Ukrainian musicians take up arms to fight against Vladimir Putin

Alex Karpenko plays outside the train station every day.

The 27-year-old musician’s ritual, since the war began, has been to carefully descend to the public piano outside Lviv’s train station. There he defeated thousands of Ukrainians who were fleeing their homes. People walked past him, carrying suitcases or carrying children. Some of them lingered at the piano to listen for a while.

On March 19, the day after Russian rockets first hit his city, Karpenko was outside the station when the air raid sirens began to sound. Totally mesmerized by the song he’s playing – ‘Time,’ from the movie Start-he ignored the officers who surfaced to get everyone to safety.

He told The Daily Beast: “The whistle gave me more energy, adrenaline and hatred for Russia, so I kept playing and didn’t go to the shelters.”

His game became more intense, an “inner resistance to sirens, bombs, murder, war,” as he later put it on social media. A friend leaned over the keyboard to help him, her purple fingernails still intact as she played out the accompanying chords. ONE National Geography The photojournalist at the station noticed and approached with his camera. He posted the video of him filming Karpenko on Instagram, where it went viral.

“The musicians are always at the forefront,” says Adriana Helbig, an ethnologist at the University of Pittsburgh, whose parents are from Lviv, “because you can tell something in the music, coded, that thing.” This will take you a long time to speak in literature. . ”

More than five weeks after the Russian invasion, the fierce Ukrainian resistance was aided by their musicians, both professional and amateur, who went to great lengths to support the war effort. any way they can. “Our musicians wear armor instead of tuxedo,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said during a satellite appearance at the Grammy Awards Sunday. “They sing for the injured in the hospital, even for those who cannot hear them. But the music is going to be groundbreaking anyway.”

If the country’s music had broken through, it would have entered the world stage. On social media, footage of Ukrainians playing music in underground bunkers and bombed public squares sent goosebumps and heart-wrenching hearts, garnering millions of views. and created a wave of international support. In one, a soloist of the Opera and Ballet Theater Kharkiv played Vivaldi and Tchaikovsky in a cramped, candlelit cellar for her neighbors. In another, a cellist performed parts of Bach outdoors, crumbling buildings behind him. A woman in Kyiv performs Chopin goodbye on her grand piano between what’s left her family’s apartment. ONE The girl’s name is Amelia sang “Let It Go” in Russian from a bunker in Kyiv.

“No one is afraid here.”

“It’s a mirror to your soul,” Helbig told The Daily Beast. About Amelia’s performance of frozen song, the professor explained, “What’s inside of you becomes the kind of music that you put out. It’s a very human thing for us to respond to that. A child sings a song that maybe is his favorite song that will become the one he shares with the world.”

Karpenko’s video caught the attention of Hans Zimmer, the legendary composer behind Startfilm’s soundtrack. Zimmer recorded a response and sent it to Karpenko, saying he was “surprised” by the pianist’s use of his song to lift “the spirit of the Ukrainian people”.

“We’re going to play “Time” for you tonight,” Zimmer, wearing a yellow and blue scarf, told Karpenko. “We will always play ‘Time’ for you. We will always be there for you. Thank you.”

“I was in tears,” said Karpenko, “the greatest contemporary composer is supporting my country, and I have acted as a mediator for that.”

Other musicians have enlisted to fight directly with the Russian army, joining the Territorial Defense Forces of the Ukrainian army. They include members of veteran rock band Boombox; Serhiy Fomenko, leader of the folk fusion known as Mandry; and pay tribute to the traditional artist Taras Kompanichenko (who is known to regularly strum as his lute) kobza while wearing fat clothes).


Taras Topolia, lead singer of pop-rock band Antytila, was in Kyiv last week. Topolia, along with her band mates, keyboardist Serhii Vusyk and guitarist Dmitry Zholud, first entered combat in 2014, amid the Crimean crisis. On February 24 of this year, the trio reported the mission again. They are now tasked with providing first aid to wounded soldiers, often transporting them from combat sites to trauma stabilization sites and nearby hospitals. (Two other Antytila ​​members, drummer Dmitry Vodovozov and bassist Mykhailo Chryko, are working in Kyiv as civilian volunteers, sourcing medical and sanitary supplies.)

“I am not afraid,” Topolia said in a phone call from the front. “No one is afraid here. We are not afraid. We just know that this is our land. We are protecting our land and our future. Thinking for a moment, he admits that the first three days of the war were a bit stressful, but “we adapted.”


Pop-rock band Antytila ​​poses in military gear.

Antytila ​​is polite

Antytila ​​has a major social media presence on Instagram, TikTok, Facebook and Youtube, with Topolia having started posting video updates in English documenting what is happening in Kyiv and Irpin.

