Hello lovers ,
I'm deep in the studio and my own mind . But here is a beautiful written piece Janine posted on her substack , describing our special time in Ukraine . — CCX
When our Euro Tour was already announced and planned, and about four weeks away, I had a video call with Eugene who has been our promoter in Ukraine for many years.
I wanted to talk to him as part of our mental health conversations called HEADNOISE - about the cat rescue he has built since the attacks on Ukraine have started.
You can watch the whole conversation here:
We inevitably started talking about concerts in Ukraine and how it would be logistically possible for an international band to play there. We decided there and then to make it happen.
Chris was instantly convinced, and our whole crew was too. It meant changing all flights we had already booked, adding a whole week to the already six week long tour and also nobody being paid for that extra week.
I’m incredibly proud of our crew for not even hesitating to join. The two people that weren’t able to join (drummer Jon and lighting guy Ryan) only didn’t do so because they had already booked other jobs that they couldn’t get out of.
Traveling from London to Lviv took us 14hrs - and we were fast! There is no air traffic throughout the whole of Ukraine, so it’s a bit more involved getting from A to B.
We took a plane to Warsaw, then another plane to Rzeszow which is about 1.5hrs away from the Ukrainian border. We were picked up by lovely Marianka with a van. She’s from Ukraine.
We drove to the border, passports were checked on the Polish side (even though we had them checked in London AND Warsaw already).
This was sped up because of my German passport getting us into the EU queue. The Non-EU queue was moving very slow and could have easily added 2hrs wait time.
So if you’re thinking of traveling to Ukraine with a group of people, make sure at least one person holds a EU passport ;-)
Onto the Ukrainian border. We didn’t even have to leave the van! They just had a look at each face through the open van doors, quick peep at the luggage, went away with the passports and then handed them back to us. Whole thing took about 3mins.
For comparison - the longest we ever got stuck at the Ukrainian border was 7hrs. And it wasn’t an anomaly.
Took a picture after border crossing - for proof we made it there.
Then another hour drive to the hotel in Lviv. We got up in London at 6:30am and got to the hotel at around 9pm local time.
Fell asleep and woke up around 3am to a male voice coming from somewhere in the room, speaking in Ukrainian. The voice was followed by sirens we could hear from outside.
Some of us went to the hotel‘s basement shelter, most stayed in the rooms. We found out later that this was the first night alarm in Lviv in several weeks.
There are several apps and telegram channels you can use to monitor any alarms in Ukraine and get info on what triggered them.
After about 20mins the voice appeared again and sirens wailed again throughout the city, this time announcing the end of the threat (we figured it out via app). Shortly after there was another alarm, which also didn’t last very long.
One of the apps has Mark Hamill‘s voice announcing the alarms: ‘The air alarm is over. May the force be with you.’ Gotta love the Ukrainians.
Back to sleep, next day get up and be driven to venue.
The city looks lovely as always. Lviv is beautiful and its people wonderful. We’ve always loved being here.
Windows of important historical buildings in the center are boarded up, statues covered in metal cages.
The club is very nice, staff was great, like any venue on this tour. No war to be felt here. One difference I do hear is that almost everybody speaks Ukrainian now, I used to hear a lot more Russian being used on our previous trips here.
And then the first show - incredible. We felt a massive difference. People were LOUD! The loudest crowd of the tour by far. And constant. So hungry and so ready to party. To feel alive. It was very intense. It wasn’t sad. I saw the biggest smiles in everyone’s faces. They wanted distraction. And to feel happiness for a moment.
I could have definitely gone the emotional way… it’s fucked up what these people have to live through. And I see the sadness in their faces. They are worried about winter arriving. They are tired. They’ve all lost somebody.
But I also see the incredible strength and determination, and the wit.
We’re still taking it all in, it’s a lot to process. We’re deeply glad we made the journey here. Tomorrow we‘ll play a second show.
There is a strict military curfew every night from midnight to 5am in Lviv. There’s also a strict curfew for drinking in public, which starts at 9pm.
When we had some drinks in the hotel lobby after the first show, a policeman came in and sent us to our rooms.
The shows had to start early, at 6:30pm, doors at 5pm, so that everyone would make it back home before curfew.
When we asked what to do if an alarm goes off while we’re playing, we were told we can decide ourselves. Some bands just keep playing, some take a break.
While the curfews are strictly obeyed, the alarms are ‘just’ warnings. You can decide to keep going about your business. You can sit in a cafe for example - and many people do.
Businesses decide how they handle it. McDonald’s in Kyiv closes during air alarms, in Lviv it stays open. Some factories also close during alarms, buses drive workers to shelters - and then the workers add the missing hours on the weekends - without asking for extra pay! They are determined to keep the economy going in any way possible.
Needless to say the alarms have a very different meaning in the war torn areas of Eastern Ukraine.
You could hear people talk about the winter coming in. They are worried because the war efforts will be re-focused from fighting at the border, which will become too cold to pursue full-on, to air raids targeting important infrastructure. Ukrainian people will lose power, and therefore heating. Last winter was incredibly hard, no doubt it will be again. People are disappointed that there’s no end in sight. It’s extremely tiring.
