Beyond Barriers: A Heartwarming Story of Music and Community

This week, we are delighted to share a heartwarming story of kindness, community, and of course, music.

We were recently contacted by Finghin Collins, a great friend of Pianos Plus, about a young girl who had moved here from Ukraine with her grandparents and was living and attending school near Loughrea, Co. Galway.

This girl, Marharyta Pokydailo, or Margaret as she introduced herself, had been a prodigious pianist in her home country, studying classical music from the age of six and competing in numerous piano competitions, before being forced to flee to Ireland aged 16 following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Margaret and her grandparents, Hannah and Boris, were welcomed to Bark Hill House in Spring of 2023. They have settled into the local community where she now attends Woodford College. However, she was now without a piano to continue her studies. Word borrowed word and through Finghin Collin s and Noelle Lynskey the story found us.

Marharyta Pokydailo Playing Her New Kawai E300 Upright Piano

Thankfully, with the support of Kawai, Pianos Plus were in a position to help Margaret and provided her with a new Kawai E300 Upright Piano. However, as we see in Noelle’s account below, were were just the final piece of the puzzle, and the true “star of the show” was the local community banding together to help this young musician and make her and her family feel welcome in their time of need.

Noelle Lynskey, Director of Shorelines Arts Festival and the orchestrator of this beautiful story, gives her account of how this all came about:

One evening in June 2023, I met Marharyta Pokydailo, or Margaret, as she calls herself for Irish school. Wiltrud, my friend brought Margaret and her grandmother, Hannah to my house as I have a piano that loves to be played. Wiltrud had met, as a volunteer at Bark Hill house in Woodford, a male Ukrainian resident as he was listening to classical music on his iPad. She engaged with this man, Boris, who spoke little English, on the topic of classical music, as Wiltrud is a great music lover herself.

Despite the language barrier, music as always broke its own barrier, and she found herself watching a YouTube clip of a pretty girl playing Schumann’s Arabesque on stage in Ukraine. To her delight, Wiltrud soon discovered that this musician is Margaret, the granddaughter of Boris and Hannah, and is also living in Bark Hill. But alas, there is no piano to play there. So Wiltrud contacted me, as I have contacts in Music for Galway and my three daughters all play piano, to see if we could help Margaret access a piano.

Margaret started to play piano in Kiev at 6 years of age, where she attended a music school and studied piano and music there.

Now at 16, when she sat and played my piano, she had not played the instrument in almost a year, due to the fact that she and her grandparents fled Ukraine and eventually, became residents at Bark Hill in the spring of 2023.

Boris, Margaret’s Grandfather, Looks On As Pianos Plus Install The Piano

On that evening, Margaret played for almost two hours while Hannah drank tea and listened with great attention and filled me in on the joy it brought her to hear her play after such a long time. Though unpractised, there was no doubt that Margaret has a huge talent and so started the path to finding a piano for her.

With my contacts through Portumna Arts Group and Music Matters, as well as  Finghin Collins artistic director and Anna Lardi CEO of Music for Galway there was immediate interest in sourcing a piano for Margaret’s use. In their newsletter Music for Galway, sent a call out for a piano and there was a great response. While tuner, Ciaran Ryan, kindly checked out potential pianos offered, in Portumna, Boula, Kilrickle and Loughrea, we sourced two houses close to Bark Hill where Margaret could access easily and practice meanwhile. The owners of these pianos, Mary Rose and Loretto, like myself, were enraptured by the beautiful music this young girl was playing. She also played occasionally on the piano at Woodford College, where she attended.

Meanwhile the piano hunt continued and Finghin Collins finally hit the jackpot, when Henry Gillanders at Pianos Plus and with the generosity of Kawai Pianos kindly offered a long loan of a Kawai piano, to Bark Hill.

The management and owners of Bark Hill, on discovering the talent in their midst, have cleared a corner of the parlour of this former convent, where on December 6th, the piano will be delivered.

A few weeks ago, I visited Bark Hill to tell the good news to Margaret, Hannah and Boris and to say they were delighted is an understatement. Margaret’s bright eyes sparkled with anticipation, Boris bowed in gratitude and Hannah hugged me with tears in her eyes.

And for those of us who helped to make this happen, it is wonderful to see the generosity of everyone in nurturing this talented girl in some small way. And I know what joy it will bring those talented fingers. – Noelle Lynskey


Pianos Plus Delivery Van Outside Bark Hill House, Woodford, Co Galway