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Ukrainian women who fled the war to Germany created an orchestra and are gathering halls | Culture and lifestyle in Germany and Europe | DW

These female musicians, who fled the war in Ukraine and found salvation in Germany, decided to name the orchestra they founded here “Mriya”, which means “Dream” in Ukrainian. And they dream that music would accompany them even after the war. The orchestra was formed a month and a half ago. Today it has 30 members.

Conductor of the Odessa Opera and Ballet Theater Margarita Grinivetskaya is one of the newcomers in the Mriya orchestra. She fled Ukraine at the very beginning of the war. Arriving in Germany, I agreed with two musician friends to play music together from time to time – just so as not to lose shape. “I never imagined that our first joint concert would take place on such a big stage – at the Berlin Philharmonic,” she admits in an interview with DW. And indeed: the concert of the “Mriya” orchestra will take place at the Berlin Philharmonic on the evening of May 10th. Its program includes works of German classical music and compositions by Ukrainian contemporary composers.

Broad assistance to artists, artists, musicians

Together with the humanitarian association “Alliance4Ukraine”, which brings together German public organizations, foundations, government agencies and companies that have cooperated to support Ukrainian refugees, the “Mriya” orchestra also wants to take the opportunity and from the stage of the Berlin Philharmonic to thank all those who help those who have found salvation in Germany Ukrainians, and also support Ukraine in this difficult time for it. The orchestra also cooperates with a specially created initiative of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, which organizes jobs for professional artists from Ukraine. “Mriya” itself also participates in helping its compatriots – it helps with the employment of artists and representatives of other creative professions from Ukraine.

Musicians of the Mriya band on the stage of the Berlin Philharmonic

Musicians of the group “Mriya” on the stage of the Berlin Philharmonic

When it comes to housing for artists, finding rehearsal rooms or concert venues, Culture Connects, an association for the promotion of culture in Hamburg, which was founded in 2018, is of great help. Its chairman, Roman Ohem, has been organizing chamber concerts with the participation of Ukrainian musicians in Germany for seven years. And now, with the help of his friend, cellist Lev Kucher, he has launched a website Mriya.de.

“What we’re doing is very important to me personally,” says Ohem in an interview with DW. According to him, with the help of people who have acquaintances and friends among Ukrainian refugees, Culture Connects is compiling lists of professional musicians from Ukraine who fled to Germany and are looking for help.

Roman Ochem has already provided assistance to musicians who fled to Germany from Syria engulfed in civil war – he supported them as a violinist in the orchestra they created. Now he helps Ukrainian musicians, including in solving all sorts of bureaucratic issues. “Thus, the musicians have time to continue working on themselves,” says Roman. Well, the musicians themselves are engaged in the development of scenarios for performances, the preparation of concert programs and the schedule of rehearsals, he says.

First-class concert program in Berlin

All those who play in the “Mriya” orchestra – and men have already appeared in it – are professional musicians. The founder of the orchestra is the famous violist Katerina Suprun. Anna Tsurkan, who is the violin soloist in the “Carpathian Rhapsody” for violin and piano by the Ukrainian composer Myroslav Skoryk at a concert at the Berlin Philharmonic, is a laureate of numerous international competitions and plays with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine. Margarita Grinivetskaya also has a solid track record. Before taking up the post of conductor in Odessa, she worked with a famous Ukrainian conductor Oksana Lyniv. Margarita also performed at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich and in the Egyptian Luxor Egypt.

Berlin Philharmonic building

Berlin Philharmonic building

The program of the performance of the Mriya group on the stage of the Berlin Philharmonic includes Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Concerto for two pianos and orchestra in E-flat major performed by the star Ukrainian pianists Ekaterina Titova and Artem Yasinsky, as well as the famous Concerto for violin and orchestra in A minor by Johann Sebastian Bach. In addition, music by contemporary Ukrainian composers such as Valentin Silvestrov will be performed. His work “Quiet Music” is currently performed at many concerts in Germany. The Germans also know the composer Miroslav Skorik, who wrote many works for string orchestra.

As Margarita Grinivetskaya admits, the sound of Ukrainian music overwhelms her with emotions. At the concert, which she led in Vilnius, the conductor even almost burst into tears. “I was close to tears when I realized that life in Ukraine will never be the same again. I don’t know when I will return to my beloved Odessa, to my home. Therefore, it is very important for us to play this music and feel connected with our country,” she says.

The proceeds from ticket sales go to help the victims of the war in Ukraine

The musicians of the orchestra play mainly string instruments, there are also a few woodwinds. The men participating in the concert are temporarily in Germany: they are all of draft age, so they will soon need to return to Ukraine to defend their homeland. “Male musicians are allowed to leave the country only if their performances abroad are currently more necessary for Ukraine than their service in the army with weapons in their hands,” explains Roman Ohem, who does a lot to ensure that Ukrainian musicians receive release or deferment from military service.

Mriya orchestra rehearsal

At rehearsal

Margarita Grinivetskaya in Germany often has the feeling that war is gradually becoming the norm. “Therefore, it is important for us to show that war is bad and that Ukrainians urgently need help and support,” the conductor says.

Anyone who thinks that Ukrainian musicians get venues for their performances for free is mistaken, says Roman Ohem. “We have to pay 11,000 euros for rent to the Philharmonic, there are no discounts. And I personally took on these 11,000 euros of debt,” the violinist explains.

A small grant from the state, which Ohem, as a freelance musician, received during the COVID-19 pandemic to cover his losses, he also invested in humanitarian projects. “Our concerts are 100 percent non-commercial, which means that all the surplus that remains from the proceeds from the sale of tickets after payments for the rental of the premises and other necessary payments are immediately transferred to Ukraine,” he explains.

The concert at the Berlin Philharmonic is supported, in particular, by the German Orchestral Foundation. The proceeds will be used to provide medical care to the victims of the war. For Ukrainian refugees in Germany, admission to the concert is free.

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