Ukrainians Find New Home In French Orchestras
Fleeing Ukraine, Natalia Ivanovska left her cello with her parents in Lviv -- it was too dangerous to try to carry it
But thanks to an unprecedented initiative by the Philharmonie de Paris concert hall, she has been able to rediscover the joy of playing in an orchestra.
She passed through Copenhagen and finally reached the French capital a month ago, where she now plays with the Orchestre de Paris.
"It has not been easy, mentally," she told AFP. "When I arrived (for rehearsals) on the first day, I cried all day." - "Great heart" - Originally from Lviv, where her parents and brother still live, Ivanovska said: "I think about my country every day because right now Russia is bombing Odessa a lot. It's scary, but the music helps me." Four Ukrainian violinists have also been integrated into the group -- and all are paid on the same scale as the regular members.
"It is a fantastic initiative, it shows great heart," said Estonian maestro Paavo Jarvi after conducting a rehearsal of Jean Sibelius's Seventh Symphony, adding that he hoped other orchestras around the world would be inspired by the French scheme.
Among the other beneficiaries is Xenia Moroz, of the Kyiv Chamber Orchestra.
The 37-year-old is scarred by the horrors she experienced at the start of the war in March.
"It was 12 days of horror, because explosions and gunfire were everywhere," she told AFP.
"Around the 12th day I decided I have to run. We drove for a little bit because our neighbours were leaving and took me with them. And then we ran through the forest. There was gunfire -- it was a war zone and obviously it was not a green corridor. We just ran." Eventually, she was placed on an evacuation bus and then a train to the west.
"It's really nice working here," she said of the Philharmonie. "But it took me a long time to get used to it, I couldn't do it at first." - 'Green lights' - During the rehearsal, a woman in the room looks proudly at the newcomers.
Anna Stavychenko, executive director of the Kyiv Symphony Orchestra, set up the project in collaboration with Sarah Kone who heads the Philharmonie's social responsibility programmes.
She herself fled Kyiv with her parents on a train, which at one point was surrounded by Russian tanks.
Kone said she was impressed by the level of both private and government support.
"It is important not to remain passive in the face of geopolitics," she added. "The Philharmonie de Paris has set an example".