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Before the war my family lived in Kharkiv - that is myself, my husband Oleksandr, and my 1 year old son Matvij. I worked at the Kharkiv musical liceum and my husband worked in a private music school. We were at the Dnipropetrovsk Regional Children's Hospital on the day the war began. Our baby needed surgery. Because of the war, the surgery kept getting delayed, since the hospital was able to admit for surgery only on an emergency basis. We spent every night in the basement and hid there during the daytime air raids. The personnel of the hospital did everything in their power for the comfort of their patients. On the 17th of March our son’s surgery finally took place, everything went well and in approximately 10 days we were able to leave the hospital. 


We couldn’t return to Kharkiv and instead traveled to the Western part of Ukraine. After staying there for a while we decided to leave the country. Since our son had the status of being handicapped from birth, my husband was able to come with us. 3 days after crossing the border, we arrived in Turkey. Here were our friends from Kharkiv, who left during the first days of the war. They helped us with housing and put us in touch with people who helped us find some work in our field. The funds swe received from the Relief Fund for Ukrainian Musicians grant would be just enough to pay our part of the rent for half a year.  Thanks to the fund, we won’t have to worry about where we will live. I hope and dream that by that time the situation in Ukraine will be calm and we will be able to return to our parents and friends, who stayed. 



My name is Dmitri, and my wife is Anna. We are a family of musicians, who were born and grew up in Mariupol. In 2018 “Mariupol Chamber Philharmonie '' opened in our city, which united three orchestras of the city into one organization, where we worked performing in the “Renaissance” Chamber Ochestra. 


On the second day of war we were left without electricity and connection. With each new day the sounds of shelling and explosions were drawing near. On the fourth day all shops in our district closed and it became impossible to buy groceries. In the center of the city electricity and water were still available and the danger that hung above the city was not apparent. 


The city was encircled and leaving was dangerous, since we might have been killed in the crossfire. One the 1st of March the sound of shelling was heard very close to our district. At night we could hear shells hitting the buildings, bricks were falling down, and in the morning the shells were falling all around our building. The street was littered with debris. Since we have two small kids and were running out on food supplies, we decided to leave the city at our own risk. We gathered our belongings as fast as we could and when we were loading into the car, one of the shells landed 10 meters away. God saved us. 


We were driving very slowly because the roads were littered with unexploded shells and destroyed armored vehicles. However we made it to Zaporizhzha on the same day. We are now in Kremenchuk, where we were provided with temporary housing and are living with relatives. We have food and hygiene supplies thanks to humanitarian aid. At times we help load and unload humanitarian aid, which arrives and moves on to different cities. 


We are waiting for the end of the war, hoping that our Philharmonie will start working again as before. We are very grateful to the Lisa Batiashvili Foundation for financial support and are planning to use these funds to purchase a new violin, since our instruments were left in the city and most likely we’ll never see them again.



Everything suddenly lost its meaning. In one moment, the ground has been swept from under my feet. A place, where my soul could find peace, no longer exists on this earth. I am now a wanderer. A nomad. Needed by no one. And sometimes I just want to disappear. You might sympathize with me, but you will never understand me. You will try to give advice, but it will be useless, as you have never been in my skin. In our - Ukrainian - skin. Our home is being torn to pieces. So ruthlessly and unfairly. There aren’t enough words to describe how many hairs have turned gray on our heads. Like trees in autumn, we began to wither and stopped feeling. Every night we close our eyes and imagine that we are lying in our bed, in our home, in our city and in our country. We want to cry, but there are no more tears. While reality knocks so loud that all imagination dissolves. This reality is like a dream. We remember what existed very recently, what existed «before». It’s like falling asleep on a normal Wednesday, a normal weekday, waiting for the alarm to go off so that you can go to work. But suddenly right before dawn, you start to dream about something and for some reason, you still can’t wake up. This dream is the «after». Black. Terrible. Torturous. Murdering one person afther another, this terrible dream now lasts for over a month. It destroys everything in its path. And there is only one thought which pulsates in my head: “I will never be able to return to my home”.

- April 2, 2022

Katerina Zhygalova.jpg


The life of every Ukrainian changed after February 24, 2022. We, people of art, performers and teachers, were no exception. The war caught us by surprise. I was in the city of Kharkiv when I heard explosions at 5 in the morning. I dressed quickly, gathered the necessary things, - documents, notebook, and a change of underwear - into a small backpack and waited… At first I got an SMS from the administration of the school where I work. It arrived at 8am and it said that no one should be coming into school, including kids and teachers.


It was very painful to read, because on that day we planned a rehearsal for a concert, which was supposed to happen on Saturday the 26th of February. We thought that the explosions were sudden, that they would only happen for a little while, that the local government would attempt to quickly solve the problem… but unfortunately the next day nothing changed.


Transportation was working in Kharkiv during the first 2 days of war. Local authorities informed us right away, that the ride will be free of charge. Shops were also working, but to buy even the most essential things you had to wait in line and have a credit card. It was impossible to withdraw cash from your bank account.


Our city transportation stopped functioning within several days. The city grew still. People started to live on subway stations, hiding from the bombing and the shelling of the occupants. I entered the subway, but couldn’t stay: there were too many people, all with little kids and pets. I decided to shelter at home. However, next day “new way of transportation” arrived in Kharkiv - planes. Military planes were circling the city at night and several districts were damaged by bombing… At this moment we decided to evacuate, because it was intolerable to lie on the floor and wait for death every night. 


