Musical Ukrainian expats raise their voices to help their country

Choral song and instrumental tunes fill the air to help countrymen withstand invasion

Conductor Anton Yeretsky, third right, and some of his musicians at a benefit concert for Ukrainians in Vienna, Austria. Tim Stickings / The National

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Horrified by the war unfolding in their home country, Ukrainians abroad are helping their brothers and sisters to withstand the Russian invasion in any way they can – even with violins and fine song.

Desperate for supplies to send to their compatriots, musical Ukrainians staged an impromptu concert in Vienna, Austria, to raise donations that will be loaded onto a fleet of buses and shipped about 600 kilometres east to the Ukrainian border.

The choir and orchestra performances, which packed out a church with a substantial Ukrainian congregation, were the brainchild of Anton Yeretsky, a conductor who is one of the 7,000 or so Ukrainians who live in Vienna.

He described the recourse to music as both a symbol of hope and peace at a time of war, and a way of helping the resistance among Ukrainians who are unable or unwilling to leave the country.

Mr Yeretsky’s mother is among those still sheltering in Ukraine “waiting for the right moment” to join the 2.2 million people who have fled into neighbouring countries, he told 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 said the motorways in Ukraine are too dangerous for her to risk leaving her small-town home while Russian forces roll across the country.

Another chapter of European history is being written in blood
Lyubomyr Dutka

Lyubomyr Dutka, the parish priest for a congregation with a large Ukrainian contingent, wishes the church was always as full as it was when hundreds of people packed the pews in a show of solidarity for Ukraine.

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

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