International student helps Gallagher Bluedorn guests experience a touch of Ukraine

International student helps Gallagher Bluedorn guests experience a touch of Ukraine

Anna Flanders /
Liza Yaryshkina draws "welcome" poster

Guests visiting the Gallagher Bluedorn to hear the Kyiv Virtuosi Symphony Orchestra on March 10 should come an hour early for a special pre-show event in the lobby. The event is infused with authentic Ukrainian touches thanks to the personal contributions of Liza Yaryshkina, who had her hands on everything from the menu to the decorative sunflowers. Yaryshkina, a graphic design major, is one of eight Ukrainian students studying at UNI after their temporary stays in the country during high school were unexpectedly prolonged by the Russian invasion.

“The event helps set the mood for the show and also introduces people to Ukrainian culture so they understand it better,” said Yaryshkina. “It’s kind of the context for the show. It’s going to be really cheerful and happy.”

Yaryshkina works at the Gallagher Bluedorn as a community relations assistant. When she first started the job, she had no idea an orchestra from Ukraine would be coming to campus. Jennifer Onuigbo, community relations manager for the Gallagher, saw Yaryshkina’s presence as the perfect opportunity to take what is already sure to be a fantastic event and elevate it.

“We want to make sure we’re doing it in an authentic way, so having a voice from the Ukrainian community has been perfect,” said Onuigbo. “We didn’t hire her with that in mind, but she’s really come through for us.”

Yaryshkina found authentic Ukrainian recipes, curated a playlist of Ukrainian music, had input on decorations and even came up with a fun activity to serve as an introduction into Ukrainian culture. UNI Catering has been testing recipes and plans to offer an assortment of sweet and savory baked goods. For the activity, guests will have a chance to create pysanky eggs, which are Ukrainian Easter eggs.

Liza Yaryshkina draws "welcome" poster

In her role at the Gallagher Bluedorn, Yaryshkina frequently works on graphic design projects, such as event posters. She is creating a welcome banner in both English and Ukrainian for the pre-show event.

“I was glad to help because it felt like I contributed something, and I also felt like it would be something I’m good at because I’m from Ukraine.”

Yaryshkina hopes that after going to the pre-show event guests can enjoy the main event with the symphony even more since they will have a better understanding of Ukrainian culture. She also expects to see more native Ukrainians at the event, as she’s invited those she has met in Iowa since arriving in the state. 

Yaryshkina is eagerly anticipating immersing herself in a bit of her homeland once more. She has not been home with her family since June 2021.

“I’m really excited to see what people think,” she said. “It’s going to be nice to meet the people who play the instruments, talk to them and hear their stories and how they got here. I’m excited to experience some culture again.”

Purchase tickets to the Kyiv Virtuosi Symphony Orchestra on the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center’s website.

Support the Ukrianian students.