My husband and I managed to board the morning evacuation train, which went to Lviv. My mother and my brother boarded the next one. The road from Kharkiv to Lviv took more than 22 hours. The trip by train was hellish. Dozens of people sat or stood at every free bit of space inside the train. There were no attendants. More people entered at each stop. No one had belongings with them, since there was no space for bags or suitcases. Sometimes strangers threw food into the open doors of the train during stops. Those were volunteers….


We arrived to Lviv at night. One of the musicians I know there offered me to stay at his place, but the transportation was not working due to curfew and it was forbidden to move around the city even in a taxi. There was no space for us at the tent erected at the train station. Some woman on the street advised that we can spend the night for free at the railroad workers’ house, which was two blocks from the station. This was a big space with wardrobe, restroom, concert hall with chairs with velvet upholstery. We slept on these chairs till morning while we waited for my mom and my brother. Their train was late and arrived to Lviv on the next day.


My musician friends didn’t leave me alone in this situation. Well known pianist Zhanna Mykytka and her friend Serhij Podolyanchuk (founder of the Oleh Krysa international violin competition) helped me and my family get situated in Lviv for a few days. After that my mother’s friends found housing for us in a small village of Shatsk, which is 160 km from Lutsk in Western Ukraine.


I lived in Shatsk for over 2 months now. Before the war I worked in the school of fine arts, led performances, wrote articles about music and musicians. I taught music theory and history of art. During the months of war my students and their families also evacuated from Kharkiv. I started hearing from them that someone is already studying in Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Lithuania. Our school in Kharkiv temporarily stopped working. A grant from the Lisa Batiashvili Foundation allowed me and my family to feel needed and not alone. Thanks to the financial support from the foundation we were able to address the most necessary needs of our life. Also, it enabled me to participate in conferences and popularize Ukrainian music in my lectures and articles. The support from fellow musicians gave me hope that art is needed in the world even during war. I felt that people around us in Europe are not indifferent to what will happen to Ukrainian culture and its people. 

Much thanks to the representatives of the Lisa Batiashvili Foundation, Alexander Vavilov, administration of the Oleh Krysa international violin competition, and especially to Serhij Podolyanchuk, conductor Pavel Baginsky, pianist Zhanna Mykytka, and all the people who are not indifferent, who didn’t stay on the sidelines during the war and provided support to me and my family.



We boarded the evacuation train with a lot of difficulty, with just the small suitcase, which had only a few personal belongings. By the way, there were 14 people, 2 dogs, 2 cats and 2 hamsters)) in our compartment. We started crying when our train departed Kharkiv. I traveled with my 4 year old granddaughter Miroslava (a name about Peace!) and the little girl started singing “Chornobryvtsi”.... Kharkiv was being shelled as we were leaving and even though I can’t imagine life without my viola, there was no possibility of bringing it along. Part of my grant money was used to help reunite with my old friend - my viola! I am very worried about how life will proceed… My teaching work in the conservatory, I live when I perform on stage, whether solo with orchestra or with my students. I revere my calling, teaching viola, chamber ensemble and quartet. Everything has been taken from us… Once again, please receive my ardent words of gratitude! 


I would like to tell you about the situation (from my personal experience) of musicians, especially those whose cities no longer exist. 

I will speak of my own:

The music school, where I worked, is canceling our contracts effective May 3.

The "Renaissance" orchestra of Mariupol is no longer functional.

All people, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, are scattered around the world.

Everyone is independently looking for resources and work opportunities.

I don't know English or any other languages, therefore looking for work abroad is a big challenge, first and foremost due to the language barrier.

I will try to find work in the countries where people understand Russian: Lithuania, Latvia, maybe Poland, though this too is very challenging. 

I would certainly love to be able to go together with someone, with other musicians, so that we can support one another.


Concerning the funds you provided - I was able to buy myself a violin, since my own was left behind at the Mariupol philharmonic hall, and pay for the laser eye surgery, which was necessary after the airraid bomb explosion in Mariupol.


After the 12th day of war my family and I had to evacuate from Kharkiv. This was not a simple decision. Being a person of artistic profession, who often went travelling on tours, I still struggle to understand why was it so hard to gather the courage to leave our home. I took with me two sets of clothing, my violin, and my cats in a carrier case. Evacuation transport was not able to accommodate the luggage in our usual understanding of the word.

Thankfully my story is not a tragic one. My family and I are now in relative safety. I know that many Ukrainians are suffering much more than I do.

It would be so lovely to tell you that during peacetime the grant I received would have been spent on violin accessories, music from prominent publishers, tickets to first class performances - true joys for musicians. However war entered its own adjustments. Right now your assistance helps me solve the questions of food supplies, survival and safety. Renting a space in a new city, essential supplies, caring for our pets - these are my goals for today. 

Part of my family remained in war zone - they also need help and I need to take care of them now.

Thank you for the support and I hope that you will be able to help many! I believe that truth and kindness always win! Art doesn’t stay silent! I am performing benefit concerts for Ukraine, teaching remotely, and will keep doing so going ahead. 

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