The melancholic sound of Ukrainian violinist Vera Lytovchenko’s music has echoed in subway stations, consoling people, some homeless, huddled in fear of Russian bombings.
A new music video called The Brave Ones features her in an online collaboration with more than 200 musical artists from various nations, including the US, South Africa, Japan and Canada.
The video, which includes news footage of neighborhoods reduced to rubble and the mournful but enduring faces of the people of Ukraine, is raising money for humanitarian aid for musicians in Ukraine, so far gathering more than 20,000 dollars (£16,200).
Lytovchenko said she believes it is important for people, especially musicians, to connect.
“Maybe I don’t have a choice. I just must do it. I must do what I do, and this is the place for me now,” she said in a recent Zoom interview with the Associated Press.
“When I know that I am useful, I can do something good, it’s not so scary. It gives me strength. You know, I don’t consider myself a very brave person. I’m just human.”
After windows broke in her apartment in Kharkiv from shelling, Lytovchenko started practice and recording in the basement.
She has also performed there.
Lytovchenko said sirens go off frequently and there are explosions.
One day in April, when the bombing was especially fierce near her home, she thought she might die.
Lytovchenko rarely leaves her apartment, except to get food and take care of cats her neighbors had to leave behind.
And she cannot stop asking herself: Why?
“I don’t have the answer,” Lytovchenko said.
“How could this be possible, now, in the 21st century, in Europe? I don’t have words to describe my emotions,” she said.
At first, when the war began, Lytovchenko even had doubts about playing music, and felt helpless.
Maybe what the world needed was medical doctors and politicians who can stop war, she thought.
Then she saw how her music could help people, raise funds and tell the world about Ukraine.
An outpouring of sympathy ensued on social media.
Most of all, people loved her music.
“I know it helps them. I saw their faces, I saw their tears and their smiles,” Lytovchenko said.
“Now, I know my profession is useful.”
She vows to keep playing.
And Lytovchenko refuses to leave Kharkiv.
“It’s our home. We can’t leave our home. And we should stay to protect it, try to save all we can save. And also we should stay to show the world that we are not afraid, ”she said with determination in her voice.
The online video, which includes the words “with the yellow and blue”, the colors of the Ukraine flag, features choirs in South Africa, Canada, the US and Britain.
Singing the lead is Grammy Award-winning Judith Hill, who worked with Michael Jackson.
The producer and writer who put it all together has asked for anonymity.
The participants were approached and given simple directions, and were not fully aware of what the finished product might be.
The violinist’s section was recorded first.
The person behind the video, reached by email, said the project is about musicians helping each other and the hope for peace so music can be performed again as before, not confined to bomb shelters.
Manabu Sakai, who plays taiko, a Japanese drum, on the video, said he was approached through Instagram and relied on translation applications to work out details.
Although he was playing a giant instrument, he knew the key was not to play too much.
“Taiko is the kind of music that brings people’s hearts together. It is festival music and so I played in a way that I hoped people can feel a sense of that Japanese festival music,” said Sakai, a member of the taiko group Dako-on.
“I didn’t play to show my musical skill. I played to show my soul. I tried to play, putting my heart into it,” he said.