Activist organizes concert in Yarmouth to benefit Ukrainian children

Pavel Sulyandziga and a Yarmouth High School student have teamed up to present a benefit concert performed by his opera singer son, Pavel Sulyandziga Jr.

Human rights activist Pavel Sulyandziga Sr. of Yarmouth has been fighting for the rights of his fellow Crimean Tartar people for years and empathizes with the people of Ukraine suffering through the Russian invasion.

With the help of his son and a Yarmouth High School student, he is organizing a benefit concert for Ukrainian children. The concert, featuring his son, opera singer Pavel Sulyandziga Jr., will be held from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, June 11, at the Universalist Church in Yarmouth. Attendance is free but donations are encouraged. Sulyandziga Jr. also performed to benefit Ukraine last year at the church.

“For me, it’s very sad and painful to see how Russia became an aggressor,” Sulyandziga Sr.  told The Forecaster with the help of interpreter Vera Solovyeva. “Families have been shattered by the war and separated.”

Sulyandziga is chairperson of the Board of the International Development Fund of Indigenous Peoples of Russia, which “helps Indigenous people to protect their rights and in their efforts to get justice, life and dignity,” he said. The foundation was 10 years old in 2014 when Russia occupied Crimea, and the Russian government declared it a foreign agent in 2015, he said. In 2016, foundation workers were charged as criminals and forced to leave the country. Sulyandziga settled in Yarmouth, was granted asylum and registered the foundation as an NGO in the U.S. in 2018.

As a former member of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation, he said he felt a particular duty to stand up against Russian wrongdoings in Ukraine.

“The future of any country are children, and children are the most vulnerable part of society, so we must help them for the future of the nation,” Sulyandziga said. 

When his son proposed a concert to raise funds for Ukrainian children, he supported the idea as a way to bring awareness to the plight of the people and families of Ukraine, he said. 

Yarmouth High School freshman Katya Fromuth heard about the plan for a benefit concert and wanted to be involved in the “really great cause.” The plight of Ukrainians had been weighing on her.

“Always seeing it on the news and hearing it on the radio, it makes you want to do something,” Fromuth said.

She has been involved in political activism from a very young age, she said, and offered her volunteer services to Sulyandziga, who welcomed them.

“I really want to appreciate Katya’s support in organizing the concert and event,” he said.

Music is a beautiful way to appeal to empathy and humanity, Fromuth said.

“Sometimes things are better sung than spoken,” she said, adding that the pain of what others have experienced often comes through more clearly in music than in conversation.

“It can be easy to forget very important things that are happening in other parts of the world,” she said.

The event will open with a speech from a representative of the Crimean Tartar Resource Center, the organization which the event will benefit. The center is working towards the de-occupation and reintegration of Crimea.