Ukraine’s ‘cellar violinist’ has gone viral on social media to symbolize hope to besieged Ukrainians.
Vera Lytovchekno says she took shelter in the basement of her apartment building in Kharkiv – a city under siege by the Russian army. The heavy Russian bombing of Kharkiv started two weeks ago. So Lytovchenko and her father and neighbors sought the safety of the building’s basement.
“Bombs can fall everywhere in our city, so we decided to go down in the cellar,” the 39-year-old told the Associated Press in a recent interview. “We’re about 12 people now. We have little boys. We have teenagers. We have old women,” she says, referring to the people who share the cellar with her.
Lytovchenko told the press that she decided to lighten their spirits with classical music a week into their cellar stay. “All these people are my brothers and sisters now. I was trying to make them think about something and not about the war for some minutes while I’m playing,” Lytovchenko shares.
Later, she began to film her recitals and post them to YouTube for the world to see. You can see them on her YouTube channel, featuring her playing Vivaldi and even singing a Russian folk song. The reaction on social media has been tremendous as people share videos of her playing.
“I didn’t expect that because I was posting just to reach my friends, my relatives. My aunt is near Kyiv, and I’m afraid for her,” Lytovchenko says, addressing her status as a social media star – Ukraine’s cellar violinist.
“My friends are in different cities all over Ukraine, and I’m trying to keep a connection with them; I text them several times a day to know if they’re alive,” she continues. “Many people text me now saying that my videos give them such support and hope. They can see that someone stays here [in Kharkiv],” she adds.
Before the war, Lytovchenko played for the Kharkiv City Opera orchestra and taught music lessons. She says she hopes her videos will raise awareness and funds for Kharkiv’s music community.