Stories of Change

Participants of Youth Talent Show

Youth Talent Show: WE ARE HERE

This month, the Youth Talent Show titled “WE ARE HERE” brought together an inspiring display of talent and resilience from Ukrainian youth. The name, inspired by Alicia Keys’ song, resonated deeply as these young performers asked a poignant question through their final performance: “WHY ARE WE HERE?” This question, far from being merely philosophical, echoed the lived experiences of these children and teens who have spent over two years away from their homeland, adapting to a new culture and language. 

Despite the hardships and barriers, they sometimes face, these youth stood tall and proud, declaring, “WE ARE HERE.” Their performance showcased not just their maturity and the traumas they’ve endured, but also their incredible resilience and talent. The show had it all—humor, parodies, rock music, classical duets, folk dancing and singing. Each genre was represented, making the event full of hope.

The chant, “We are here, we are here for all of us” echoed from Odesa to Kharkiv to Borodyanka, highlighting the collective spirit of the Ukrainian youth at the show. The talent show commenced with a play depicting an airport scene, symbolizing the start of a new journey as people arrived for the first time, carrying bags and leaving behind the lives they once knew as all of the youth members have recently experienced.

Marina and Alison, case managers at CWS who organized the Jersey City Talent Show, reflected on the event: “We found kids, talented and not, who wanted to do something and show their talents. As a Ukrainian, I could not be happier” Said Marina.

Diana, a participant youth member, shared her thoughts: “Since I became part of the CWS Youth Program, almost everything has changed in my American life—my attitude towards people, my English language skills and I’ve made many new friends. I feel warmth from the people there, and I’m very happy to come every weekend. I expected our performance to be very successful and it happened so, with many people attending. I think it can change people’s attitudes towards Ukrainians and CWS.”

Kirill, another participant, echoed similar sentiments: “My English has improved, and I’ve made new friends, even finding my girlfriend, who is Ukrainian. I’m excited and ready to have practiced the whole show with others. People were happy and excited like me. I want to thank Marina and Alison for their service and work; they are such good people.”

Marina and Alison elaborated on the logistics: “Our team picked Saturday as the day Ukrainian parents could bring their kids. Some parents traveled over an hour to watch their kids do amazing things. These kids, having been in the U.S. for only this short time, immediately bonded, becoming friends and chatting online while at home. The connection they made was exactly what we hoped to see. These kids are now heard, seen and visible.”

The show included Ukrainian humor, as Marina explained to us, “If you are dating me and come to our house and my mother offers you slippers, do not ever say no to that offer.” A Ukrainian version of Romeo and Juliet, an Egyptian belly dance, and other performances brought a touch of various cultures, even though all performers were Ukrainian. The entire show lasted two hours, leaving the audience in awe.

Marina summed up the event, saying, “The kids’ parents were grateful, and this is a gift to me.”

The “WE ARE HERE” Youth Talent Show was not just a display of talent but a testament to the resilience and hope of the Ukrainian youth, reminding us all of the power of community and the importance of being seen and heard.

To learn more about CWS New Jersey, visit their website.