17/07/2022 Juliana Széchenyi

Faces of war, kindness and the orchestra

Pianist, conductor, humanitarian. Živa Ploj Peršuh together with her husband Tom, saved 142 Ukrainians, members of the orchestra, their mothers and some grandmothers and grandfathers from the horrors of the war in Ukraine. Fourteen minors fled their homes without their parents, fleeing gunshots and explosions. Overnight, Ziva and Tomo became their legal guardians, Slovenian parents.

Meet on Friday, 1 July, at noon in the scorching sun near the SNG Opera and Ballet Ljubljana, where Živa is employed. Živa Ploj Peršuh also the artistic director of the Slovenian National Youth Concert, together with her husband Tom Peršuh, a music producer, tells us that it all started on a traditional family evening when they saw on TV footage of a demolished music academy in Ukraine, where promising young people were rehearsing, learning and playing every day. Just like the ones Ziva teaches here. She contacted the conductor of the Ukrainian Youth Orchestra, Oksana Liniv, asking how they could help, and Oksana asked them to help them get as many young musicians out of the country as possible.

Tomo called his acquaintance from Maribor, the humanitarian Uroš Dokl , who has years of experience with refugee children from crisis hotspots in the Middle East. He was immediately in favour, and the Municipality of Ljubljana gave two buses, four chauffeurs and provided the first temporary accommodation without hesitation. On Friday, 5 March, the Slovenian humanitarian expedition set off on its 800-kilometre journey.
"Now they are safe, they are playing, they have got their soul back," recalls Tomo Peršuh of the first rehearsal of the Ukrainian musicians on Slovenian soil. "A symphony orchestra usually has a certain ensemble, and we have enlarged, stretched and, in short, adapted this ensemble as much as possible, so that each of them has the opportunity to perform, each of them to go on a journey. If they can't play more than two notes, they will play two notes, and it is inclusiveness, inclusiveness that is the first guiding principle in this whole integration process," says Živa Peršuh Ploj.
What Živa and Tomo are doing is not evacuation, it is not just refugees, it is integration. It's a holistic treatment of young people, brought together by music. Ljubljana is not just a place where they wait in safety for the war to be over, but a place where they learn music ... life. They are excited about the same things and suffer from the same ills as their peers in Slovenia. Only in their homeland, chaos reigns.
You will meet young Ukrainian musicians and their stories, stories about the tragic fates of civilians who, thanks to noble people, have been given hope, a new chapter, a perspective, a future.

Media: Times.si
Date: 17 Jul 2022
Link: Faces of war, kindness and the orchestra