Written by Carole Sowden

Things got personal for Harrogate Theatre Choir as we perfected our performance of West End hits for ‘WE SING, YOU GIVE’ – A Benefit Concert for the People of Ukraine at the Frazer Theatre in Knaresborough on 7 October 2023.


Elina, a Ukrainian refugee and now a local resident was happy to share her story and put a human face to the images of war we have seen since February 2022. And what an extraordinary story it is!

Elina is from the Sumy region of Ukraine, around 20 miles from the Russian border. Like many of us in the UK, and despite the news reports, she never truly believed the invasion would happen. But at 5.30am she was called by a friend and told that it had begun.

Soon after, Russian forces crossed the border, tanks drove along her streets and missiles rained down. At 8am, surrounded by enemy troops, Elina fled to the shelter where she survived with no water, electricity or heating for two weeks. The resilience of the Ukrainian people has become legendary.

‘One of the main factors that saved the city,’ says Elina, ‘was that fifty paratroopers destroyed a whole column of Russian tanks. Everybody started working for victory. People brought boxes of Molotov cocktails and texted the locations of the Russians’.

Once the humanitarian corridor opened, it was another 24 hours before anyone could leave because of the shelling.

Taking only a backpack, Elina joined thousands of other civilians in a convoy of buses and travelled over 100 miles to Poltava. From there she continued her journey by train, overcrowded with families, cats and dogs, and 48 hours later arrived in Poland where, with the help of Homes for Ukraine, she decided to come to England. She has left many close friends in Ukraine.

‘When I came to England, everything was new to me’, Elina told HTC. ‘It was not easy to leave everything behind because I didn’t know where I would be tomorrow’.

Now settled here, Elina has made many new friends, both English and Ukrainian and expressed her gratitude to all the people who have helped her and all Ukrainians.

Harrogate Theatre Choir would like to thank Elina for sharing her story and the Frazer Theatre for generously donating the venue so that all the money raised from ticket sales can be given to the DEC so that they can continue to provide a lifeline for people affected by the conflict in Ukraine.

Enjoy songs from ‘Les Mis’, ‘Billy Elliot’, ‘Sweeney Todd’ and many other favourites in ‘WE SING, YOU GIVE’: A Benefit Concert for the People of Ukraine. Tickets are just £10 (£5 for under 16s) and are available from The Frazer Theatre box office Frazer Theatre (thelittleboxoffice.com).  Or for more information, see our Future Events