Ukrainian expat musicians raise their voices to help their country

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Horrified by the war unfolding in their home country, Ukrainians abroad help their brothers and sisters resist the Russian invasion in any way possible, even with violins and beautiful songs.

Desperate for supplies to send to their compatriots, Ukrainian musicians have staged an impromptu concert in Vienna, Austria, to collect donations that will be loaded onto a fleet of buses and shipped some 600 kilometers east of the border Ukrainian.

The choir and orchestra performances, which filled a church with a large Ukrainian congregation, were the brainchild of Anton Yeretsky, a conductor who is one of approximately 7,000 Ukrainians who live in Vienna .

He described the use of music both as a symbol of hope and peace in times of war and as a way to help resistance among Ukrainians who are unable or unwilling to leave the country.

Mr Yeretsky’s mother is among those still taking refuge in Ukraine “waiting for the right time” to join the 2.2 million people who have fled to neighboring countries, he said. The National after Wednesday’s concert.

Mr Yeretsky’s mother hopes to join him in Vienna, but it is not easy for them to keep in touch, and Mr Yeretsky says Ukraine’s highways are too dangerous for her to risk leaving her small hometown as Russian forces cross the country. .

Another chapter of European history is written in blood

Lyubomyr Dutka

Lyubomyr Dutka, the pastor of a congregation with a large Ukrainian contingent, wants the church to still be as full as it was when hundreds of people filled the pews in a show of solidarity with Ukraine.

But “what politics breaks down, we ordinary people can put back together from the bottom,” said Mr Dutka, from western Ukraine, as he appealed for donations.

“Another chapter of European history is being written in blood,” he said. “We experience arrogance, greed and power gone mad instead of a sense of proportion, sanity and brotherhood.”

At the church in suburban Ottakring, musicians young and old wore blue and yellow ribbons in tribute to the Ukrainian emblem, while some spectators wore the colors on their masks or draped a life-size flag over their coats .

The flag has become a symbol of a wheat field and a blue sky, Dutka told the congregation, in itself evoking the image of freedom that Ukrainians are fighting for.

The choir sang lyrics by 19th-century poet Taras Shevchenko, a symbol of Ukrainian language and national identity and their resurgence after long suppression by Russia.

One of Shevchenko’s works was set to music by the father of one of the soloists, Zoryana Kushpler, an opera singer trained at a music academy in Lviv.

Singers sang mournful lyrics about children who died in war, while instrumentalists brought Ukrainian tunes to life as well as pieces by Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi.

There were tears and standing ovations as the violins and choir fell silent, and even a moment of levity as the church bells interrupted a soloist with their eight o’clock chime.

About 12,700 Ukrainians live in Austria, a number that has roughly doubled in the past decade, and more have already arrived since President Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

Authorities in Vienna are offering humanitarian aid, including coronavirus tests and vaccines, as well as psychological support, to people fleeing war.

Under an EU refugee deal, Ukrainians are entitled to at least a year of residency in the bloc, which comes with education and employment rights, and could be extended if the war drags on.

Three children from Kharkiv, a city in eastern Ukraine that authorities say was shelled and surrounded by Russian forces, are being cared for temporarily by the church in Vienna.

So many donors from the Ukrainian community have brought goods to collection points in Vienna that no more clothing is requested, although food and sleeping bags are in short supply.

Supplies collected so far have been sent to Ukraine in three or four shipments a day, with around 25 buses already sent to the country to help people shelter from Russian attacks.

“They lose everything,” Mr. Dutka said.

Updated: March 10, 2022, 10:12 a.m.

About Roy B. Westling

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