A Russian harpist has commemorated the plight of people on both sides who have suffered from the war in Ukraine with music from the two countries in an outdoor Hong Kong performance to mark the first anniversary of the conflict.
Alexander Boldachev performed traditional Ukrainian and Russian folk tunes, as well as popular songs and improvised pieces under bright noon sunshine at the Cenotaph in Central.
The musician, who played next to a banner that read “Mourn for the victims of the war, and inspire those who stand for our future”, attracted a good-sized crowd of passers-by.
But he highlighted he would not be able to stage the same kind of performance in his homeland because of the suppression of dissent.
“If I was doing this in Russia, I would be somewhere behind bars in five minutes. It’s not the fault of the [Russian] people that they cannot protest,” Boldachev said,
The 33-year-old, who was in the city to perform at a private recital on Saturday, left his home country in a hurry last March with just one suitcase because of the war.
“It’s like losing half of my life,” he said.
Boldachev, who now lives in Switzerland, said the war had made him rethink his identity as a Russian.
“Since everything that happened last year, I don’t know what it means to be Russian any more, because it certainly doesn’t mean support for the regime, it doesn’t mean Russians are aggressive and imperialist,” Boldachev explained.
He said the war was “a fight between the past and the future”.
Boldachev said he hoped Russians still in the country who were against the war could stay united and share information on the conflict and those outside it could work to support Ukrainians affected.
“The best that could happen here is unity. The worst thing is indifference. If people prefer not to talk or share with each other, then they will be separated,” Boldachev said. “When people are united, you cannot win over that.”
The war between Russia and Ukraine broke out on February 24 last year after Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, declared a full-scale assault.
The European Union office to Hong Kong and Macau also held a commemoration at its office in Central, with an exhibition of photos and art works.
Some of the pictures were taken by Hong Kong photojournalist Alex Chan Tsz-yuk, 27, who flew to Ukraine last March to document the turmoil.
Chan said that he wanted to focus on how life continued despite the war, as Ukrainians struggled on with their lives amid the destruction of their homeland.
“From a Hongkonger’s perspective, the Ukrainian war is an interesting parallel. It’s beyond the matter of geographical distance,” Chan said.
“I hope to inspire Hongkongers to care about this with storytelling and my work. I think this issue is beyond the war itself. A lot of people tell me this war seems so far away from us, but everything is connected.”
Thomas Gnocchi, the EU ambassador to the city, said the organisation had succeeded in assisting Ukraine’s resistance efforts.
“Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine is a blatant violation of international law including the UN Charter, Gnocchi said.
“This is not just an aggression to Ukraine, a sovereign country, but to democracy worldwide. The EU and its member states remain united in supporting Ukraine, diplomatically and on the international stage.”
Western powers have imposed a string of sanctions on Russia and countries bordering Ukraine and further afield have opened up to the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians who have fled.
China released a 12-point position paper on Friday to mark the one-year anniversary of the war which stressed that peace talks were the “only viable solution to ending the Ukraine crisis”.