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Songs for Ukraine VII
When the silence isn't quiet, and it feels like it's getting hard to breathe
“There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.” - H. Zinn
It was a beautiful day for a musical celebration in Second Life (SL). A near-full moon hung in the azure sky, smiling down on the wooden stage and dance floor etched with images of the moon and stars. On the stage, Grace Newton (Cylindrian Rutabaga in SL) sat at her piano with a photo of Vateryna Voroniuk, the Ukrainian musician who was interviewed for the “Songs for Ukraine” blog, displayed atop her piano.
“Please join me in sending Kateryna and all the people of Ukraine our love and support,” Grace began. “I want to say thank you for sharing your music with us. Now I’m going to share mine with you to build a bridge.”
As Grace began her first song, “Don’t Give Up,” by Peter Gabriel (see minute 3:00), Ukrainians and others listening from around the globe - both in SL and via the live stream - began to respond:
“I am crying, thank you so much, Grace. All Ukrainians need support like this,” Kateryna typed.
“Thank you so much, Grace! I am from Odesa, your voice so beautiful and touching! We wish you and your family love and peace!!!” said Ирина Малышевская.
“Thank you for what you are doing, that really helps us!” typed Алексей Максимов.
“Grace, me and my wife are listening to you right now in Odesa. Thank you, for your attention!” Max Grishyn wrote.
Then, just as Grace began her second song, I received this text from Kateryna:
“You should know that there is an air raid alert in Odesa right now. It started while Grace was singing. My family told us to go down to the basement just in case, but there is no internet and I said that I will not miss the concert. I will remember this for the rest of my life and tell my future children about your support.”
Shocked, and more than a little concerned, I wrote back urging her to take shelter. “There will be more concerts!” I said, “and we don’t want to lose you.”
The concert went on of course. Grace’s amazing performance, including her gloriously irreverent version of Queen’s, We Are the Champions (see 11:33) was followed by Frogg Marlowe’s sweet and touching voice singing a collection of originals, including the eerily relevant, Are You Okay? (see minute (8:25).
Raspbury Rearwin, - our ever playful and creative koala - finished the show with what has become a signature song for “Songs of Ukraine,” Have a Little Faith by singer-songwriter Lexus Melodie (see minute 55:45).
By the time the concert ended, it was very late in Ukraine (after 1:00 am) and the lines of text had stopped appearing on my phone. I didn’t know if they’d stopped because everyone had gone to bed or if disaster had struck.
I got my answer the next morning when I opened my Instagram messages and read this from one of the musicians we’re interviewing:
“I am just heartbroken after news from Odesa. I cried when I heard the story about a little girl, her mother and grandmother who died. And the father was in the market buying food for the Easter.” - Anna Stoianova
The news was gutwrenching but what bothered me more was the line that followed:
“I know that it’s the war, and people in all cities die. But when it’s in your city, it’s just so painful.”
What kind of depraved, sick, and heartless version of humanity expects others to resign themselves to death? Why was this lovely young woman - a brilliant musician and loving daughter who’s living with her parents to ease the burden of the war - telling herself that she should know and expect death? And why - in the name of all that is right and good in the world - is there a war at all?! Why are she and the thousands of other innocents in Ukraine being brutally attacked?
I know that each of you who reads this will be asking yourself the same thing. But what I keep coming back to is, what hurts one hurts us all. We could all so easily be the people of Ukraine because we all have people in our countries who care more for money, power, and control than human life. So what can we do?
If you’re like me, you are feeling rather small. I am not wealthy, I have no political clout, and am too old to put my boots on the ground. But what I CAN do, and feel is more important than anything else, is to keep light, love, creativity, and hope alive. These qualities are what are best about humanity, and what I believe will allow us to “rise up like the day, rise unafraid and move mountains.”
My personal act of love and defiance in the face of war is “Songs for Ukraine.” It is how I flex my creative muscles and do my part to make sure the stories of the Ukrainian people (and their pets and culture, and music) are told. It’s how I am collaborating with other artists to build bridges through music. I’ve learned that differences disappear when we come to know and love what each brings to the table, and we protect what we come to love. Once you come to know and love the incredible spirit and courage of the Ukrainian people, you realize that what we have in common far outweighs our differences.
There are many ways for you to make a difference - to keep that spark alive. I have listed a few below:
World Central Kitchen: https://wck.org/
“Songs for Ukraine” Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/Songs4Ukraine?fan_landing=true
My personal fundraising page. It’s small and just getting started. But you can be sure that your money will support my storytelling work with Ukrainian musicians. Please contact me if you have questions or suggestions.
Copyright 2022 by Jena Ball. All Rights Reserved.