LVIV, Ukraine – Denys Karachevtsev has played his cello at some of the most prestigious concert halls in Austria, Japan and Turkey and even at Tunisia’s ancient El Jem theater. Now he is playing in the ruins of his native Ukraine, Kharkiv.
In a recently posted video, Mr. Karachevtsev performs Bach’s quiet Cello Suite No. 1 in the center of a deserted street littered with debris. His background: the regional police headquarters, its windows blown out by Russian shelling.
On Facebook, he said he hopes to draw attention to the plight of Ukraine’s second-largest city, which has been mercilessly bombed by Russian troops. Ukrainian police said that as of March 20, more than 600 multi-storey buildings in Kharkiv, including schools, had been destroyed.
“I am a cellist and a citizen of Kharkiv,” Karachevtsev wrote in an appeal on Facebook in English, Ukrainian and Russian.
“I love my hero city, which is currently struggling to survive the war,” he wrote. “I deeply believe that we can help. I believe we can restore and rebuild our city and country when the war is over. I am launching my project on the streets of Kharkiv to raise funds for humanitarian relief and to restore the city’s architecture. Let’s unite to revive our city together! ”
In recent days, Mr. Karachevtsev has performed the Ukrainian national anthem in the city center.
Mr. Karachevtsev graduated from the Tchaikovsky State Music Academy of Ukraine, in Kyiv. His performance is reminiscent of stories of Ukrainian musicians performing in harsh conditions, such as Vera Lytovchenko, who play lullabies on her violin in a bomb shelter in Kyiv. Or professional pianist Irina Maniukina playing Chopin’s Aeolian Harp Étude on a grand piano survived a missile attack on Bila Tserkva’s hometown, before leaving home for the last time. The rest of the apartment was covered in debris and shards of glass. When she sat down to play, she brushed destructive rust off the keys.
During the nearly four-year siege of Sarajevo that ended in 1996, Vedran Smajlovic played Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor on his cello in ruined buildings, including Vijecnica, the destroyed town hall of the Bosnian capital. He also played at funerals despite the threat from sniper fire. His powerful music has become a sign of humanity’s resilience and victory over brutality.
Now it’s Mr. Karachevtsev’s turn to do the same.