Faces of Ukraine

Logo Gesichter der Ukraine3

Daria Nikitina


Ukraine Map

Daria – On the road with the Prime Orchestra as cultural ambassador

The call comes in the early morning hours on Thursday, February 24th 2022. Shortly after the air-raid sirens have sounded, musician Daria Nikitina’s mobile phone rings. It’s her boss, head of a music academy in Poltava. All teachers at the academy are to switch to online lessons in order to protect staff and students. “We just couldn’t go out on the streets. It was too dangerous”, the 29-year-old recounts.

Daria is a trained musician

She spent five years in Kharkiv in east Ukraine obtaining a degree in cultural studies. She now teaches classical guitar, electric guitar and bass in Poltava, 200 km further west. Seeing her students online only is not new to her. Online lessons have become part of life since the first Corona lockdown.

Despite frequent air-raid alarms, the town of about 300,000 is relatively safe. The citizens of Poltava can hear the rumble of the fighter jets but Poltava is not a battle ground. Nevertheless, everyday life is changing, says Daria. Young men are conscripted into the army. Citizens donate money, clothes, and food to help people in other towns. “Poltava is a town that helps other towns”, Daria says with some pride in her voice.

She volunteers to help orphans that arrive from other parts of Ukraine. The children are between three and five years old. Daria and other volunteers play with them, give them food, and comfort them. She takes in two refugees from Kharkiv, which is the second biggest city in Ukraine and often attacked by Russian forces. “It’s a dangerous place to live”, Daria says.

While bombs are falling, an idea for a project is taking shape in Kharkiv, which is meant to represent Ukraine in Europe. The Prime Orchestra is a group of 34 professional musicians and the idea is to tour Europe with a set of pop and rock hits displaying an image of Ukraine as a free, modern and cosmopolitan country. As the position of bassist is vacant, one of the orchestra’s directors gives her a call asking her to join them for the tour. It’s a difficult decision for her.

The idea of touring with the orchestra is tantalising. She also wants to do something for her country during the war.

However, there’s a downside: she has to give up her position at the music academy and that’s how she earns a living. When her boss promises to take her back on after the tour, she finally agrees. The tour is scheduled for one month with concerts in Poland and Latvia. On returning at the end of May, the next tour is already being planned. This time the destination is Germany and they partner with UNESCO. Hanover, Einbeck, Osnabrück and Wolfenbüttel are some of the destinations. After those concerts the tour schedule is disrupted because of some cancellations for concerts in Poland. Daria and the Prime Orchestra are stuck in Wolfenbüttel and without scheduled concerts the musicians have to return home. Andre Volke and Henning Kramer, who both dedicate a lot of their time and energy to help refugees from Ukraine, organize new concerts for the orchestra.

Daria talks about a planned tour of Poland and the Czech Republic in September and October. “What comes after that is still up in the air”, she says. “If there’s another lockdown, we’ll have to return home; if not we could stay here through the winter and work as cultural ambassadors.”