After years of struggling to make a living as musicians in Ukraine, Yevgen Dovbysh and Anna Vikhrova felt they had finally built a stable life. They were husband-and-wife artists in the Odessa Philharmonic — he plays the cello, she the violin — and lived in an apartment on the banks of the Black Sea with their 8-year-old daughter, Daryna.
Then Russia invaded Ukraine in February. Vikhrova fled for the Czech Republic with her daughter and mother. Dovbysh, 39, who was not allowed to leave because he is of military age, stayed behind and assisted in efforts to defend the city.
“We spent every day together,” Vikhrova, 38, said. “We did everything together. And suddenly our beautiful life was taken away.”
Dovbysh was granted special permission to leave the country last month to join the Ukrainian Freedom Orchestra, a new ensemble of 74 musicians that was gathering in Warsaw, the first stop on an international tour aimed at promoting Ukrainian culture and denouncing Russia’s invasion. Carrying his cello, and wearing a small golden cross around his neck, he boarded a bus for Poland, looking forward to playing for the cause, and also to being reunited with another member of the fledgling ensemble: his wife.
“I love my country so much,” he said. “I don’t have a gun, but I have my cello.”