On January 11, the global initiative Tennis Plays For Peace took place in Melbourne, bringing together the tennis community and fans to support humanitarian aid during the war in Ukraine. The Ukrainian combined choir “Volya”, which operates at the Cathedral of Ss. Peter and Paul, took part in the opening of this event, singing the national anthem of Ukraine and the Australian song “I am Australian”. The whole arena was shone with blue and yellow colors, almost every sector of the majors had a Ukrainian flag, and to the sounds of our national anthem, the whole hall stood up, exclaiming at the end: “Glory to Ukraine! Glory to the heroes!”, and at the end giving thunderous applause.

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Bishop Mykola Bychok, the Eparch of Melbourne, expressed a valid opinion about the performance of the cathedral choir: “Today, we, Ukrainians in Australia, have a unique opportunity to be the voice of our people during the opening of the tennis tournament “Australian Open” in Melbourne. This is a special opportunity not only to be present at this significant event, but also to convey the truth about the terrible war in Ukraine to the whole world. May this act of goodwill bring our victory closer and become a strong support for our soldiers, prisoners, medics, volunteers and the entire Ukrainian people.”

Conductor Volodymyr Holovko, who was preparing the choir for the performance, also shared his thoughts: “This is a special moment not only for me as a conductor, but I would say for our church as well. However, for me this is another experience of the formation and strengthening of our identity, of our Ukrainian society. Through such events, we seek recognition of our state, our people that are currently going through a hard time. We sanctify the formation of our identity at a very high price – by giving lifes, and it hurts me. I always encourage the choristers to use the opportunity to tell the world the truth about our benevolent people as well as our Ukrainian idea as this is very important for us and our church. And I am grateful to God for this chance.”

In addition to the Ukrainian national anthem, the choir “Volya”performed the Australian song “I am Australian”. Choir member Oksana Bobechko said more about it: “Our team performed another very famous piece, “I Am Australian” – this is a popular Australian song written in 1987. Its texts are saturated with many historical and cultural references; the song’s popularity has allowed it to join a number of other patriotic songs considered an alternative to Australia’s national anthem, “Advance Australia Fair”. The repetition of “I am Australian” reinforces its patriotism, the images of the environment create a link between the nation and the self, and thus the individual is strongly connected to the country. This song was ordered by the organizers and  so closely linked with our current feelings, which I hope we were able to convey to an international audience.”

Choir member Halyna Kostiuk, who communicated with the organizers of the event during the preparation, spoke about her experience: “For me, it was very responsible to communicate with the organizers, conveying all their wishes to the choristers. I wanted to do everything as best as possible, because despite the fact that our choir “Volya” repeatedly took part in such initiatives, especially in the last year, every time you realize anew that you have the honor to represent Ukraine to the world with your performance. As a member of the choir, it is very pleasant and moving for me to hear the audience’s ovation and warm and positive feedback afterwards. It is worth the effort, which we put in while preparing for this or that performance.”

It is worth noting that world tennis stars, including Rafael Nadal, Coco Gauff, Maria Sakkari, Alex de Minaur and others, took part in the game to support Ukraine. Ukrainian women also joined the tournament: Marta Kostyuk, Dayana Yastremska, Daria Snigur, Lesia Tsurenko, Katarina Zavatska. The honorary player was 99-year-old Leonid Stanislavskyi from the Kharkiv region, who specially arrived from Ukraine and challenged 99-year-old Henry Young from Adelaide. It is interesting that last year Leonid Stanislavsky was officially recognized by the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s oldest tennis player.

Between the matches, short videos about Ukrainians during the war were broadcast on the screens, and a QR code was also displayed, which could be used to donate to support Ukraine.

Throughout the charity event, the hall was lit up with the colors of the Ukrainian flag. The organizers of the event allocated 300 free tickets for Ukrainians in Australia in order to enable them to attend this event and support Ukraine.

All funds collected during the Tennis Plays For Peace charity tennis tournament will be directed to humanitarian support of Ukraine during the war. We thank Australia for such initiatives that helps many Ukrainians.