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'I can’t just sit & watch this unfolding on TV': Coquitlam musician hosts benefit concert for Ukraine

Gina Williams pays tribute to Ukraine with a benefit concert on March 13.

When Russian tanks and soldiers began to roll into Ukraine last month, Gina Williams felt helpless.

The Coquitlam musician had travelled to the country at least six times in the past five years to record and perform in Kyiv.

“I wanted to go there and join the fight,” she told the Tri-City News, “but I can’t help in the way that they need, so my weapon is my voice.”

On Sunday (March 13) at 3 p.m., Williams will play a benefit show in Surrey, with 100 per cent of the proceeds going to ADRA Canada.

That organization — the humanitarian arm of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church — is well-known for its relief work in war-torn regions.

Williams, who is fluent in the Ukrainian language, said her solo show will include original classical music, as well as gospel and dance tunes that were on her most recent albums.

She’s been in contact with some of the Ukrainian musicians who were in the studio and on the stage with her and “they are frustrated that the international community is watching this like a movie,” she said.

“They say they’re getting lots of support with people telling them that Ukrainians are so brave and strong, but they’re saying, ‘It would be nice if you can do something, too.’ There is genuine human suffering and people are dying on the streets.”

This past weekend, Williams was at Jack Poole Plaza for the public protest against the Russian invasion.

There, she said she sang in Ukrainian “because the community is very much mine.” 

“They are like family to me because they’ve encouraged me and lifted me up. [...] It is my second home.”

Williams said she has no fundraising goal for her benefit concert. 

Admission to the Northwood United Church (8855 156 St., Surrey) is a minimum $10 donation; proof of vaccination against COVID-19 must be shown and face masks are required inside the 300-seat venue.

Williams will also sell some of her CDs to offset the performance costs. 

She is also planning a benefit concert in the United States for this spring.

“This is something that I know I have to do,” she said. “I can’t just sit and watch this unfolding on TV.”