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15th December, 2022

The Beatles Community 'Come Together' for Ukraine: A Personal Account

 10 minute read 

A Ukrainian version of this blog is also available to read here


Introduction 

Hearing The Beatles for the first time at the turn of 60s/70s, representatives of our generation could hardly be aware, that they were witnessing the germination of the largest social and cultural phenomenon of the second half of the 20th century, which is continuing in the new millennium. And looking back from nowadays, you may unexpectedly realise, that the legacy of The Fab Four has already become an integral part of the cultural heritage of civilization, and names of the band’s members can be surely placed alongside the names of great painters, writers, composers and other outstanding culture-related personalities. Not being aware of it, we have witnessed the ascension of four boys from Liverpool’s suburbs, who had no initial musical education, up to permanent residence in the chapter of classics of the world’s music legacy.

The Beatles are not just a band, not just 13 albums with more than 200 songs. It is a whole universe, created, as it should be in the case of ‘universe,’ as a result of the ‘Big Bang.’ Luckily, the place and time of this ‘bang’ are known – the year: 1963, galaxy: London, sector: Abbey Road. The energy field, which has been generated during the explosion, is not only far away from weakening, but, quite contrarily, it continues to intensify, heading to eternity and infinity for already more than half a century. It takes only to tune at the wave and frequency of this magic field. And then the ‘universe of The Beatles’ will begin to surprise you with wonderful presents. A song, known by every note and accidentally heard somewhere over the radio, will not only be just a part of usual sound background. It will have words which, at this moment, will be necessary and helpful. The song will create a required mood, will prompt a hint, badly needed here and now, and will leave you in perplexity: “How did I miss that in the song that I’ve known already for 40 years?”. Or TV news will report about certain events, and your memory will offer a citation from a Beatles song – just one to one. And, actually, the news or fresh issues of newspapers are, in essence, just “A day in the life…”  

 


The russian Invasion 

We first heard the news of the russian invasion on a phone call from our son at 6am on February 24th: “Tanks and armoured vehicles are driving along the road, our house is shaking”. He stayed in a village 20km from the border with Belarus and this village was just in the way of the invading troops towards Chernihiv and Kyiv. He was there as a veterinarian on a consultancy engagement for a couple of months to help out at a local dairy farm. 

Our radio and TV were constantly on, the news was extremely worrying. In a couple of hours the sirens of the first air alarm were heard over the city. Taking the emergency suitcase, with all important documents and a bag with some food and water, we rushed from the 9th floor of our building down to the basement, where one big room was quickly converted to a shelter for residents of the building. A new reality had entered our lives…

By the end of the day the scale of this new reality was already quite clear. Life had changed completely, insecurity, indefiniteness and unpredictability were all around. But no panic. It took a couple of days to adjust to the new environment. Our major concern, of course, was with our son in the occupied territory. For 3-4 days mobile and fixed line connections were more or less stable, then completely disappeared for a week due to a power cut in the whole his area.

This blog is being written on November 29th, the day when Beatles fans around the world remember George Harrison. For February 25th in several places in Ukraine we were preparing events for his birthday, as many years before. But everything was canceled… 

Naturally, for a couple of days I was away from the internet and social media. But with the first opportunity I posted on my Facebook page the video of Paul McCartney, performing “Freedom” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFFLlpC9f9Q

The song is practically with me every day since that time.

As news about the invasion was reaching other countries, messages of support started to arrive from all over the world. And, particularly, from the residents of ‘The Universe of The Beatles’, as I define them – friends among Beatles fans, my fellow Ambassadors of ‘The Beatles Story’, musicians, journalists, veterans of rock-n-roll, etc., with whom I keep contacts as a promoter of The Beatles’ legacy, lecturer, author and researcher. Their support and sincerity were enormous.

It reminded me about a very late-night call, about 4am Ukrainian time, by Joe Flannery from Liverpool, on February 22, 2014, after the deadly shots on Independence Square in Kiev, exactly 8 years before this war. 

“Joe, it is very late, you are not sleeping?” 
“Sergey, I cannot sleep after what I have seen in TV news. I am thinking about you and all friends in Ukraine”.

I met Joe a year later, during Beatleweek 2015. And he said that since that late-night call every Sunday he was going to a church and praying for peace in Ukraine. Joe is no longer with us, but his words very much are.

            

Paul McCartney

On February 28th 2022 Paul McCartney wrote on his Facebook page:

“Remembering playing for our friends in Ukraine in Independence Square in 2008 and thinking of them in these difficult times. We send our love and support”.
 
#StandwithUkraine

https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=506958497461489&set=a.281253826698625 

The whole Beatles community in Ukraine reacted to it, as, probably, never before to any of Paul’s message or photos. News, videos and photos with people all over the world demonstrating their support of Ukraine were seen everywhere already, but this message from Paul was something of very special value. When his “GOT BACK. NORTH AMERICAN TOUR 2022” started on April 27th in Washington, Paul was seen on every stage with the flag of Ukraine.  

By the end of April the situation on the front line was already completely different, as well as the mood of Ukrainians. But seeing Paul with a Ukrainian flag was just inspirational for millions of us. 

