A Ukrainian teenager who comforted refugees by playing the piano in camps in her home country and in Poland performed in Liverpool last month to mark a year since the start of the invasion.
Alisa Bushuieva, 13, was forced to flee her country with her mother, Svitlana, in February last year. Their home city of Kharkov in Eastern Ukraine was one of the first to be bombed on 24th February.
A talented young pianist, Alisa had previously played for many important events attended by dignitaries in Ukraine and decided as people gathered in refugee camps, trying to escape the war, she could help to bring an element of happiness and provide a distraction by playing the piano.
She uplifted 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.
When Liverpool ONE’s Donna Howitt heard about what Alisa had been doing and was touched by her thoughtfulness, she managed to find Alisa and her mother, who are now living with a host in Wirral and invite them to Liverpool ONE.
While the UK observed a one-minute silence at 11am on 24th February to symbolise a year since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, this particularly poignant moment was made even more so by Alisa’s performance.
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.”
Bombs continue to explode in Kharkov on a daily basis. Meanwhile, residents remain in hiding only venturing out to source food as and when they are able to. The city is within long range artillery reach of Russia and many suppliers are too scared to visit the region where there is a curfew and check points 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 one boat.
Svitlana and Alisa originally stayed in South Wales before moving to their host family in Wirral.
For more features, please pay a visit to our lifestyle page.