Ukrainians in Winnipeg find solace in music amid ongoing Russian invasion
Music 'reminds us who we are as people and comforts us when the future seems unclear,' singer says
As the deadly Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, some Ukrainians in Manitoba are finding solace in music.
"Both music and art help us remember who we are and how we belong during difficult and traumatic times," said Rosemarie Todaschuk, one half of the Todaschuk Sisters Ukrainian singing duo based in Winnipeg.
"It reminds us who we are as people and comforts us when the future seems unclear. And … especially during a crisis, when people sing familiar songs, they reinforce their sense of self and their cultural and religious identity, especially when those are threatened."
Late Saturday, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said it had confirmed at least 240 civilian casualties in Ukraine since Russia's invasion on Thursday, according to the Associated Press.
However, the UN said it believed that was a considerable undercount because many reports of casualties remained to be confirmed.
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Todaschuk said having grown up around Ukrainian music, she feels especially connected to the culture. It's one she said she knows will persevere, even as she watches in sadness as the Russian attacks on the country continue.
"Ukraine is an independent country. The Ukrainian language, culture and traditions are different from the Russian language, culture and traditions," she told CBC's Weekend Morning Show host Stephanie Cram.
"And even with the long history of invasions in Ukraine, our Ukrainian language and culture have persisted and survived. And our Ukrainian language, culture and traditions will endure in this face of tyranny and oppression."
Todaschuk isn't the only one turning to music for comfort as the situation in Ukraine unfolds.
Rallies and vigils in support of the country have been held in Manitoba in recent days, including one in Winnipeg at The Forks last week where many of those gathered joined in singing Ukrainian songs.
For Winnipeg musician Andriy Michalchyshyn, music is the common thread that ties many Ukrainians together.
Michalchyshyn, whose band Zrada writes and performs music in Ukrainian, said sharing that culture is important to him.
"We're not singing for just Ukrainians or certain types of Ukrainians, we're singing to spread the beauty of this language and culture to all people," he said.
"And when I sing the beautiful, noble, everlasting Ukrainian language, it takes me away, you know? It takes me to a different place."
Michalchyshyn said music has played a significant role in Ukrainian history, with certain songs carrying deep meaning.
That includes one song called Plyve Kacha Po Tysyni, which in 2014 came to represent the more than 100 anti-government protesters shot dead by police snipers during the country's Revolution of Dignity, he said.
"It was this folk song that was taken out of the shadows and then all of a sudden given new meaning. I think music is remarkable in that way in that it helps," he said.
"There will be songs that come from all this that will have new meaning that the song itself may not have been written about…. It becomes a proxy, it becomes a symbol."
With files from Stephanie Cram and Caitlyn Gowriluk