Ukrainian Musician Helps Homesick Ukrainians in Poland: NPR

Roman Panchenko, from Chernihiv, performs at the Castle Square in Warsaw, Poland, on Tuesday.

Adam Lach for NPR


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Adam Lach for NPR


Roman Panchenko, from Chernihiv, performs at the Castle Square in Warsaw, Poland, on Tuesday.

Adam Lach for NPR

Castle Square, the main square of Warsaw’s historic Royal Square, is a picturesque hotspot filled with tourists taking selfies, kids on school trips, and locals eating in fancy restaurants.

Roman Panchenko sings Ukrainian music for the nostalgic at Castle Square in Warsaw, Poland, on Tuesday.

Adam Lach for NPR


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Adam Lach for NPR


Roman Panchenko sings Ukrainian music for the nostalgic at Castle Square in Warsaw, Poland, on Tuesday.

Adam Lach for NPR

It’s also where you can find busker Roman Panchenko strumming his guitar as he sings in his native Ukrainian.

It is an act that has become a form of protest and a source of solidarity since the Russian invasion. It has also created a sense of belonging for nostalgic Ukrainians in the crowd.

“They feel uncomfortable in this country because they think there are few Ukrainians,” says Panchenko, who is from Chernihiv. “But there are many Ukrainians in this country and we are all together.”

His confidence is as new as the war in his home country.

“I was afraid to sing in the street,” he says.

The war helped him overcome that fear. Now he regularly sings the national anthem in the old town of Warsaw.

“Because I think it was the best way I can help my country,” he says. “To promote some Ukrainian songs.”

On his feet are mismatched socks, one yellow, one blue: the colors of the Ukrainian flag.

More than three million Ukrainians have moved to Poland in less than three months. And you can see them in the crowd.

“Every time we come here, someone comes up to us and asks us to play more Ukrainian songs.”

And every time Panchenko sees a fellow Ukrainian in the audience, he ends his song the same way.

“Slavic Ukraine!” He shouts. In Ukrainian, the crowd shouts “gierojom slava!” — glory to the heroes.

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