As the war in Ukraine grinds on and the horror increases, the world is inspired by Ukrainian resolve. As I watch endless media accounts of intentional (it can no longer be described as “indiscriminate”) bombardment of civilian targets—including schools and hospitals—by Russian troops, the eyes of my soul continue to seek a place of refuge. Where can I find hope and reassurance that we will actually build a future where such maniacal destruction is forbidden? Frankly, I am not optimistic.
But in my despair, there are scenes from Ukraine that repeatedly bring a lump to my throat, tears to my eyes and light to my heart. Revealed in these scenes lies the insatiable yearning for grace and goodness that lies deep within the human spirit—scenes where musical performances combine with stubborn resistance in the face of overwhelming odds and barefaced evil.
These moments include individuals like Vera Lytovchenko who plays her violin from a bombed-out basement in Kharkiv and says, “I’m not a doctor, a soldier, or a politician. I just play the violin. I don’t want to feel helpless. I want to help my friends and music teachers who have lost their homes, their jobs, their instruments.”
Then, when individuals come together to sing or perform their music in hell-on-earth venues in Odessa, Kyiv or Mariupol, the power is amplified. And when their music is performed in public spaces amidst the possibility of life-threatening reprisal, that power rachets up yet another notch. When such selflessness—extraordinary in its own right—is accompanied by music, it becomes evident that the indominable goodness deep within the human spirit cannot be quashed.
It is not only music, but also the stories that accompany the songs that evoke such awe. There is a poignant, silent video that is a powerful tribute to Ukrainian solidarity: hundreds of Ukrainians simply kneeling by the roadside during the funeral procession for a fallen comrade. Such rituals, often rooted in religious practices, meld spirituality and creativity, elevating humanity to heights where domination by brute force is rendered futile. These images become powerful weapons in the arsenal against violence, motivating those who have been oppressed to retaliate with their hearts.
Though there will no doubt be other examples, perhaps this week’s culmination of music-laced resistance was best expressed by seven-year-old Amelia Anisovitch whose rendition of “Let It Go” from the Disney movie Frozen inside a bomb shelter in Kyiv, went viral. She eventually escaped to Poland and, free from bombardments, sang the Ukrainian National Anthem before thousands in an arena in Lodz to raise money for Ukrainian refugees.
I can only imagine how social media has amplified her voice, how many saw her sing and how many more are inspired by her music to stay the course and resist the invaders who had descended on her land. Bless you, Amelia. The world is so much brighter because of your gentle and persistent voice.