War in Ukraine – CMO community coming together

It has been over a month since the invasion of Ukraine started, leaving the world shaken and in disbelief, changing it forever. Over ten million people left their homes in search of safer places for them and their families, many of those are artists and performers as well as many working in related industries.

One of those people is also our colleague Natalia Teslia, who, escaping the war and bombing in Kyiv, found her refuge in Poland, with help of her many colleagues from the CMO community.

Since the New Year when the news of a possible Russian invasion came out, Natalia, who is working on international agreements and international distribution in Ukrainian largest CMO ULCRR – Ukrainian League of Copyright and Related Rights, has been living in fear. Remembering what happened in Donetsk and Luhansk in 2014, she started preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best. Unfortunately, her deepest fears came true when on 24th of February she was woken up by the sound of the explosions and realized she needed to leave.

She made her way to Kremenchuk, to meet with a friend with whom she decided to seek safety at a countryside as they considered it to be safer than the city. They already had some food supplies with them as well as power banks and other necessities, once there, they were collecting wood for cooking and heating, however, being constantly under alarms and danger, they realized they weren’t safe there either and decided to make their way to the Polish border.

By that time Natalia was already in contact with colleagues at several CMO’s. In 2021 ULCRR became a member of SCAPR and everyone was asking how she was doing and offering support.

“That was really touching, and it really matters, that kind of communication and support.”, she explains, remembering the hardships like endless lines, strict curfews, bomb alarms while attempting to reach the Polish border but also incredible displays of solidarity and support like help with free accommodation and food which truly gave her inspiration and strength to continue to safety.

And one of the most inspiring and welcoming communities was that one of the CMO’s as people really showed they cared and wanted to help: ‘I had a contact with Bogusław Pluta from Polish CMO ZPAV (Polish Society of the Phonographic Industry) who was a volunteer meeting Ukraininans on the border, helping them find accommodation. And he was not the only one helping – Anna Błeszyńska-Drewicz from the Polish CMO SAWP offered accommodation for her and her friends.

“I can’t find even words, for all the care, support and welcoming.” she added.

During all this time, Natalia stayed in contact with her colleagues – some of which, like herself, managed to escape to safer areas and others, mostly men, staying in Ukraine. And though ULCRR CEO Oleksandr Nikin formally suspended their activities as of 1st March, with employees being able to receive some help from the state and all the collections have stopped, ULCRR still managed to make a distribution even in these times of war. Natalia’s colleague from the distribution Sergiy Smirnov joined the army two days before the start of the invasion, and beginning of March, while being in the army during the day, he still managed to do the distribution during the night knowing many artists were depending on it. “I don’t know how he managed to do it. We are all very proud of him.”, she says.

A great help has also been Agnieszka Parzuchowska from STOART, who is in close contact with both Natalia and colleagues from other CMO’s and SCAPR trying to find possibilities to help not only their colleagues but also Ukrainian performers and young musicians. Many of them are trying to ease the difficult everyday reality of their fellow Ukrainians. “For example, our member Maria Burmaka is in Kyiv and posts every day, she does online evenings for children, playing guitar, singing songs, just to make children feeling better.”, says Natalia deeply moved by everything her colleagues are doing. “Everyone just wants that Russian troops were defeated as soon as possible and Putin’s regime received an assessment in international law and that children would never been killed and terrified anywhere else in the world.”, she concludes.

Other performers, like Tina Karol, who managed to escape to safety to other countries are trying to help by participating in concerts and events raising funds to help for Ukraine.

“Everyone is doing the most they can.”, agree Natalia and Agnieszka. And though the activities of ULCRR are currently suspended, Natalia continues to work for the performer’s community now shifting her tasks to ones related to war – identifying the performers both in Ukraine and abroad who need help.

The world has come together to show support for Ukrainians. On 8th and 9th of April, the European Commission is organizing ‘Stand Up For Ukraine’ a social media rally in partnership with international advocacy organisation Global Citizen, with performers worldwide such as Billie Eilish, Chris Isaak, Radiohead and many more joining to raise funding in support of people fleeing the invasion of Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a member of the performers’ community himself is also a part of the campaign saying in a statement: “On April 9, the biggest online ‘Social Media Rally’ ever will support people who were forced to flee Ukraine. I’m inviting everybody: musicians, actors, athletes, businessmen, politicians, everybody. Everyone who wants to join this movement and stand up for Ukraine.”

For more details on the rally and how you can support, please see here. We can only hope that this senseless war ends soon.