Some musicians of the orchestra fled the country at the sound of Russian bombs, others remained in Ukraine but had to leave their homes and played only for their families or in bomb shelters.
Thursday’s concert at the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra will mark the start of the orchestra’s European tour.
“Our concerts are really a cultural mission,” Oleksii Pshenychnikov, a 22-year-old second violinist with the orchestra, told AFP during a break from rehearsals.
“In Ukraine we say there is a ‘cultural front’, which means it’s not about escaping from war, it’s another aspect of war,” Pchenyshnikov said.
The men in the band have obtained special dispensation from the Ukrainian authorities to leave the country as martial law is in place in Ukraine and men of fighting age are normally not allowed to leave.
The exemption only lasts until the end of the tour and its Italian conductor, Luigi Gaggero, said he hoped other venues would come forward to offer to host the orchestra “perhaps until the end of the war”.
Gaggero, who himself was due to travel to Ukraine the day the conflict began, said the process of rehearsing together had been invigorating for the musicians forced to spend long weeks apart.
“They don’t just feel nostalgia for a job, they feel nostalgia for the very reason for their existence, which is music. It’s like the air they breathe and they can finally breathe again,” did he declare.
Many of the musicians are traveling with their entire families and loved ones left behind are on everyone’s mind as conflict escalates in the south and east of the country.
– ‘Passing on our pain’ –
Rehearsals are accompanied by therapy sessions.
Attendees were skeptical of the idea at first, but organizers said more and more attendees are taking part.
“Music, especially being able to practice my violin, helped me get away from the terrible reality,” said 25-year-old Elizaveta Zaitseva.
“Now I can live again in my own world, the one I’m used to, the world of music,” said Zaitseva, who studies in Nuremberg in Germany.
Thursday’s concert will include works by Ukrainian composers Maxim Berezovsky, Myroslav Skoryk and Boris Lyatoshynsky as well as a piece by Polish composer Henryk Wieniawski.
“It’s unfortunately because of the war but our culture has a great opportunity” to bring lesser-known composers to the West, Zaitseva said.
“Europe will become much richer if it discovers the richness of Ukrainian culture.”
Speaking at the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, where the walls are decorated with striking images of the ruins of post-war Warsaw, Zaitseva said she hopes the music she plays can “access the people’s souls.
“Through music and art, we speak to the soul, we convey our pain and our wishes, our hopes into people’s hearts through music,” she said.