On March 22, the band caused an international stir by filming a direct appeal to Ed Sheeran, saying that they had just heard he would be making headlines for an upcoming charity concert for Ukraine in Birmingham, England. “And we offered to do a live broadcast between Kyiv and Birmingham with Antytila, temporarily participating in a remote gig,” said Topolia, alongside Vusyk and Zholud.

The video has garnered more than 7 million views on TikTok alone. However, two days later, Sheeran responded with a non-diplomatic Instagram Story update, saying that he stands with all Ukrainians and that he can’t wait to see Antytila’s music. The band learned soon after that the concert organizers had no intention of accepting their offer.

In a statement to The Daily Beast, British television network ITV explained that the charity group set up to receive proceeds from Concerts for Ukraine must “avoid affiliation of any kind with any kind of association.” any military service” to do their job.


Antytila ​​(LR Mykhailo Chryko, Dmitry Zholud, Taras Topolia, Dmitry Vodovozov, Serhii Vusyk).

Antytila ​​is polite

“So we said, ‘Sorry, guys. For us, it is more important to protect our country and our future,” said Topolia. “So we temporarily put on helmets and held guns in our hands. And we won’t put them down until the job is done. So if it doesn’t [compatible] with your concept, it’s okay. We accept this answer”.

Three hundred miles from Kyiv, Sergiy Politutchy is scrambling to host a music festival. The 68-year-old director of the annual Kharkiv Music Festival, Politutchy has spent the better part of a year collaborating with classical musicians from across Europe, planning the opening of the festival in the country’s second largest city. Ukraine on March 26.

“Will we be alive until the war ends?”

“Then the war abolished the festival,” Politutchy told Beast.

About 700,000 people have been forced to leave the city so far, its regional government said. According to Politutchy, the absence of noise for about half of Kharkiv’s population has been replaced by “the sound of war,” according to Politutchy, to which he is almost accustomed.

“This is a very interesting and terrible phenomenon of war,” he said. “Death, blood, and other horrible things become a normal part of your environment.”

Life in Kharkiv has been narrowed down to maintaining a checklist of essentials: food, water, shelter, safety. “And the main, and possibly the only, topic in our conversation, in our dreams, is when the war will end,” explains Politutchy. “Will we be alive until the war is over?”


Sergiy Politutchy in Kharkiv.

polite Sergiy Politutchy

No one knows, or knows, the answer. But it’s not surprising, according to Maria Sonevytsky, an associate professor of Ukrainian-American anthropology and music at Bard College, that we turn to music when the dreaded lack of answers is overwhelming. “For some reason, people all over the world, everywhere, make music,” she said. “I wouldn’t argue that having calories to eat, or a place to sleep, is just as essential. But it’s somewhere on the list of things that make us who we are.”

So if you’re stuck in a bomb shelter, Sonevytsky continues, “and you’re trying not to focus on whether the next explosion could be the murder of your family, I think composing music is a good way to try to remind humanity of itself, and survive that moment. “

Politutchy and his team reached the same conclusion. The staging of a “concert between explosions”, as it was later called on social media, would show people “life goes on, that we are still alive and we will build back to his city after the war,” Politutchy said.

So, to “save our souls,” as he puts it, his team set out to search for their musicians—those left behind in Kharkiv. A few, still armed with their stringed instruments, were located and sent out for a single frenzied rehearsal. Politutchy and other festival organizers began to spread the word quietly, fearing that excessive advertising of the event would attract unwanted Russian attention.

On March 26, several hundred people gathered underground at Istorychnyi Muzei, a metro station named for the history museum that still miraculously stands on it. A small group of musicians, gathered on the steps of the station, sang the Ukrainian national anthem. Some in the audience put their hands on their hearts. Others held up their phones.

Politutchy stood aside, watching as musicians turned to Bach and Dvořák, and arrangements from Ukrainian composers. In the five years he ran the festival, his “perfectionist” tendencies allowed him to fulfill his dream — hundreds of musicians gathered on stage, playing magnificent symphonies to Kharkiv’s packed halls. Philharmonic. This rocky show together wasn’t his dream.

But then he turned to look at the crowd. “All the people underground looked on with such happy eyes,” he recalls. “Their faces are so gentle, so bright. Because they met each other in life. When they meet music, they meet the future. A peaceful future. ”

The message in the music is clear, the festival director said. “Live music. Lively festival. Friends from all over the world: we will see you again next year, on this day, in this place. ” Ukrainian musicians take up arms to fight against Vladimir Putin

Russell Falcon

Russell Falcon is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Russell Falcon joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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