Artists fight a battle to keep culture alive

While many became soldiers during the war, two musicians are employing music as a means to keep Ukraine in the hearts and minds of people in the province.

Brought together by their love for Ukrainian music, Maria Cherwick(violinist) in black floral top and Alla Melnychuk (Ukrainian pianist) in blue top with a sunflower batch on her shirt stand infront of a brown door in Halliday studio as they prepare for their upcoming concert.
Brought together by their love of Ukrainian music, Sunflower Duo members Maria Cherwick, left, and Alla Melnychuk are preparing for their upcoming concert at Halliday Music Studio. Through music, they want people to look at Ukraine with more appreciation and less sympathy. Ariyana Gomes/Kicker

Ariyana Gomes

Sunflower Duo, a classical and folk music group, was created soon after Alla Melnychuk met Maria Cherwick.

Cherwick, a St. John’s violinist, met Melnychuk, a pianist from Ukraine, during a welcome event for the first Ukraine refugees that arrived in May.

Newfoundland and Labrador welcomed over 160 Ukrainian refugees who escaped Ukraine warzones such as Mariupo, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk – to name a few.

Melnychuk is from a northern city in Ukraine, which has been devastated by the Russians. She says she gets inspiration from her people who are still fighting the war in Ukraine. She channels her love of music into sharing positive messages and strength with the community that welcomed her and many other Ukrainians during tough times.

“Canada has so much to share,” said Cherwick. “We are very privileged, so it’s absolutely important to welcome whoever we can in (their) time of need. Coming from a society that has never experienced invasion, Cherwick says she can’t imagine “losing everything” and still having a positive perspective in life. 

They want to remind people that despite the destroyed churches, broken homes and empty schools, Ukraine will continue to live through its rich culture, tradition and music.

For those left behind

Even though playing and performing brings her joy, Melnychuk says the nightmares have not escaped her sleep just yet.

“When I speak [to] my mum, I hear exploding sounds (through the phone),” Melnychuk said. “I hear (the) house vibrating. We are tired but it’s not over.

“I still wake up with anxiety. All the time [you think how are] my parents? [Did] something happen again? Yes, I am safe here, but my heart is in Ukraine with my family.”

‘Music unites us’

Maria Cherwick says there is little difference between Newfoundland and Ukrainian music because they entail the same “spirit and energy.”

Both societies, she says, have suffered through difficult times, but they always shared their happiness with others in any shape or form.

The duo says after listening to their music, people will keep talking about Ukraine long after the guns go silent.

Sunflower Duo will be hosting an evening of Ukrainian classical and folk music on Feb. 18 at 7 p.m. at the Gower Street United Church. Portions of the proceeds from the event will go to volunteers in Ukraine. The volunteers supply basic food items such as milk, bread, oil and warm clothing to people in severely damaged cities such as Chernihiv and Izyum.

Their name Sunflower Duo symbolizes more than just Ukraine’s national flower. Melnychuk says the bright yellow also represents the hope and kindness she wants to spread around this province.

“If my mum can smile [with]… house vibrating, bombs exploding… how can I be weak?”

About the author

Ariyana Gomes is a journalist and assistant producer with Kicker News. She enjoys cooking Bangladeshi traditional, spicy food in her spare time and watching food vlogs as she devours her delicacies.

About Ariyana Gomes 21 Articles
Ariyana Gomes is an assistant editor and multimedia reporter for Kicker. She enjoys hard news; covering stories that matter to local residents. Got a news tip? Email her-

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