Music students support prof with playing of Ukranian National Anthem

Kyra Slakes, Photo Editor

Over the past week, people throughout the nation have watched as Russia began to invade Ukraine and the Ukrainians bravely fought for their home, their lives and their freedom.

But perhaps no one has watched as carefully as UW Oshkosh violin/viola professor Yuliya Smead. Smead is from Ukraine and still has family members located there.

To show their support for Smead and her family, some of the music students came up with the idea to surprise her by playing the Ukrainian National Anthem. The surprise performance was held today and Smead was touched by their work. The group of 12 students played five violins, two violas, four cellos and one bass.

Willem Flaugher said the music department also wanted to express concern for Smead, but they didn’t know exactly what to say. That’s when he looked up the words of the Ukrainian National Anthem and arranged it for a string orchestra.

“I secretly began messaging people in the orchestral department to get people on board, while also trying to keep this a secret for Dr. Smead,” Flaugher said. After determining who was willing to take part, Flaugher began to distribute the parts over email within a day of composition.

“I’m just very happy she feels supported by us all, and I’m glad I could contribute to that,” Flaugher said. “The immense weight she must be carrying on her shoulders right now, I can’t begin to think about how stressful it must be for her. Anything I could do to help her in any way I knew I had to take. I’m just glad that she feels like she has a family in the music department.”

Kyra Slakes /Advance-Titan — Smead places her hand over her heart as students play the Ukrainian National Anthem.

Smead came to the United States in 1999. She lived in New York for two weeks before moving to Appleton and she’s been here ever since.

Smead has a number of aunts, uncles, cousins and friends who are still located in Ukraine in a small town over 300 miles away from Kiev. Smead said she has had some contact with her family and friends, and aside from some nights in a bomb shelter and the sirens going off, they are safe.

“This attack is completely unprovoked,” Smead said. “It’s a brutal bombing of a very peaceful culture that wants to live, grow their flowers and raise their children and just live in peace and sovereignty from Russia. We wanted that for centuries, but the lies and propaganda against us is nothing new.

“When you listen to the explanation of why it’s happening, there is lie after lie, piling on from the Russian side,” Smead said. “You don’t even know what to hold on to. One day they’re saying it is because of NATO, and the next day they say we’re hating Russians and killing children somewhere in the streets, which is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. So there is no reason why; they just want our land and they want us to be part of Russia. They always did.”