Ukrainian harpist to play on Welsh stage after Russian invasion prevented performance
A Ukrainian harpist will play at a north Wales festival a year later than planned after her appearance was prevented by the Russian invasion of her homeland.
Virtuosa Veronika Leminshenko was due to perform at last year’s Wales Harp Festival but the Russian invasion of Ukraine forced her to quit her job in an orchestra in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg.
She was lucky to reach the airport and board a flight after two other planes were cancelled.
Unable to secure a visa in time to travel to the UK and attend the festival last year, Veronika recorded a concert in Paris which was screened during the festival and she was interviewed live via video link by artistic director Elinor Bennett who is also an eminent harpist.
The Wales Harp Festival has been organised by Canolfan Gerdd William Mathias (CGWM) since 1999 and is held annually, spawning the International Harp festival which is held every four years and takes place at Galeri Caernarfon.
Most of the daytime activities, including the workshops, preliminary stages of competitions and foyer concerts, will be free of charge to the public.
It will be an emotional return to Caernarfon for the 34-year-old harpist who first attended the festival in 2014 as a competitor and again in 2018.
Her first appearance was not long after Russia annexed the Crimea region and she defiantly wore Ukrainian national costume for her performance.
Veronika’s parents Alla and Yuri and her brother, Maksym, moved to Lviv in western Ukraine from their home city of Kharkiv which lies close to the Russian border and which has been pulverised by intensive Russian shelling.
Other family members, close friends and musical associates sheltered in basements, struggling to find food and resources amid Putin’s ruthless onslaught in Ukraine.
Veronika’s father and grandmother have remained in the war-torn country.
Preparing for this year’s festival Veronika spoke movingly about the events of the past year.
She said: “My mother and my young cousins are living in Wales now under the scheme ‘Homes for Ukraine’. It’s an incredible programme. We feel a very strong support and a very warm welcome.
“Before the war started, we already had friends in Wales and from the first days of the war everyone was willing to help and there are not enough words to describe how grateful we are.
“All the new people we get to know in the Caernarfon area are very friendly and kind, so now there are more and more friends around.
“This festival is closely related to important personal phases in my career. It helped me to grow as a professional musician and as a personality.
“And I have got to know, to listen and to learn from so many remarkable harpists. The Wales Harp Festival is truly an inspiration for my musical development.”
For the next few months besides the orchestra work Veronika has planned benefit recitals in Czech Republic, Poland, Germany and Austria.
She added: “The funds are going to the ‘Veronika Lemishenko Charity Foundation’ to help Ukrainian people. We are very grateful to everyone who is contributing to the foundation.”
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.