When I first started working with Ukrainian musicians and singers, back in about 2012, I used to get a lot of people asking me "....what's up with those Russians you are playing with".
I could forgive the ignorance though, for a lot of people like myself who grew up in the Cold War era, the East side of most European maps was just a mass of red labelled "U.S.S.R", and most of us never expected to go there, much less to interact with any of the inhabitants or bother to learn the differences between the many Soviet Republics.
In more recent times even the most ignorant amongst us has learnt the difference between Russian and Ukrainian, and sadly not because of any great cultural understanding, but because of the most tragic and serious recent events.
It has been a great experience for me on a personal level to go to Ukraine and to find musical bonds with people from totally different backgrounds who I struggled to converse with, and it's been an ongoing and deeply satisfying artistic journey to continue working with the hugely talented and passionate Ukrainian folk singer Inna Kovtun, to explore a small part of the intriguing Slavic folk music canon with it's unique character and beauty.
The last few days I've been bouncing between shock, anger, deep concern for the Ukrainian people now living in real danger and fear, and a feeling of helplessness about what, if anything, I can do.
There's also a new Red Cross Appeal:
I'd also urge anyone in the UK to write to their MP to push for the firmest sanctions possible against the Russian Government and it's elite citizens. The UK's weak response to date is nothing short of shameful, demonstrating a greater regard for the assets of kleptocrats and their stolen funds than the lives and security of Ukrainian citizens under attack.
It's easier than you might think to write to your MP, please click below: