Today in Liverpool, a Ukrainian teenager who had previously provided comfort to refugees in camps in her home country and Poland by playing the piano, performed in commemoration of the one-year anniversary since the invasion began.
13-year-old Alisa Bushuieva originally stayed in South Wales before moving to their host family in Wirral.
At Liverpool ONE, she wore traditional dress and performed her country’s national anthem before observing a minute of silence at 11:00 GMT.
In February of last year, Alisa and her mother, Svitlana, were forced to flee their home country as their city of Kharkiv, located in Eastern Ukraine, was among the first to be targeted in bombings on 24 February.
Alisa, a gifted young pianist who had previously performed at several significant events for dignitaries in Ukraine, recognized an opportunity to bring joy and provide a welcome distraction to those seeking refuge from the war as she witnessed crowds gathering at the refugee camps. She chose to utilize her musical talents to play the piano for them
She uplifted the spirits of thousands of refugees in camps in both Ukraine and Poland as her mother helped to find homes for as many people as she possibly could.
Donna Howitt, Place Strategy Director at Liverpool ONE, said, “I heard about Alisa’s story and her talents which moved me and the team. Inviting her to perform felt a respectful way to support her passion and join on the solidarity with the Ukrainian community on this day.
“I had the privilege of being able to visit Alisa and hear her play and I was totally moved – she is an incredibly talented young lady and has obviously done so much to support her friends and indeed her community too.
“Alisa and her mum have been through so much and we are just pleased they are now settling into their new life in Wirral.
“It was an honour to meet Alisa and her mum and invite them to Liverpool to showcase Alisa’s wonderful talents to our city.”
Svitlana added, “We feel very honoured to be invited by Donna to Liverpool and for Alisa to mark this important date for all of us.”
Alisa said, “I was proud to play for the people of Liverpool today – this is a very memorable occasion for me and something I will never forget.”
Svitlana recalls her memories of when she was back home and the war started. She said she would hear the sirens and flee to find shelter with Alisa in corridors between walls just hoping the bombs would not fly into their homes.
She added, “After hearing the sirens there would not be enough time to run to the subway to get underground as this was around 2km away.”
Every day, explosions from bombs still rock Kharkiv while the residents remain in hiding, only venturing out to obtain food when it is safe to do so. Due to the city’s proximity to Russia’s long-range artillery, many suppliers are too afraid to travel to the region, which is under a curfew with checkpoints positioned every 500 metres. There is no electricity or water.
After leaving Ukraine, Svitlana supported Ukrainian refugees in Warsaw, finding them places to live and supporting in day centres. She hardly slept for three months, taking it in turns on a rota to sleep, cook and to do the laundry and clean.
In May 2022, Svitlana received a Visa to the UK and arrived in June of the same year – a journey which took four days, 10 trains and a boat.