Under the bombs, the “winery violinist” of Ukraine continues to play

ROME – A soft melody of a violin played by a musician who has been nicknamed the “winery violinist” of Ukraine is a lullaby for a protected child in the dark basement of an apartment building in the besieged Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.

Vera Lytovchenko has become an icon of resilience on the Internet as images of the concert violinist playing in the basement anti-aircraft shelter have inspired an international audience through social media.

When two weeks ago the heavy Russian bombardment of the city of Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine began, Lytovchenko, his teacher’s father, and his neighbors sought security in the basement of his building.

“Bombs can fall all over our city, so we decided to go down to the basement,” the 39-year-old violinist told The Associated Press via Skype on Wednesday during a brief respite from the bombing during a temporary ceasefire. “Now we’re about 12 people. We have little boys. We have teenagers. We have old women.”


One week after his meeting in the basement, Lytovchenko decided to try to lift the spirits of his fellow winemakers by performing small concerts.

“Now all these people are my brothers and sisters,” he said. “I was trying to get them to think of something and not the war for a few minutes while I was playing.”

He later thought of posting his recitals on social media, which showed the calmness of Vivaldi and even Lytovchenko singing a Russian folk song. The reaction surprised her: more than 40,000 views on Facebook and thousands more on YouTube.

“I didn’t expect that because I posted just to get to my friends, my relatives. My aunt is near Kiev and I’m scared of her,” she said.

“My friends are in different cities all over Ukraine and I’m trying to keep in touch with them by texting them several times a day to see if they’re alive,” Lytovchenko said. “A lot of people send me a text message now saying that my videos give them so much support and hope. They can see someone staying here” in Kharkiv.


“Someone is alive and someone is hopeful and optimistic,” he said.

On Wednesday, during the temporary ceasefire in Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine, Lytovchenko was able to return to his apartment for a few hours. She told the AP she was happy to see the sunlight after spending two weeks in the dark basement, and added that she and her neighbors are lucky because they have heating in the cellar and food.

Before the war, Lytovchenko played for the Kharkiv City Opera Orchestra and gave music lessons.

“It was another life … a normal life,” he said of the pre-war era. “I’m an orchestra musician. I’m a college professor. I have my students, I have friends, I play concerts, I play operas and ballets. I play Italian operas in the theater.”

Describing Ukraine before the war, Lytovchenko said: “We had a cultural life in our country, in our cities, despite the coronavirus. We were vaccinated. It was a normal life … But now we can’t understand what it is. Happening.”


Lytovchenko says he hopes his publications can help raise funds for the Kharkiv music community.

“I dream of my little financial fund, because I have received messages from all over the world, from all countries. They sent me a text, they want to help, “he said.

She wants to “help musicians … and rebuild our city, our conservatory, our music college, our music school,” she said. “Help our musicians who have lost their homes and help musicians return to their own cities and not be refugees.”

Lytovchenko said that, scary as it may be, playing in the cellar to lift the spirits of others gave him new breath.

“That’s why I make these videos, I try to help, I try to do everything I can,” he said.


Follow AP coverage of the Ukraine crisis at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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Under the bombs, the “winery violinist” of Ukraine continues to play

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