In a moment that no one was expecting at the Grammy Awards on Sunday night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made a surprise appearance via a remote video message, urging the millions of viewers watching to “support us in any way you can” during the Russian invasion.
Zelensky appeared from a bunker in Kyiv, according to Variety, which reported that the video was shot within the past 48 hours. ″The war. What is more opposite to music? The silence of ruined cities and killed people. Our children draw swooping rockets, not shooting stars. Over 400 children have been injured and 153 children died. And we’ll never see them drawing,” he said. “Our parents are happy to wake up in the morning in bomb shelters, but alive. Our loved ones don’t know if we will be together again. The war doesn’t let us choose who survives and who stays in eternal silence.”
“Our musicians wear body armor instead of tuxedos, they sing to the wounded in hospitals. Even to those who can’t hear them, but the music will break through anyway,” he continued. “We defend our freedom to live, to love, to sound. On our land, we are fighting Russia, which brings horrible silence with its bombs. The dead silence.”
He concluded: “Fill the silence with your music! Fill it today, to tell our story. Tell the truth about this war on your social networks, on TV. Support us in any way you can. Any — but not silence. And then peace will come. To all our cities the war is destroying: Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Volnovakha, Mariupol and others. They are legends already, but I have a dream of them living. And free. Free like you on the Grammy stage.”
The video led into a performance by John Legend, who sang a ballad he released earlier in the day called “Free.” Ukrainian musician Siuzanna Iglidan joined in, as did singer Mika Newton; a chyron noted that Newton’s sister is serving in the Ukrainian army. Poet Lyuba Yakimchuk, who fled Ukraine only days ago, joined them and read a poem asking for protection for her country and her family.
All four were dressed in either blue or yellow — the national colors of Ukraine — as a tribute to the country, and images of the war’s destruction were projected behind them on a giant screen.
Zelensky’s appearance comes a week after the Academy Awards, where there were rumors that the former actor might appear. American actor and activist Sean Penn made headlines for saying that if Zelensky didn’t make a cameo at the Oscars ceremony, he would “smelt” his own trophies in public.