After a minute of silence, the national anthem of Ukraine sounded Sunday morning at the Berlin State Opera in the city center.
The event was part of a “Concert for Peace” aimed at raising humanitarian aid for Ukraine, supported by donations from the European Central Bank and the German Central Bank.
Conductor Daniel Barenboim took to the podium and delivered a personal and moving speech to attendees including German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Christine Lagarde, Director of the European Central Bank.
The conductor recalled that his Ukrainian grandfather and grandmother, originally from present-day Belarus, had fled to Argentina to escape the Soviet pogroms of World War II.
“This region has already seen so much suffering,” he said. He would never have imagined that such a “conflict would break out again in Europe”.
Boycott of Russian culture could turn into ‘witch hunt’
At the same time, Barenboim, who is married to Russian pianist Yelena Bashkirova, warned against mixing Russian culture and politics and generalizing about Russian people.
He said cultural boycotts would only end in a ‘witch hunt’ against Russian artists, adding that banning literary works such as Dostoevsky’s or Russian classical music was not the best way to find a solution. Diplomacy – “talk, don’t shoot” – was the only way forward, he said.
After performing the Ukrainian national anthem, “Shche ne wmerla Ukrajina” (“Ukraine is not dead yet”), the Berlin State Orchestra also performed works by Schubert and Beethoven.
Solidarity actions on a daily basis
Such cultural events supporting Ukraine have become daily occurrences in Germany since the start of the war on February 24. There was another classical concert on Sunday morning at the Staatsschauspiel in Dresden, with proceeds from peace concerts there and in Berlin going directly to the people of Ukraine through the UN Humanitarian Fund for Ukraine.
Meanwhile, the Berlin International Literature Festival held a solidarity event on Sunday afternoon at Bebelplatz, the site of the 1933 Nazi book burnings in the heart of Berlin – which is also the forecourt of the Opera House. State.
“Putin’s attack on Ukraine is an attack on a country that is historically, linguistically and culturally a Europe in miniature,” said the organizers of “Call for Solidarity with Ukraine!” Event.
“Kiev, Odessa, Lviv and Kharkiv are European metropolises that have survived all the disasters of the 20th century, first that of Stalinism, then that of German domination. Today, war and terror are back in Ukraine.”
A long list of acclaimed writers, including influential Ukrainian poet and novelist Yuri Andrukhovych, Belarusian journalist, author and Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich, Polish public intellectual Olga Tokarczuk, author and Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa and German-Iranian author Navid Kermani, winner of the German Book Trade Peace Prize, spoke at the event. Berlin-based Ukrainian musician Yuriy Gurzhy of the band Rotfront and the Volny Choir from Belarus were among the performers.
“We must not remain silent”
The organizers expressed the hope that a change of mentality will continue in Russia. “Despite censorship and propaganda, the truth about this war will also reach Russia,” read a statement in solidarity with the Ukrainian people. “The images of shelling in the center of Kharkiv, clouds of smoke over the residential areas of Kiev, deaths and millions fleeing. Whether in Warsaw, Paris, Sarajevo or Berlin: we must not remain silent.”
“The least we can do for the Ukrainian people at this time is to help those who are physically threatened wherever we can, glory to Ukraine,” said German historian Karl Schlögel, a Russian scholar who s collapsed while speaking on stage at the event. .
“Dear Ukrainian brothers and sisters, you should know that it is not us who are shooting at you, not the Belarusians, it is Putin who is shooting,” said Alexievich, referring to the fact that Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko is committed to fighting with Russia. “A majority of Belarusians are on the side of light, on the side of good.”
Speaking at the event, Svetlana Alexievich promised that most Belarusians support Ukraine
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also spoke via video call. He called for a minute of silence, both for the military and military “who gave their lives” for Ukraine, and for the “citizens and the civilian population” who “have sacrificed their lives for the independence of their country “.
He also called on the peoples of Europe “not to be silent, to support our efforts”.
“If Ukraine falls, Europe will fall,” he added. “It will be the victory of the whole democratic world, it will be the victory of freedom.”
The slogan “Glory to Ukraine” was chanted by Ukrainian activists on stage. “Today we, tomorrow you,” they said. “We have to protect Europe, not just Ukraine.”
A protester at Bebelplatz named Nikitia Batalov waved a white flag. “It’s a Russian flag with no red stripe, no bloody red stripe from Russia, no Putin,” she told DW, explaining that half of her family lives in Ukraine and the other half live in Russia.
Part of this article was originally published in German