LVIV, Ukraine — Denys Karachevtsev has played his cello in some of the most prestigious concert halls in Austria, Japan and Turkey and even in Tunisia’s ancient amphitheater, El Jem. Now he is playing in the ruins of his Ukrainian hometown, Kharkiv.
In a recently posted video, Mr. Karachevtsev performs Bach’s somber Cello Suite No. 1 in the center of a deserted street strewn with the debris. His backdrop: the regional police headquarters, its windows blown out by Russian shelling.
On Facebook, he said he hoped to draw attention to the plight of the city, Ukraine’s second largest, which has been bombed mercilessly by the Russian military. Ukraine’s police said that as of March 20 more than 600 multistory buildings in Kharkiv, including schools, had been destroyed.
“I am a cellist and a citizen of Kharkiv,” Mr. Karachevtsev wrote in an appeal on Facebook in English, Ukrainian and Russian.
“I love my heroic city, which is now struggling to survive the war,” he wrote. “I deeply believe that we can help. I believe we can restore and rebuild our city and our country when the war is over. I am launching my project in the streets of Kharkiv to raise funds for humanitarian aid and restoration of the city’s architecture. Let’s unite to revive our city together!”
In recent days, Mr. Karachevtsev has performed the national anthem of Ukraine in the city center.
Mr. Karachevtsev is a graduate of the Ukrainian National Tchaikovsky Academy of Music, in the capital, Kyiv. His performance called to mind stories of Ukrainian musicians performing in extreme conditions, like Vera Lytovchenko, who played lullabies on her violin in a Kyiv bomb shelter. Or the professional pianist Irina Maniukina playing Chopin’s Aeolian Harp Étude on a baby grand piano that survived a missile strike on her hometown Bila Tserkva, before leaving home for the last time. The rest of the apartment was covered in debris and shards of glass. As she sat down to play, she brushed the patina of destruction off the keys.
During the nearly four-year siege of Sarajevo that ended in 1996, Vedran Smajlovic played Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor on his cello in ruined buildings, including the Vijecnica, the Bosnian capital’s destroyed city hall. He also played at funerals despite the threat of sniper fire. His powerful music became a sign of resilience and of the triumph of humanity over brutality.
Now it is Mr. Karachevtsev doing the same.