Ukrainian pianist plays a final Chopin melody before fleeing ruined home near Kyiv

14 March 2022, 11:26 | Updated: 14 March 2022, 16:47

Irina plays piano in her destroyed hometown of Bila Tserkva
Irina plays piano in her destroyed hometown of Bila Tserkva. Picture: TikTok @kkkarysia

By Sophia Alexandra Hall

Irina Maniukina plays her piano amidst a destroyed home, one last time, before being forced to flee.

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Irina Maniukina brushes the ashes off the keys of her grand piano, as she sits down to make music in her family home one last time.

In a TikTok video filmed by her daughter, Karina, the 48-year-old mother of two takes a deep breath of composure, before she starts to play Chopin’s Étude Op. 25, No. 1 (Aeolian Harp). As she performs, the camera pans around the destroyed house, showing debris, smashed glass, and rubble.

Hours earlier, a bomb landed just 30 feet away from her home in Bila Tserkva, south of Kyiv. Through the blown-out windows in another TikTok video posted by Karina, you can see her neighbours gathered around a huge crater in the ground.

In a pinned video comment, Karina writes: “Do not judge, my mother is a professional pianist and decided to play to let go of this case.”

Read more: A Ukrainian pianist played Philip Glass as Russian forces advanced, and this was the composer’s response

The video, which has been watched almost 2 million times on the platform, has been shared across other social media channels, and commenters have drawn comparisons to the film The Pianist.

Composer Howard Goodall drew comparisons to the November Uprising, also known as the Polish-Russian War 1830-1. The BAFTA-winning musician suggested it was particularly poignant that Irina played Chopin, as he also had to leave his home country when Russians invaded.

Prior to the bomb explosion outside their house, Karina said there was no warning; no plane sounds, no air sirens, just an “orange and black” cloud when the blast hit.

“After the explosion, everything was smashed and in ashes,” Karina said. “I looked around the house and saw that a fire was starting in my brother’s room. I had already called my mother and they rushed as quickly as possible. They couldn’t drive straight to the house. Since the wires just lay on the road.

“They ran into the house and all together ran to put out the fire.

“After that, everyone breathed a sigh of relief, and my mother decided to gather her thoughts and sit down at the piano.”

Read more: Brave musicians of Odesa Opera House sing while packing sandbags on Ukraine’s frontline

Houses destroyed during Bila Tserkva air strikes
Houses destroyed during Bila Tserkva air strikes. Picture: Getty

Karina said the performance “wasn’t a sad moment”, as the music helped her remember all the good times they had in that house.

“[My mother has] been playing all her life and she even graduated as a pianist,” said Karina. “She [played because she] wanted to forget about the war and her worries for our safety [in that moment].”

The family were then forced to flee from their home, and last week, made the 300-mile journey to the western Ukrainian city, Lviv.

They’re currently looking for an apartment, but Karina has shared that “they’re all occupied”.