavrodii, a soprano singer who is also assistant conductor of the Glasgow Male Philharmonic Choir is among the artists taking part in the event, which runs from June 17-26.

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Oksana has organized fundraising concerts to support those affected by war in her home country. She works with the Scottish Refugee Council and communities in Scotland to help welcome refugees fleeing conflict in Ukraine.

She said: “When I heard about Refugee Festival Scotland I wanted to get involved. During difficult times, it is important to stand up and use your voice. As a musician, music is the best way for me to do that and the festival is a very good platform.

“Being a refugee or asylum seeker can be viewed negatively, but we should not treat refugees as a burden. Just because someone is a refugee doesn’t mean they don’t have skills to contribute. People are often highly skilled and highly educated and they could make a really valuable contribution to society.

Oksana added: “I have worked with many children who have come to Scotland as refugees from Syria and elsewhere. Today, many Ukrainians have become part of the refugee community. My mother is here with me but my father and all the rest of my family are still in Ukraine. It’s surreal. I don’t think anyone expects to find themselves in this situation. The response from people in Scotland has been incredible. You don’t need to ask twice. It has been positively overwhelming.

In a year that has seen a record 100 million people forced from their homes by conflict, Refugee Festival Scotland aims to bring together people from different backgrounds and shine a light on the many ways in which refugees contribute to life here in Glasgow and across the country.

More than 100 events will take place across Scotland, including contributions from artists and performers who have come here to seek protection for refugees and the communities that have hosted them.

Oksana will perform at a special Refugee Festival event in Scotland alongside concert pianist Iryna Melnychenko, who recently arrived in Glasgow from the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. The duo will be joined by T2 actor from the Trainspotting sequel, Thierry Mabonga.

Thierry said: “I am really happy that the Refugee Festival Scotland exists. It is very important that there is a space for people to share stories that otherwise would not be told. There is more to a human being than trauma. We need to see the joys as well as the heartbreak and the conflicts and the challenges of someone’s situation. I think that’s what keeps us alive. We long for stories that make us laugh and smile as well as make us cry.

Thierry arrived in Scotland when he was just eight years old after fleeing the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo with his family.

He added: “I arrived without speaking a word of English, so I can understand the difficulties of having to change countries and start over. You don’t control where you come from, but you control how you react to it. Being part of two cultures can be complex, but it made me the person I am today.

Refugee Festival Scotland events include music and dance, historic trails and nature walks, as well as art exhibitions, cooking demonstrations, football tournaments and family picnics.

READ MORE: Ukrainian hairstylist opens salon in Hamilton after fleeing war

Scottish Refugee Council chief executive Sabir Zazai said: “Refugee Festival Scotland is an opportunity to celebrate the positive difference that refugees make to our communities.

“It has been a year of terrible stories. The war in Ukraine, the unrest in Afghanistan, families stranded and separated by bureaucracy, Rwandan detention centers and people have no choice but to risk their lives on dangerous journeys in a desperate attempt to reach a safe place.

“But there are other happier stories, and these are the ones Refugee Festival Scotland aims to tell – stories of friendship, resilience, hope and new beginnings.”

Refugee Festival Scotland is produced by the Scottish Refugee Council. Details of the 2022 festival program can be found at Refugeefestivalscotland.co.uk

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