The Slovenia Times

Tribute paid to Ukrainian refugees

A concert of young Ukrainian musicians as part of Music for the Future project kicks off Europe Week. Photo: Tamino Petelinšek/STA

The stories of Ukrainian refugees who adopted Slovenia as their new temporary home have inspired a documentary and two exhibitions that opened at the Museum of Contemporary History in Ljubljana on the eve of the first anniversary of the Russian invasion.

The Ukraine Narrates exhibition brings 26 testimonies by Ukrainian refugees along with items of important symbolic value to them that triggered their stories, from buckets, slippers, pyjamas, blouses embroidered with national motifs, to books and recipes.

In recorded interviews, Ukrainians talk about life in Ukraine before the war and why they left the country and came to Slovenia.

Some opted for Slovenia because of acquaintances and friendships in the country, others used business contacts, and many of them came to Slovenia because "friends of friends helped us", Katarina Jurjavčič, the author of the exhibition, told the STA.

The exhibition also brings stories about Slovenians who helped refugees, including the director of the Government Office for the Support and Integration of Migrants Katarina Štrukelj, conductor Živa Ploj Peršuh and photojournalist Tamino Petelinšek.

The other exhibition, dubbed Mom I Don't Want War, features drawings that Ukrainian children made during the Russian invasion and drawings by Polish children made in 1946, following the occupation of Poland by Nazi Germany.

The message of the exhibition, which was mounted in cooperation with the Polish Embassy, is that wars are the same, as children draw the same motifs, said Jurjavčič. Both exhibitions are in display until 24 April.

Music for the Future

Many other events were held to mark the first anniversary of the war, including a talk with Ukrainian author Mark Livin in Miren, and the pre-release of the documentary Music for the Future at the Kinodvor cinema in Ljubljana.

The film, made by the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija, follows the story of young Ukrainian musicians who sought refuge in Slovenia, their hardship, and how they found some solace in creating music.

The idea for the film came after the Slovenian Youth Orchestra, which brings together musicians aged 12 to 22, responded to a call for help from the Youth Symphonic Orchestra of Ukraine in March 2022.

The operation to bring 95 young musicians and their families to Slovenia was sponsored by several Slovenian institutions, including the Foreign Ministry, as well as Slovenian musicians.

Young Ukrainian musicians. Photo: STA

Monika Rijavec, who wrote the screenplay for the film, said this was one of the most beautiful but also most difficult projects she had ever worked on, especially because it made her realize how quickly things can change.

Director Dušan Moravec said the idea was to have as much music in the documentary as possible to provide a backdrop for the story of young Ukrainian musicians, who performed in their country up until the autumn of 2021 but soon had to face a new reality.

Živa Ploj Pešuh, the artistic director of the Slovenian Youth Orchestra, who led the project to bring the musicians to Slovenia along with Tomo Pešuh, said the film encompassed everything that had taken place.

War that was unprovoked

In support of Ukraine and its people, President Nataša Pirc Musar hosted an event at the Presidential Palace where she also invited refugees from Ukraine after she visited them at the accommodation centre in Postojna.

"Listening to their stories, you realise how right it is to help people in need. Before I said goodbye, we were all sobbing. I told them: today, on this terrible anniversary, we can all cry together. But let tomorrow be another day of laughter and joy for these children," she said.

President Nataša Pirc Musar visits Ukrainian refugees. Photo: STA

Speaking at the event at the Presidential Palace, she said the war in Ukraine was unprovoked and that no person of good heart wanted. "This is a war that was desired by individuals led by Russian President Vladimir Putin and his regime," she said.

"Not only as a mother who cares about her son's present and future, and as someone who cares about the fate of the innocent, but also as a politician, I demand that the war be stopped and that Ukraine be given what the Charter of the United Nations grants it. That is sovereignty and thus the ability to decide its own future," she added.

Ukrainian Ambassador to Slovenia Andriy Taran addressed the event, and Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska delivered a video address. They both thanked Slovenia for its help to Ukraine.


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