The Beautiful Tones of a “Battlefield Pianist” Healing Displaced Ukrainians | FRIDAY DIGITAL

The Beautiful Tones of a “Battlefield Pianist” Healing Displaced Ukrainians

Nonfiction writer Takehide Mizutani reports on the war in Ukraine.

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David plays the piano for displaced people in a border town. He brought the piano himself from Germany, a 17-hour drive.

Every day around 3:00 p.m., the gentle sound of a piano echoes through the border town. The sound of the piano is heard every day around 3:00 p.m. in the border town, and evacuees and volunteers begin to gather around it.

Medica, a town near the Polish-Ukrainian border. In late March, more than a month after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops, displaced people began crossing the border into Poland one after another. Although the number of refugees has decreased since the outbreak of the war, everyone from the elderly to children continues to arrive, dragging tired bodies from their long journeys.

Some of them are accompanied by elderly people in wheelchairs, newborn babies, and dogs. About 200 meters down a corridor lined on both sides with tents set up by various aid groups, buses were waiting to transport the evacuees to a nearby city. In a nearby corner, a German man, David Martello, 40, was giving an outdoor piano recital.

What he was playing were all famous songs that everyone knows, such as “Yesterday” by the Beatles, but for the evacuees who have fled the war and for the volunteers who are tired from the daily relief efforts, it was a moment of healing. I stopped and listened too. A video of a cellist playing Bach’s music in the ruined northeastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv has been attracting attention around the world, and the piano David played was also beautiful and gentle.

It was late February when Mr. David started playing the piano here. He drove 17 hours from southern Germany and brought the piano in a trailer connected to the back of the car. Her traveling companion was a 10-month-old kitten. The piano is “homemade,” made from a modified electronic piano so that it does not need to be tuned, and has a peace symbol painted in white on the roof. David says, “The piano is a home-made piano,” which was converted from an electronic piano so that it would not need tuning.

When you play the piano, that space is somehow protected. No one attacks the piano.

The car and trailer that Mr. David brought the piano in.
At 3:00 p.m., he gives a recital outdoors. After the interview, he said, “One for you,” and played “Merry Christmas on the Battlefield” for us!

Mr. David began playing piano in the battlefield 10 years ago. His first site was in Afghanistan.

I was working as a hairdresser at the time. I had been playing piano since I was 9 years old, and I had a dream that one day I would be able to make a living performing on the street. I happened to be talking about this with a regular customer, who happened to have connections in the military, and the idea of playing piano in Afghanistan came up. At first I still thought it would be scary, but I gave it a try anyway.

The piano was loaded onto a German military transport plane along with bullets and grenades. His stay was one week, and he played the keyboard at a foreign troop base.

Through this experience, the seeds for my future began to grow,” he said. I decided to play the piano to spread hope and peace.”

Since then, he has performed on the streets of many countries around the world, and at the scene of a clash between police and protesters in Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul, he played in the middle of a standoff between the two sides. The new coronavirus had kept him away from street performances for the past two years, but the news of the devastation in Ukraine caused by the full-scale invasion by the Russian army inspired him again.

I couldn’t stay home,” he said. I wanted to do something with my music. This unstable situation could lead to the next world war. Then I felt I should go to the field and do something to promote peace.”

David’s activities are volunteer. He stays at a hotel near the border and commutes from there to the site every day, using donations received through the Internet.

My life is simple enough,” he says. I have no desire to be famous. I don’t want to be famous as a pianist, I just want to spread the peace sign through my music. During this activity, I was able to interact with Ukrainian refugees, and I was able to play four popular Ukrainian songs on the piano.

The gentle melody played by David is still flowing in the border town where the displaced people gather.

Refugees boarding a bus to move from Medica to other cities.
Parents and children evacuated to the medica. Tents of support groups are lined up on both sides.
  • Interview, text, and photographs Takehide Mizutani, Nonfiction Writer

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