Conflicts & War

The Ukrainian refugee orchestra taking on Putin

By Guillermo Garrido

Edinburgh, UK, Aug 10 (EFE).- Members of the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra are currently touring the West as part of their mission to tell Russia’s president Vladimir Putin that their culture cannot be wiped out, director Keri-Lynn Wilson says, on the sidelines of the Edinburgh International Festival.

In an interview with Efe, the Canadian-Ukrainian conductor says that “the Western world has to stay resolved and in solidarity with Ukraine”, because “this war is not going anywhere”.

Calling themselves “soldiers of music”, the Canadian-born musician says that her project, which has since become a “mission”, is to show Putin that Ukraine’s culture is “alive and strong” and that “he cannot erase it”, despite his invasion.

“I wanted to fight too, but how, as a musician?” she says. “That’s when I thought I would hold up my baton instead of a weapon and fight against the regime and Putin.”

More than six million Ukrainian refugees have been forced to cross borders into neighboring countries in the war’s wake, according to the latest figures released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR).

“I had this idea of forming an orchestra with refugees, because I was seeing these images of millions of refugees pouring into Poland, and I thought, ‘there must be so many musicians in there that I could reach out to,'” she adds.

It took the musicians only 10 days to set up their orchestra at the Polish opera house.

The Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra began their tour in Warsaw on July 28, passed through London, and will continue to other cities such as Hamburg and Dublin, before concluding in Washington on August 20.

The tour is especially timely, the director says, “because after five months, this war is only getting worse, and in our coverage in the press, it’s getting further down in the news cycle,” a development she says is “very dangerous.”

“We can’t lose perspective that this is ultimately about humanity and compassion and fighting for the future of democracy,” Wilson says.

The orchestra even has the support of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who said is proud that they are not giving up the fight on the cultural front.

Wilson says that Zelenskyy “needs arms, he needs people fighting for him, and we are doing our best to fight on the artistic side.” EFE


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