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Baritone from Ukraine working in Collingwood singing in local concert

Concert June 17 will support immigrant family and Ukrainian children's charity
Dmytro Garbovskyi, an opera singer from Ukraine who spent a decade singing opera in Russia, will perform June 17 at Collingwood’s New Life Church as he settles in Canada.

A Ukrainian-born opera singer ended up in Simcoe County after leaving a successful career in Russia because of the ongoing war, and soon he'll be performing in Collingwood. 

Tim denBok was giving a talk at a Barrie church where Dmytro Garbovskyi happened to be singing and he was struck by both the man’s voice and his story.

Ukrainian-born Garbovskyi had left a successful life as an opera singer in Russia a year ago, unable to endure the lack of sympathy he experienced there for his native Ukraine following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine two years ago.  

After studying opera, Garbovskyi, a baritone, had found a professional opportunity in Russia, performing at the historic Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg.

As a former student of classical singing, denBok appreciated Garbovskyi’s talent. But he learned that day, that Garbovskyi and his family have been struggling since arriving in Canada a year ago.

“I’ve always been very sympathetic with the plight of Ukrainians… Dmytro shared with me that it’s been difficult in the year he’s been here,” explained denBok, who works with people with developmental disabilities in Collingwood. “I figured what better way to make money than to organize a concert for him.”

Garbovskyi immigrated to Canada with his wife, Julia, and their eight-year-old son.

They first came to Barrie through contacts, trying to piece together a new existence with whatever work they could find. Garbovskyi describes a difficult year, looking for decent permanent work and trying to find a place to live with no credit history or references to present to landlords in a competitive rental market.

“It’s not easy,” he said simply.

He had been working in construction but now has a part-time job as a host at a Collingwood restaurant while his wife, a musician and music theory teacher, is working part-time for a cleaning company.

But he has found some solace in performing for local audiences in benefit concerts and last fall he was honoured with a Simcoe County’s Newcomer Recognition Award.

Garbovskyi performed at cultural events including Holodomor Memorial Day and Independence Day of Ukraine. He also helped raise money through benefit concerts to provide laptops for children affected by the conflict in Ukraine facing challenges in accessing remote education.

As an effort to connect others in a similar situation, he founded the Facebook group, Ukrainian Men in Barrie to help foster connections and provide support for Ukrainian men navigating immigration.

The Collingwood concert allows him to do what he loves, which is performing. But denBok hopes it will also raise money not just for Ukrainian children but also to help put Garbovskyi on the road to security in his new home.

The event is scheduled for June 17 at Collingwood’s New Life Church, which has the capacity for 350 people and denBok would like to see a full house. The performance begins at 7 p.m. and doors open at 6 p.m. Tickets will be available at the door and there will be time for a meet-and-greet afterward.

Garbovskyi will perform selections from gospel, pop, musicals and opera.

In addition to the Collingwood concert, Garbovskyi is also scheduled to perform traditional classical opera, standards from Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin as well as Ukrainian folklore Windrush Estate & Winery in Palgrave on June 23 at 3:30 p.m. as a fundraiser for Ukrainian children.