A Ukrainian violinist faces Russians in the trenches

A Ukrainian violinist faces Russians in the trenches


norman lebrecht

January 15, 2021

‘I followed my heart into this war,’ says Roman, who takes wout his violin when there is a lull in the fighting. He adds: ‘Music takes your mind off war and death.’

A Radio Free Europe report from a forgotten frontline:



  • E says:

    What he says — Thank you. He starts off with, and comes back to, Prokoffiev’s march from Romeo and Juliet, where the war is on the stage…. This is not the stage.

  • Nijinsky says:

    Someone needs to take that violin apart, which I would do for him, and make it a decent instrument!

  • David K. Nelson says:

    Sobering. This is a trained player of no slight ability. I take no sides on the conflict itself but I hope he makes it out with hands and mind and musicality intact. From the looks of the instrument (ordinary varnish, tuners on every string, a rather crudely made bridge) it looks like he has taken the precaution of bringing a lesser fiddle (maybe even a new factory fiddle) into the trenches which makes perfect sense.

    Fritz Kreisler wrote about his brief time in the trenches during WWI – he was wounded. Thibaud also served in that war and was also wounded.

    Albert Spalding wrote remarkably about his service in WWI where he served as aide-de-camp under Major Fiorello LaGuardia, then a Congressman but later to be mayor of New York. Both men spoke European languages and Spalding’s Army Air Force service involved real risk. One of the stories he tells about himself is how when he was with a group of (I believe) Australian soldiers, they were handed cans of food but no means of opening them, so the men had to improvise and all ended up with gashes on their hands and bloody hands and fingers. Spalding couldn’t bring himself to do that to his hands and felt so unmanly about it but sheepishly had one of the Australians open his can of food for him.

    He served again during WWII.

  • Patrick says:

    This is very sobering. Real life. (Sod the fact the violin is awful, he’s in a trench, in a war, but can play under those conditions.) Not in comfort and warmth in a safe environment.

  • Edgar Self says:

    Good comments and stories. I also thought of Fritz Kreisler’s sservice in the Austrian army in the Great War and his little book about it, but can’t remembrr if he carried a violin with him in it. May Roman come through safe.

    I didn’t know about violinist Albert Spalding’s service in both wars. He was from the weathy sports goods family. He recordedd a beautiful Mozart Sinfonia Concertnte with William Primrose, ritz Stiedry, and the New Friends (and Enemies) of Music, also Beethoven’s concerto.