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Veronika Lemishenko: Next stop, Zagreb!

Veronika Lemishenko continues to inspire us with her untiring efforts as a performer. She has maintained a magnificent presence in the harp world, and principally in the cause of benefitting her home country of Ukraine. Despite the obvious material dangers to her person, Veronika was recently able to undertake a month of engagements in Kyiv. “In my native Kharkiv, concert activities are very much limited because of the constant danger; Kharkiv is located very close to the border and front line.”

Veronika and participants of the Vere Harp Course

Veronika and participants of the Vere Harp Course

Veronika also spent her time providing much needed education opportunities for young people still in Ukraine, organising a Summer harp academy in Kyiv (In collaboration with the Vere Music Fund). Of course, the logistics of this were not at all simple: “Where it was possible, all the harps in Kharkiv were moved to safety a few months after the war started. So, the biggest challenge (and achievement!) was to bring the harp with me – a Camac Athena which belongs to the State Musical Lyceum of Kharkiv ( belonging to the class of Larysa Klievtsova)”

Having the use of a fine instrument in Kyiv (something that perhaps some of us can take for granted) Veronika was able to play on a number of artistically rewarding  projects, including at the National Philharmonic of Ukraine: “I was super happy about that” Veronika beams “I also played at  the opening of 105th season of the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, playing that most famous “harp double-act” of Debussy’s Danses and Ravel’s introduction and Allegro”

Veronika was also featured in a recital at the small hall of the National Philharmonic. Being subterranean, the hall also acts as a bomb shelter. A deeply sobering thought, but Veronika was characteristically stoic: “At least  I didn’t need to be worried that an air-raid alarm would interrupt the concert”

Veronika after her recital at the small hall of the Kyiv Philharmonic

Veronika after her recital at the small hall of the Kyiv Philharmonic

Amongst musicians, perhaps only a minority can relate to maintaining an ambitious artistic life in the face of such danger. Why do this? Unsurprisingly, Veronika is absolutely clear in her deeply held conviction:

“I know it looks crazy considering the war, but culture is important. There is no nation if there is no culture. That’s why it’s important to continue to play, especially to take care of the younger generation – it is our future indeed. What we are putting NOW in their heads, hearts, hands – that is what will grow after. We would never involve anyone from “outside” for current projects in Ukraine, because there are no guarantees; the war goes on. That’s why only we, Ukrainians, can do it in our own country. This is our generation’s main responsibility and goal right now – at least this is my opinion.” 

A moving statement of belief indeed. And happily, Veronika’s efforts have been met with great support: apart from her efforts at home, Veronika continues to perform internationally, not least with the Ukrainian Harp Festival – In Exile.

(Jointly founded and directed with internationally renowned harpist Florence Sitruk, you can soon look forward to learning more about this amazing project in this blog)

“It is also very important to promote Ukrainian culture and keep talking about our country abroad – and this is what we are doing together with our harp friends.” 

Thankfully, there will be a great chance to further fulfil this mission, when the Glowing harp Festival Ukraine (of which Veronika is artistic director) will be hosted by the Zagreb International Harp Festival November 22-26. It is also a chance for Veronika  (currently working as the harpist of the Croatian National Theatre in Osijek) to share her work in the place that is home for the time being: “it’s been a huge luck to got this job; all the theatre people are incredible supportive, giving me a safe place and a possibility to continue with all the benefit projects”

The 10th Zagreb International harp festival, in conjunction with the Glowing Harp festival, will be taking place from 22-26 November 2023.

The 10th Zagreb International harp festival, in conjunction with the Glowing Harp festival, will be taking place from 22-26 November 2023.

Fittingly the festival will be based around a ‘theme of synthesis in the arts’, and is organised in collaboration with Creative Europe (the European Union’s programme of cultural support).

The festival is also being supported by B.R.A.N.D New; a new audience-building initiative which looks to combine traditional approaches with innovative digital elements.

Apart from performances by a host of Croatian and international talent,  there will also be an emphasis on showcasing the artistry of Ukrainian harpists. If you would like to attend or participate in any of the festival’s events, you can find the full registration form and schedule here. Registration is before 10 November.

“We are deeply grateful to artistic director Tajana Vukelić Peić for hosting us in Croatia. I’ll never stop saying it – it is all possible only thanks to the huge support we have from almost all over the world.”

Long may that support continue. See you in Zagreb!

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