The struggle to preserve Ukrainian electronic music culture in wartime

I started writing this article on June 22, the day of remembrance for the victims of World War II in Ukraine. At dawn on this day in 1941, Nazi Germany launched the first massive strikes on the territory of the Soviet Union, continuing one of the darkest chapters in the history of the 20th century. When historians compare the devastation and the number of casualties, they point out that Ukraine was more destroyed than Britain, Canada, the United States and France combined.

At dawn on February 24, 2022, Russia launched a full-scale war against Ukraine, my country, continuing the mission of “denazification of the Ukrainian people”, justifying the bloody killings and destruction by fascist ideology. Time stopped. It was as if a tsunami had washed away everything familiar to me in Kyiv. My favorite streets ceased their bustle; the drunken voices of the night in Podil – the center of the capital’s musical life – have been replaced by the howl of sirens and the sound of air defense systems.

Clubs in Kyiv unanimously reformed into shelters, volunteer centers and home defense training bases. My friends have become the heroes of the new era – activists, soldiers and volunteers. My house has become a distant image that I can only touch in my imagination.

Four months of war have sown sorrow and fear in the life of every Ukrainian. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has verified 4,662 civilian deaths in Ukraine during the war, as of June 22, although the full statistic is updated.

The same goes for the thousands of missing persons, the cases of raped women and children and the captives deported to special filtration camps for Ukrainian citizens. The war has led to a humanitarian crisis, with thousands of Ukrainians fleeing to the west of the country and abroad. Neighboring Poland recorded the highest number of border crossings from Ukraine, more than 4.1 million as of June 21, followed by Russia, Hungary and Romania.

Like many other Ukrainian refugees, I began my journey of exile on February 24, moving from Ukraine to Poland, then to Germany and finally to the UK. Silence sets in with the outbreak of war. I could hardly write anything about the events. I was numb even when talking to close friends. I couldn’t say anything other than how much I hated this war.

Now that I am in London and, four months later, shocked by the news of recent attacks across the country and the innocent victims, I am ready to talk about this war using whatever channel is most accessible and familiar to me. : the music. As a journalist and booking manager of a well-known Kyiv club, with eight years of experience and uninterrupted activity in various fields, I managed to make friends with many local DJs, musicians and promoters , who made a great contribution to what we now proudly call the “Ukrainian scene”.

I spoke with artists from different backgrounds, communities and regions. They all prove that Ukraine is multifaceted and united in its diversity, and that Ukrainians are ready to fight to the end for freedom and independence by any means – volunteering, fighting on the front line , supporting anti-colonial discourses, continuing to make music, and performing.

Each of us lost a part of ourselves, but acquired a new meaning: to fight for the preservation of Ukrainian culture, and the opportunity to speak out loud about our country and its art.

Helen D. Jessen