‘It makes me feel very grateful’: Concert pianist has raised more than $200K to help home country of Ukraine

Published 11:57 am Monday, February 13, 2023

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As the anniversary of Russia’s invasion approaches later this month, Ukraine finds itself in a position few people could have predicted a year ago, when the conventional wisdom was that Moscow’s forces would take control of the country within a few days.

Instead, the resilience of the Ukrainian people inspired the world, as humanitarian aid and weapons from Western allies, including an assortment of long-range missiles and tanks, continues to pour into the country.

While the war is still far from over, Ukraine’s ability to continue to fend off future Russian offensives depends, in large part, on the support and generosity of people like Sophia Pavlenko-Chandley, who grew up in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv.

The pianist and composer, who lives with her husband Dr. Paul Chandley in Troy, has been working nonstop over the past 12 months to do everything in her power to help her fellow countrymen, especially soldiers on the front lines. This includes organizing benefit concerts and fundraisers in North Carolina and throughout the country, including Washington, D.C., along with collecting supplies, such as medical equipment and protective gear. A concert last April at Montgomery Central High School raised about $30,000, she said.

Pavlenko-Chandley, an instructor at the Trinity Music Academy in Troy, has raised roughly $220,000 in aid for her home country. She and her husband have personally donated about $40,000. The majority of the funds have gone to helping soldiers battling the Russians in the eastern part of the country.

“It makes me feel very grateful, very inspired and very motivated for the future,” she said. “Even one person can do his or her part and make a difference.”

Paul and Sophia Chandley. Photo courtesy of Sophia Pavlenko-Chandley.

She regularly fields requests from people in Ukraine, who often contact her at night seeking help, and receives several personalized videos and handwritten letters from soldiers thanking her and Chandley for their efforts.

“I know God placed me in the right place and the right time so I could be effective to help my country and for that I am very grateful,” she said.

Though it has been difficult to be away from her family, many of whom live in Kyiv, she feels better knowing her country’s air defense systems have significantly improved, thanks to weaponry from the United States, allowing “them to repel most of the missiles over Kyiv.”

Paul Chandley, music director at First Lutheran Church in downtown Albemarle, acknowledges that while his wife has been under pressure, she has helped so many people.

“I’m just so extremely proud of her,” he said. “She is an amazing person to be able to do this. I cannot tell you how much of a difference she has really made on the ground and on the front lines of this war over in Ukraine.”

Once the country is more secure, Chandley hopes Ukraine will be admitted as a member of NATO. The couple plans to go back to Ukraine to visit with family and possibly purchase a second home.

“That’s our home, our entire family is over there,” Chandley said.

Anyone wanting to contribute can send donations directly to Pavlenko-Chandley at 228 W. Chestnut St., Troy, NC 27371. Checks can be made to the Paul and Sophia Music Foundation.

About Chris Miller

Chris Miller has been with the SNAP since January 2019. He is a graduate of NC State and received his Master's in Journalism from the University of Maryland. He previously wrote for the Capital News Service in Annapolis, where many of his stories on immigration and culture were published in national papers via the AP wire.

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