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Theatre of War

Donbass theatre performers on the frontline of the special operation

Musicians and singers of Donbass join the militia to fight against neo-Nazism in Ukraine. 'The scariest sound is the one that a shell makes, of course. That kind of whistling,' says Victor Petenko, DPR forces private. He used to be a musician and played the drums in the Donetsk philharmonic. On 23 February 2022, he was conscripted for military service to the Ukraine special operation in the DPR forces ranks. His squad consisted only of musicians. Their commander decided to give them codenames according to the instruments they played. “We had ‘Violin’, ‘Double bass’, all sorts of codenames. He said to me, ‘You will be the ‘Drummer,’" recalls Victor.

Even those who weren’t drafted joined the DPR forces as volunteers. Francois Maud d'Émé was a vocalist in the Donetsk philharmonic. He could not be conscripted into the militia because of his French citizenship. But Francois decided his duty was to protect his new home, Donetsk, and enlist. Their colleagues continue to give concerts to brighten up the routine of civilians and wounded soldiers in hospitals. Even during the heaviest shelling, they continue to play on stage. So how do these performers fit in their new roles?