Local Ukrainians dig deep to help families on the front line back home
June 15, 2022
Distinguished Rose Bay-based musician Vladimir Fanshil has just returned from conducting Opera Australia’s Field of Light concert at Uluru.
He studied, lives and works across Australia, Europe, Ukraine and Russia. He recently conducted the Konzerthaus Orchestra of Berlin, the Odessa National Philharmonic of Ukraine and is frequently a guest conductor with the Mariinsky Theatre Orchestra, the most famous theatre in Russia.
Vladimir’s family is from the port city of Odessa on the Black Sea, so Russian speaking. Vladimir was also born there when it was part of the USSR, migrating to Australia as a child when it disintegrated.
Odessa, “the pearl of the Black Sea”, is a porous place where Ukrainian, Russian and Yiddish languages are all heard.
“They are a people with a shared history. And that is what’s so distressing about this. Odessa has always been a place of holiday and inspiration for Russians,” Vladimir says.
“Many of Russia’s most distinguished musicians were born in Ukraine, Ukrainian and vice versa. Pushkin, the father of the Russian language, lived in Odessa for two years. The composer Prokofiev was Ukrainian born and was said to have brought his sunshine to St Petersburg when he went there to study. Tchaikovsky took many holidays in Ukraine and Ukrainian folk music is prevalent in his compositions.
“And I’d say nine out of 10 of the people I know in Russia – musicians, artists, actors – none would support this atrocious war.
“The grief works at two levels. The first is as a human, to see war in 2022 instead of diplomacy. And then there are the personal connections, so many people we are close to, who we speak to every night who have had their peaceful lives stripped away from them.
“The most painful moment recently was seeing a video of a rocket flying into a civilian building in Odessa, my home city.
“A young family was killed, a three-month-old, her mother and grandmother. I just became numb. This is not something one can comprehend.”
Vladimir’s children’s nanny recently returned to her home city, Kharkiv.
“Kharkiv is a Russian-speaking city. They speak the same language as the invaders. They weren’t anti-Russian until this.
“One minute she was looking after our baby and upon return she had to move into a basement, being shelled every day. Now they’ve moved into a safer rural town and live in a kindergarten with 17 other families, sharing one kitchen and bathroom.”
Vladimir has organised and hosted a number of charity concerts in support of Ukraine and is now arranging for Ukrainian pianist Alexey Botvinov, recently exiled to Germany, to come to Australia in September. His fundraising musical activities and cultural exchange will include concerts and masterclasses.