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‘No one can erase us': First-generation Ukrainian American performs as part of Voices Raised for Ukraine benefit concert

Portland-based organization 'She’s Speaking' is raising money for Mercy Corps humanitarian efforts in Ukraine with a benefit concert on April 10.

PORTLAND, Ore. — A Portland-based organization is hosting an benefit concert to help support Mercy Corps' humanitarian effort in Ukraine

“I don’t ever stop thinking about it, and I’m not from Ukraine," said Kristen Grainger, co-founder of She's Speaking, a nonprofit that celebrates female musicians. "I don’t have family in Ukraine, but I have a family. I’m a person. I don’t want to see people suffer.”

The concert, called Voices Raised for Ukraine, is happening on Sunday, April 10 at Artichoke Music, a music store and performance venue in Southeast Portland. 

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It will be an emotional performance, especially for local musician and first-generation Ukrainian American Darka Dusty Stebivka.

“Suddenly, people want to hear these Ukrainian songs that I grew up singing and it is my honor to share all the beautiful culture and music with all of my friends and anyone who wants to hear it,” Stebivka said.

Being Ukrainian is a point of pride for Stebivka. She grew up speaking the language and celebrating the culture.  She’s recorded multiple Ukrainian albums and performed in the country. She also has family still living overseas.

“It’s my whole identity — it’s who I am,” she said.

Stebivka says her parents escaped Ukraine during World War II and she feels as though we’re reliving history.

“We are now the next generation and unfortunately we’ve seen what the Russians want to do again — that is, to erase Ukrainians. But of course, we won’t let that happen,” Stebivka said.

RELATED: Russia faces growing outrage amid new evidence of atrocities

Stebivka is one of five women who will perform at the April 10 benefit concert.

She’s Speaking was established to promote female voices in the arts. Grainger co-founded the group with Bre Gregg.

“She’s Speaking creates spaces for women’s voices and artistry to be heard by all people,” Gregg said. “Now, we’re about to do this one at Artichoke that’s all about raising money around the tremendous atrocities that are happening in Ukraine.”

“I’d been following the news on the war in Ukraine and the day that they targeted a labor and delivery hospital with women and children and families trying to get healthcare, that was the day I said 'enough, we have to do something,'” Grainger said.

Money raised from a donation of uniquely-made instruments is also helping their efforts.

The concert is completely volunteer-driven. Artichoke Music is donating their space and staff, while the artists are donating their talents and time.

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For artists like Stebivka, this upcoming performance is deeply personal.

“It is written into our Ukrainian national anthem that we will put our bodies and our souls on the line for liberty and freedom,” she said.

She is using her voice in the fight for freedom; to honor her people and culture as the war in Ukraine rages on.

“We are in this fight for the last thousand years and no one can erase us. We will not be erased again,” Stebivka said.

She’s Speaking Presents: Voices Raised for Ukraine starts at 7 p.m. Sunday, April 10. Tickets are $20 a person. Visit the page here for a link to tickets and more information.

The benefit concert will also be streamed online. Organizers ask for a $20 donation.

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