As an early riser, I try to go to bed early. But not today, because I’m expecting visitors – my colleague Lesik will stay with me, he wrote an hour ago, he and his band have finally reached Berlin, slowly but surely he’s moving towards my apartment in Prenzlauer Berg.
Lesik is from Ternopil in western Ukraine, he is a musician and producer, last year he mixed and mastered the album “Fokstroty” that I recorded with Serhij Zhadan in Kharkiv. I found our collaboration pleasant, was very satisfied with the result and invited him to be part of “Alte Steine, Neue Melodie” in spring 2022, a project dealing with the Jewish history of the city of Erfurt and pop music.
But when the first rehearsals were about to start, it was clear that Lesik couldn’t come, as men between the ages of 18 and 60 weren’t allowed to leave Ukraine. He edited our recordings that we were supposed to use at the first concert in Erfurt and recorded a video for us that we showed that evening. In just under four minutes, Lesik reported on how the Ukrainian musicians and he were doing right now – every day he stopped his studio work to go into the bunker when the siren sounded, the audience in Erfurt’s train port could hear them very clearly in the background.
Lesik also reported on “Musicians Defend Ukraine”, a foundation he and his friends set up to collect donations for musicians who are currently fighting for their country. At the end of the video, he smiled and said, “I hope to be able to attend the rehearsals and the next concert of the project in June!” We hoped too and were “cautiously optimistic” in May when the news broke that People from the cultural sphere are allowed to leave Ukraine for a short time in exceptional cases.
Finally, there was a crazy plan that the band Love ‘n’ Joy was working on with their Berlin booking agent. The trio from the Ukrainian capital used to be a frequent guest on European stages with their mix of psychedelic rock, hard riffs and melodic, almost British-sounding pop. For the past three months, the three guys have invested all their time in Musicians Defend Ukraine. Now they wanted to go on a European tour, but this time with the aim of raising funds. Lesik, a longtime friend and collaborator, should come along.
Love ‘n’ Joy’s Berlin agent did his best to fill the band’s tour calendar with dates, but until the last moment it was unclear whether the musicians would actually receive a special permit and, if so, whether they would get over the border with it. But it worked! The tour started as planned. And Lesik can take the weekends off and come to Erfurt to play with us.
Thursday night he rings my doorbell. We stay up late, sit in the kitchen, drink tea and talk about the war, the musicians and his tour impressions. Germany, France and Switzerland, large and small clubs, low and high fees.
At every concert, the band auctions off a Ukrainian flag with the band members’ autographs, often getting three-digit sums for it. A couple came to the concert in France, bought three ambulances and sent them to Ukraine. Yesterday Love ‘n’ Joy played in a small town in East Germany, the fee was 150 euros, but as we speak Lesik gets a notification from Paypal, the organizers have just transferred 500 euros to the account of “Musicians Defend Ukraine”.
In Erfurt we are working together on the text of a new piece, which, like our project, will be called “Alte Steine, Neue Melodie”. Everyone involved writes a few lines. “If the ancient stones could speak, what stories would they tell?” I write. Lesik is sitting next to me. I look at his note. “Our old stones, our history. If the enemy comes, we must be ready to defend them.”
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