INTERVIEW: John Ondrasik of 'Five For Fighting' on Playing in Kyiv With the Ukrainian Orchestra

John Ondrasik, who usually performs under the moniker Five For Fighting and whose outspoken conservatism has been previously noted here at RedState, recently recorded a remarkable music video.


Many a video have featured airplanes and/or apocalyptic imagery. However, in this, the imagery was real, as Ondrasik played “Can One Man Save the World,” his tribute to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, along with the Ukrainian Orchestra in front of the damaged hulk of the Mryia, the world’s largest cargo plane which was targeted by Russian forces in the early stages of the Russia-Ukrainian war. I managed to catch Ondrasik long enough in-between gigs to say more about the video and his observations while in Ukraine.

When, where, and how did the idea to do the orchestrated version come?

After initially releasing “Can One Man Save the World?” in the early days of the war, I was orchestrating string parts for an upcoming string quartet tour. I had a thought to travel to Poland to perform the song with a Polish orchestra to recognize their heroic stand in taking over 4 million refugees. I suggested the idea to one of my Save Our Allies partners. (Save Our Allies is a non-profit organization started when American former soldier Chad Robichaux, who did eight tours of duty in Afghanistan, was contacted by his translator after the Taliban takeover of the country asking for help in getting out. The organization has rescued some 12,000 Afghanis, and is now also active in Ukrainian relief efforts.) She called me back a few days later and said, “How would you like to play the song with a Ukrainian orchestra in Ukraine?” I was stunned. Did an orchestra even exist? After a series of minor miracles, a few weeks later I found myself in Kyiv preparing to film the song with the orchestra in front of the Mryia, the symbol of Ukrainian independence, that Putin cynically destroyed at the war’s outset.


Did you have any trepidation traveling to Kyiv to do the video?

Of course. I had a long talk with my wife and kids and am grateful they agreed to let me go. I also must recognize my Save Our Allies team led by Nick Palmisciano and Hollywood Heard, and a crew of five incredible camera operators.

Are the piano and vocal tracks the same as the original version?

Yes, there was no time to record a new version as we had six hours with the orchestra, and I was flying into Krakow from my last tour date when the orchestra recorded their performance.

Did you get to interact with any orchestra members? If so, what are some of their stories?

Yes, I spoke to them [through a translator] a bit about why we were there, not to make a music video, but to shine the light on the fortitude and spine of the Ukrainian people that the orchestra represented, and make an artistic plea for the world to support Ukraine in this war. Virtually none of them spoke English but by the time we were done I believe we all shared a common musical brother and sisterhood. There were many hugs and handshakes. Our translator, Elana, was very emotional as her brother had been at the front for 11 days without communication. Virtually everyone I met in Ukraine had a story like that. It was heartbreaking.

There’s increasing antagonism in some sections of conservatism about supporting Ukraine. Did traveling there change your views in any fashion?


I agree that we should be diligent in making sure our American funding is going to the right place. I was with a few American congressmen on the train to Kyiv, including Brian Fitzpatrick and Dan Crenshaw, who were focused on that issue. My partners, Save Our Allies, also is a great example of logistical expertise in getting humanitarian aid “the last mile.”

For those who believe we should not engage in Ukraine, I would ask them the following: If we allow Putin to devour Ukraine, would it not be likely that we have the same dynamic subsequently on the Polish border? When has appeasement worked? I don’t want to see our American soldiers dying in a much larger conflict. I believe it is in American’s national interest to stop Putin’s ambition now. Also, gifting Ukraine to Putin would only expedite the Taiwan domino.

Continuation of the above. Having been there, based on your first-hand experience what do you say to opponents of assisting Ukraine?

I would say I understand your concerns and they are legitimate. There is corruption in all conflicts of this nature, and we need to do all we can to not waste the taxpayer’s money. That said, I think the consequences of allowing Putin to continue his atrocities and ambitions would only lead to escalations that could have generational consequences for freedom and liberty worldwide. For my conservative friends I’d ask them, what would Reagan do?


Did anyone you met there ask you to play any of your hits for them?

(laughs) No, but I pray that I can return to Kyiv and play “Can One Man Save the World” again with the incredible Ukrainian Orchestra when they win this war. We appreciate everyone streaming and sharing this video and song. All proceeds go to Save Our Allies who are leading humanitarian efforts in Ukraine and Afghanistan. History Starts Now!


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