Vera Lytovchenko aims to provide a moment of solace for refugees sheltering from constant shelling in Ukraine

Civilians continue to flee Ukraine as the Russian invasion proceeds through the country. More than 1.3 million people have crossed borders from Ukraine since the beginning of the invasion on 24 February, with the United Nations calling the movement Europe’s fastest-moving refugee crisis since the end of the Second World War.

Recent shelling has made evacuation impossible for many civilians, forcing them underground into bomb shelters instead.

In a video posted on the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Twitter account, a violinist plays violin in a bomb shelter. An audience of refugees watch on as she performs a Ukrainian song by Mykola Lysenko Nich yaka misiachna, which translates to ’What a moonlit night’.

The violinist is Vera Lytovchenko, performing for fellow refugees in Kharkiv. ‘It was very difficult to play and think about something that wasn’t war. But I decided I must do something,’ Lytovchenko told the Guardian. ‘We have become a family in this cellar and when I played they cried. They forget about the war for some moments and think about something else.’

Lytovchenko became inspired after seeing footage of her student performing a solo Bach Largo in makeshift bomb shelter on social media, as a way to show her friends and colleagues that she is still alive.

Music is being used worldwide to speak out against the Russian invasion, with benefit concerts held to raise funds for humanitarian efforts. Yesterday, an orchestral flashmob performed in London’s Trafalgar Square in solidarity with the people of Ukraine.

Mykola Lysenko (1842-1912) was a Ukrainian composer and pianist keen on promoting and elevating Ukrainian music. During his studies at Kyiv University, he collected Ukrainian folksongs, which he arranged and were published in seven volumes. He was considered a leading ethnomusicologist on Ukrainian music, writing extensive essays on Ukrainian instruments. As well as composing vocal, operatic and chamber works, he raised funds to open the Ukrainian School of Music in his later years.