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Ukraine’s ‘Cellar Violinist’ plays hopeful tunes in bomb shelter

ROME, Italy (AP) — A gentle tune from a violin played by a musician who has been dubbed Ukraine’s “cellar violinist” is a lullaby for a child sheltered in the dark basement of an apartment building in the besieged Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.

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Vera Lytochenko has become an internet icon of resilience as images of the accomplished musician playing in the basement bomb shelter have inspired an international audience via social media.

When heavy Russian bombing of Ukraine’s northeastern city of Kharkiv started two weeks ago, Lytovchenko, her professor father and neighbors sought safety in their building’s basement.

“Bombs can fall everywhere in our city, so we decided to go down in the cellar,” she told The Associated Press in a video call Wednesday during a brief respite from bombing during a temporary cease-fire. “We’re about 12 people now. We have little boys. We have teenagers. We have old women.”

A week into their basement huddle, Lytovchenko decided to try to lift the spirits of her cellar mates by holding small concerts.

“All these people are my brothers and sisters now,” she said. “I was trying to make them think about something and not about the war for some minutes while I’m playing.”

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Later she thought to post her recitals on social media and the reaction surprised her: more than 40,000 views on Facebook and thousands more on YouTube.

“I didn’t expect that because I was posting just to reach my friends, my relatives. My aunt is near Kyiv and I’m afraid for her,” she said.

“My friends are in different cities all over Ukraine and I’m trying to keep a connection with them, I text them several times a day to know if they’re alive,” Lytochenko said. “Many people text me now saying that my videos give them such support and hope. They can see that someone stays here” in Kharkiv.

“Someone is alive and someone keeps hope and is optimistic,” she said.

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On Wednesday, during the temporary cease-fire in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, Lytochenko was able to return to her apartment for a few hours. She told the AP she was happy to see sunlight after spending two weeks in the dark basement, adding that she and her neighbors are lucky because they have heating in the cellar and food.

Sheltering from bombs, Ukraine’s ‘cellar violinist’ plays on  The Associated Press – en Español

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