Over a hundred singers from Sussex and beyond took part in the Big Sing for Ukraine in Lewes Town Hall. Organised by the East Sussex Bach Choir, the music included Michael Tippett’s A Child of our Time and Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man. Celebrated local soloists joined in later as the choir gave an informal performance to family and friends.
A rally and concert on the Sunday ahead of May 9, Europe Day, organised in London by Thank EU for the Music and the European Movement, offered the first opportunity for over two years to break out the flags and banners and join others in celebrating Europe and the 70 years of peace achieved since the founding of the Common Market.
The tango may have originated in Argentina and Uruguay, but its roots came from European immigrants, especially the Slavic cultures of eastern Europe. Pez Pearson describes the multi-cultural traditions of this social dance and how it returned to its roots in Europe, including Ukraine, where people still dance in the lull between bombing.
“It’s some years now since I could say I felt proud to be British.” The British government’s sense of entitlement and lack of humanity towards refugees have changed Richard Haviland’s feelings of pride in being British to shame about what the government is doing: “I don’t hate my country, I just hate what they’ve done to it.”
Thousands gathered in the capital in a sea of blue and yellow. Tamsin Shasha describes the recent Stand With Ukraine march in London: “Our hearts soar. We are proud to be here. We are proud to challenge this government’s despicable response to the refugee crisis and their insistence on bureaucratic visas.”
Alison Rees argues that the West ignored warning signs from the buildup of aggression in Russia, including the annexation of Crimea and alleged influence of US and UK elections. Seeing horrific events in Ukraine unfolding from the safety of our homes, we feel some responsibility and guilt about our inability to influence the outcomes.
Many of us have a sense of helplessness about the war in Ukraine and this has prompted people to give money, offer their homes and contribute help in other ways. New writer Claire Hill describes how a cake sale she organised became a local community event, involving many others in her street.
On 24 February, wholesale gas prices rose 28% on the news that Russian forces had invaded Ukraine, with some experts predicting that UK consumers’ energy bills for gas and electricity could rise to £2,500 or even £3,000 a year. Brexit hasn’t helped either.
Following the deregulation of the City of London and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, former KGB operatives and spymasters with expert knowledge of Western economic systems looted billions from the Soviet state treasury and stashed it into accounts in Europe and the US. Ginny Smith traces the rise of the Russian oligarchy in Britain and exposes its reach deep into the British establishment, the City of London and our political system.
James McCleary recalls a visit to Ukraine as a tourist. Now he looks on in horror, like the rest of us, as the country is plunged into war. But resistance to Vladimir Putin is growing in Russia. And it is time, he argues, for our own compromised government to take stronger action against its Russian backers.
Sussex Bylines writer Ginny Foster is moved to tears by the grief and bewilderment in the voices of young Ukrainians at a vigil in Brighton.