Arts & Leisure

Followed his dreams to the U.S.


By Jill Lloyd/Special to The Tribune

When Oleksandr Silaiev fled Kyiv, Ukraine, his homeland,  on February 14, 2022, it had nothing to do with the traditions of Valentine’s Day, but it was his passion to pursue life and his music in a better place.  He had a hunch something bad was about to happen, and he was right.  Russia invaded Ukraine 10 days later, including his hometown.

The 31-year-old aspiring musician had been following the news and felt things were getting worse. He said “I went to Vinnytsia where my mother lives and tried to get her to leave but she did not want to as she did not believe it would get worse.  Air space was closed, and it was becoming difficult to leave Ukraine, including they were not allowing men to leave the country.”

But he grabbed his guitar, necessary documents and escaped Ukraine and was able to arrange to go to Warsaw, Poland via train, which was just the start of his journey to get to California.  After two weeks he was able to get into Ireland where he stayed at a hostel in Dublin for a few months where he worked as an interpreter for guests on a Viking TV Show/Station before getting a VISA to get into Canada. First to Toronto and then to Vancouver where he stayed renting a room for four months and was an extra on television shows. His goal was always to get to California and pursue his music and acting.  His first stop was in San Francisco where he stayed in a friend’s garage before heading south to the Los Feliz area in Los Angeles.  Through the help of a volunteer he settled in what he considers his “ new home” on November 2022 shortly after Thanksgiving Day.

The song “Follow that Dream” that Elvis Presley sang resonates with Silaiev as he reflected back on his childhood years watching Elvis’s movies, along with his cartoons, and being very taken with the King of Rock and Roll when he was about six years old. He especially liked the movie “Jailhouse Rock.”   Though he was born 15 years after Presley died on August 16, 1977, rock and roll was in his blood too and he became extremely interested in the music legend’s singing.

“What I liked most of all was his energy, his style and great strong voice including his vocal range of highs and lows.  It’s how it feels.  I can tell it comes from deep inside when he sings, “Silaiev said.

That is something Silaiev relates to especially when he sings in a choir, something he started doing early in life.   “ I joined the school choir when I was in first and second grade, and that’s when I also learned ballroom dancing,” he said.

Silaiev has had a lifetime of music and says “ I’ve always been singing.” He went to music school to learn guitar when he was 11 years old and has a love of classical and opera music as well as rock and roll and sings both.

“I love the Beatles and Michael Jackson too, as well as Pavarotti, “he said.

Silaiev is currently working a few jobs including one as a crossing guard when schools are in session, and when he can he’s busking on the streets in Santa Monica, giving music lessons and keeping his fingers crossed about some acting jobs.  But he is still looking to get that big break.

“Elvis gave to the world his greatness, his soul, his emotion and deep inner self.  It’s his inner good that I love about Elvis. He had a lot of love inside.  He wanted to be a star, he wanted to be loved, ” Silaiev said. “I would like to be famous too. But I want the inside of me to show too. That’s what matters.”

He has certainly gone the distance to follow his dream. About 6,500 miles by air travel.

And he will get to pay homage to the one who helped fuel his passion when he performs at the 23rd Annual Elvis Festival on Sunday, October 8 in Garden Grove, which runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Historic Main Street.  His set will be at 11 a.m. in which he will sing “O Sole Mio,” a Neapolitan opera song, interchangeably with Presley’s “It’s Now or Never” as they share the same musical instrumentation. He will perform other Elvis hits, and said, “ 8

Elvis Festival is an all-day tribute to the King of Rock and Roll, and features a variety of Elvis singers, bands, strolling entertainment, Elvis’s fan clubs, specialty vendors, memorabilia and collectibles, a classic car show, food trucks and dog rescues in honor of Adopt a Shelter Dog Month (Hound dogs!).

The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and admission is free as well as parking, which is available at the Concorde Career College and Coastline College lots adjacent to the event, which is on Main Street between Acacia Parkway and Garden Grove Blvd.

There are a limited number of paid reserved seats for stage entertainment and can be purchased online at Eventbrite under 23rd Annual Elvis Festival. A free section of seating is also available.

For more information visit the Facebook Page for the Annual Elvis Festival Garden Grove, send an email to or call 714-267-4657.

Dignity Memorial™ is the presenting sponsor and will feature an Elvis Life Story display, a Harley Hearse display, and historical photos of Elvis’s tribute.  Participating Dignity Memorial locations include Fairhaven Memorial Park & Mortuary in Santa Ana; Fairhaven Memorial Services in Mission Viejo, McAulay and Wallace in Fullerton and Dimond Shannon Mortuary, Garden Grove, and are part of the network, which also owns the Memphis Funeral Home that managed Elvis Presley’s arrangements.


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