'Just so powerful': Youth group sings Ukrainian anthem before Ottawa Senators game

An Ottawa-based Ukrainian youth organization will sing the Ukrainian national anthem before Thursday night's Ottawa Senators game to support the country during the Russian invasion.

Plast Ottawa performs anthem to show support during Russian invasion

Lana Pastuszak, 18, will be part of a youth group singing the Ukrainian national anthem at the Ottawa Senators game on March 10, 2022. (Robyn Miller/CBC)

Lana Pastuszak says she knows it will be emotional when she steps out to perform the Ukrainian national anthem before the Ottawa Senators game at the Canadian Tire Centre Thursday night.

The 18-year-old Ukrainian-Canadian will be joined by other members of Plast Ottawa, a Ukrainian youth organization that has been selected to sing the anthem to show support during the Russian invasion.

Last week, Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk announced the team would play the Ukrainian national anthem before each of their remaining 13 home games.

Melnyk's parents were born in Ukraine and came to Canada before he was born. 

"The words of the Ukrainian anthem are just so powerful … So with Russia's attack on Ukraine, I think we really appreciate our Canadian freedom and our ability to help Ukraine right now," Pastuszak, who is a vocal music student at the University of Ottawa, told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning.

When the Sens lace up against the Seattle Kraken tonight the Ukrainian national anthem will ring out at the Canadian Tire Centre.

Russia began its broad-scale invasion of Ukraine two weeks ago, killing thousands of soldiers and civilians, driving more than two million people from Ukraine, and shaking the foundations of European security.

The opening line of the anthem translates roughly to "Ukraine glory and freedom have not yet died." Nykolai Bilaniuk, the president of Plast Ottawa, said the original poem, upon which the anthem is based, was written in the 19th century when Ukraine wasn't even on the map and struggling to re-establish the country.

Plast Ottawa, a Ukrainian youth organization, was selected to sing the Ukrainian national anthem to show support during the Russian invasion. (Robyn Miller/CBC)

"They did [re-establish] in the aftermath of the First World War, but the Russians invaded and took it over," Bilaniuk said.

"Now Ukraine is facing that existential threat again, and Ukrainians feel that reassurance that, yes, you know, we're not gone yet. We're going to hang in there and survive. ... So that is a very poignant kind of message for all Ukrainians, even young children get it."

The anthem performers range from children as young as four to adults, and while they have never performed professionally, Bilaniuk said it won't be a problem.

"Ukrainians have a long tradition of singing … we can always round up a good number of quality singers, even from a smaller community," he said.

A spokesperson with the Ottawa Senators said the team had several individuals and groups interested in performing the anthem but the schedule of performers for future games was still coming together.

Plast Ottawa will perform before the Senators face off against the Seattle Kraken at 7 p.m. ET.


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