Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy made a surprise appearance at the 64th Grammy Awards and sent a powerful message about the cost of freedom and the healing power of music.
In a pre-taped video, the president spoke from an unknown location in his country, which is being bombarded by Russian bombs in an unprecedented attack to seize control of the country. Zelenskyy remained poised and spoke with a stern, gravel-like tone about the cost of Russia’s ongoing war.
“The war. What’s 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. Alive.”
Zelenskyy urged, “The war doesn’t let us choose who survived 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, noting Russia is bringing “horrible silence with its bombs. The dead silence.”
He urged those at the Grammy Awards to “fill the silence with your music” and to “tell our story” by sharing the “truth” of the Russian invasion “on your social networks, on TV — support us in any way you can.”
While naming the besieged cities of Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Volnovakha and Mariupol, Zelenskyy declared, “I have a dream of them living and free. Free like you on the Grammy stage.”
The Ukrainian president’s speech was followed by John Legend‘s performance of “Free.” He was joined by Ukrainian instrumentalist Siuzanna Iglidan and singer Mika Newton for the inspiring number.
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