Image from Raph_PH, Wiki Commons.

The Beatles Fan Club in Poland

In the first days of March, I had a call from the President of The Beatles fan club in Lublin, Poland, with a request to give an interview to “Nove Radio” in this city. We had been in contact for several years already, and after my several visits to Beatles fests in Poland they knew very well that I speak good Polish and have a good understanding of modern politics. We had the interview via Skype on March 3rd. Of course, we did not speak about The Beatles, I was just introduced as international economist, businessman and Ambassador of ‘The Beatles Story, Liverpool’ with good connections to Poland. Many Polish Beatles fans listened to the interview, and practically straight away offered any possible assistance. By that time, I already had a request from a friend of mine, a unit commander on the front line, with a request to find 4-wheel-drive cars in Europe, badly needed for the Ukrainian army and for delivery of humanitarian aid to severely affected areas – roads and bridges destroyed, melting snow and wet soil make things even more difficult. Or any financial assistance for the purchase of spare parts, fuel and repairs. I asked my Polish friends for this kind of support. They requested a short video in Polish with an appeal for support. And everything worked! Some days later I made the same video in English, and support got a global scale. I am very thankful to all residents of ‘The Universe of The Beatles’ for that. Later on, everyone who provided support received a letter of gratitude from the Ukrainian army unit.       

The interview can be heard here in Polish: https://www.facebook.com/noweradio2020/videos/1251312172066089/ 

The follow-up of this interview was very intensive – many calls, messages, clarifications of details for banking transactions, confirmations of payments etc. But everything was taking place within the magnetic field of The Universe of ‘The Beatles.’ 

 

Ukrainian Girl

A couple of days after an article featuring an interview with me was published in Liverpool Echo, I got a message from the writer Spencer Leigh, that he had a call from Dave Jones, co-owner of ‘The Cavern Club’, who has read the article and has an offer for me. And a few days later the next article appeared in ‘Liverpool Echo.’  

https://www.facebook.com/photo/?fbid=10159955106497855&set=a.10153395004947855

Regarding the invitation for a friend, I offered the following – I will try to find and then bring to Liverpool a ‘Ukraine girl’, as prompted by The Beatles themselves in the song “Back from USSR”. But with some additions – besides being a Beatles fan, the girl should have real combat experience, have good command of English and have good singing skills. The task is challenging, but I have no doubts about our success. There are 5,000 Ukrainian women on the front line and 50,000 in the rear of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. And Ukrainians are very well known for their traditions of singing. I have talked to many musicians, journalists and TV producers, but general opinion was to do this project after we gain victory. But the preliminary search is very encouraging. Whoever she will be, I just imagine her singing Paul’s “Freedom.”

 

Pink Floyd

Another great message for all Ukrainians, and particularly for rock veterans of my generation, came in early April, when Pink Floyd recorded, together with Ukrainian rocker Andriy Khlyvnyuk, a century old song “Hey, Hey, Rise up”, which became one of the musical symbols of Ukrainian resistance these days-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=saEpkcVi1d4


The Beatles Museum in Hungary

As time went on, Paul McCartney’s 80th birthday was on approach. It was already clear that all our plans will not be implemented. Though the plans were very big. The pandemic prevented our celebration of the same jubilees of John and Ringo in 2020, so we had in mind to put everything together. Something like following the pattern of The Olympic games 2020, which were held in 2021. We started preparations well in advance, already in 2021. But everything was cancelled…

Still, I decided to take the previously agreed invitation to Eger, Hungary, from ‘The Beatles Museum’ there, to take part in the celebrations on June 18th, with a lecture “Where bright personalities come from, or where John and Paul found keys to their future?”. I already made this presentation 3 years ago, during “Budapest Beatles Weekend” in October 2019, for John’s birthday. 

I was lucky to get train tickets, which were practically unavailable at that time.   It took a couple of days to adjust for peaceful life, when nobody reacts to the sound of a siren (it was an ambulance, not air alarm) or a sound of a high-flying plane (it was not a bomber, fighter or rocket, of course.)  And immersion into the music of “The Beatles” had a magic, emotional and healing effect. Returning home to the sounds of sirens and war planes was not so worrying, so to say.

 

Image from Globetrotter19, Wiki Commons


Paul’s Gibson Guitar

One of the last messages came on November 13th, when Paul McCartney’s Les Paul Gibson blue and yellow guitar, in the colours of Ukrainian flag, was sold at auction to raise money for support of Ukraine. Several legendary musicians, like Brian May and Slash, joined this action. 

https://guitar.com/news/events-news/gibson-auction-custom-guitar-paul-mccartney-slash-used-ukraine-war-relief/ 

 

I hope that very soon I share the following message from ‘The Universe of The Beatles’: 

“I read the news today, oh boy,

The russian army has just lost the war...”

 As Beatles sang, “Life goes on...”       

 

 

 

Sergey Radchenko

The Beatles Story's Ukrainian Ambassador Sergey is a lecturer, author, researcher and passionate promoter of The Beatles’ legacy.

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