Some of Ukraine's top classical musicians are touring Europe as part of a cultural mission that the Kyiv Symphony Orchestra says is part of "fighting Russia’s aggression in every possible way."
April 21 will mark the opening night of a historic tour of Europe by Kyiv’s Symphony Orchestra that will begin in Warsaw, Poland, and end in Hamburg, Germany, on May 1.
Ukrainian violinist Oleksiy Pshenychnikov told RFE/RL on April 21 that he joined the tour because, with his country in a state of war, “I was sitting with my family unable to do anything. Our army are fighting for our future and our freedom so I can’t just sit around and wait for I don’t know what,” he says.
After the opportunity arrived to tour Poland and Germany. the 22-year old says it felt “very important to be a part of this cultural mission.”
Oleksandra Zaitseva, the international manager of the orchestra, told RFE/RL that organizing the tour has been more than worth it for “the possibility for us as a nation to speak up and send a message to European society about our culture" she says, "to show that we are normal living people, that we also have culture and classical music so that people do not think of us as people who just fight wars, or only want weapons.”
Several female musicians had fled the war earlier and are registered as refugees in Central Europe, but most members of the orchestra have travelled out of Ukraine and will return to their country as soon as the Voice Of Ukraine tour ends. Ukrainian males aged 18-60 are currently forbidden from leaving their country and several members of the Kyiv orchestra had to apply for permission to go abroad.
The musicians will perform the work of several Ukrainian composers, including a Borys Lyatoshynsky symphony inspired by World War II, with the theme of peace overcoming war.
Zaitseva says the tour has given the musicians a sense of purpose after many “felt weak or helpless because they know they are unable to take a weapon in their hand and protect their land.”
But with instruments and a performance space, she continues, “they feel this power, a willingness to fight for their values on their own territory -- I mean the territory of music.”
For violinist Pshenychnikov, the tour has already provided powerful memories. After going for a walk in the center of Warsaw on his first night in the Polish capital, the young musician says he saw "Ukrainian flags all over the city, and on every street and every building there are words in Ukrainian like 'we are with you' and 'we will help you' and wow, I will remember this forever."