The constant threat of alarms, and night alarms interrupting sleep, that alone was sucking our energy. I cannot imagine the suffering.
Even false alarms will cause sleep deprivation for every single person in the area. It makes their determination and strength even more obvious.
Second day: another show. This time the crowd was even louder. It was a celebration of love and strength and a perfect last show to our tour.
During yesterday’s show Chris grabbed a Ukrainian flag from a fan and danced with it, making the crowd scream even louder. Today we decide to hang the flag between our two screens and project our visuals onto it. We also invite people to dance with us on stage during the encore. Just a perfect ending to a perfect tour.
Third and last night at the Lviv hotel - alarm went off again, this time we had Shahed drones coming our way. I had never heard of them - this is the fucked up shit you learn when you live or visit over there.
They are cheap Iranian drones that are targeting infrastructure and are sent in groups. Most of them are destroyed from the ground, but it’s expensive and because there are so many, they are also used to tire out Ukrainians. This attack was worth an article in Western news, which sadly has become a rare occurrence lately.
Click here to read
We obviously didn’t get much sleep. Again. Not so much because we felt like we were in danger. But because of the sirens and Mark Hamill shouting at us. Also the voice inside the room wasn’t just Ukrainian this time. There was a second, English voice that said something like - don’t try to be a hero, find the nearest shelter and better be safe than sorry.
The fourth day of our Ukraine journey was dedicated solely to crossing the border and getting back to Rzeszow.
We left the hotel at 11am.
-1hr drive to a halt very close to the border. There was a portable bathroom container and a tent with soldiers. We sat there for about 1hr without moving. (But saw a very cute shrewd criss-crossing the street)
-Finally moving, 1min drive to the Ukrainian border. Wait again, about 30mins.
-Passports get checked, we are again able to join the Euro lane.
-Five vans from a French humanitarian aid foundation are guided past and in front of us. They get checked thoroughly by Polish border agents. We sit for another two hours and find out that there’s been a pushback at the Polish borders recently, causing serious delays especially for trucks transporting goods out of Ukraine. This will hopefully be resolved once the newly elected Polish government takes the reigns.
-Ukrainian border patrol checks our luggage, quick process. Wait another 30mins.
-Polish border agents grab our passports. Return them after about 10mins. Wait again. Contemplating if we can hold our wees or risk leaving the car and prolonging the border crossing process. We hold.
-We proceed to Polish luggage check. They send us to another place that has a machine for luggage check. We wait at the gate.
-Everyone but the driver and one man (a man is specifically requested) goes into a waiting room. Finally a toilet!
Luggage gets x-rayed, engine inspected and van inspected from underneath. All is fine and we can get back into the van and get our passports back.
Off to Poland we go!
It was a much longer process than anyone expected. 4hrs total at the border, plus the drive. But all went well and we’ve had much worse border crossings in the past.
1.5hrs drive to the Rzeszow airport hotel where we repack and weigh our luggage for the upcoming flights. Dinner. Bed. No alarms to expect which feels like a luxury.
The fifth day is spent traveling from Poland back to London, where we spend one more night at the terminal, to then fly back home on day 6.
If this trip had been planned beforehand, we could have done it in 5 days total. Or 6 days, but add in a show in Kyiv. Which we will try to do next time if at all possible.
When we were at our gate in Rzeszow airport, the Lviv air alarm went off again and we all still had the apps on. Mark Hamill plus siren. Frantically switching off our mobiles.
It went off for other people at the airport too. We weren’t the only ones coming back from Ukraine.
I almost want to keep the apps on so I can relate better to what’s happening over there. But I will be of more use to our friends by getting rest and staying strong.
A lot of Ukrainians thanked us for our bravery. But we weren’t brave. We were in no danger. We knew the facts and sure, there is a small added danger but not really if you’re well informed. We were near a shelter at all times, just in case.
It wasn’t brave. I hope more bands will go and show their love and support like this.
After the phenomenal Tiger Lilies, we were the second international band to play in Ukraine since the attacks started 18 months ago.
Apart from that there were 2-3 stripped down solo performances from international artists. That’s it!
There is no money to be made, so booking agents obviously have no interest in booking shows over there. We know of bands that would love to play in Ukraine but their agents won’t allow it. Actually, many of them.
But it means the world to those people. It gives them a glimpse of hope, a moment of deeply needed happiness.
If you are a band, and you have the opportunity to play over there, I urge you to seriously consider it. All you have to invest is time. We were well taken care of. We had delicious food and a beautiful and quiet hotel. We feel warm inside after being able to give a little glimpse of hope to our people.
Our expenses were covered, and we decided together with the promoter to donate any profits from the shows to a Ukrainian humanitarian aid foundation.
I’m only describing here the things I experienced in the short time we spent in Lviv. There is no way I could come close to describing what it’s like to live in Ukraine right now. We were hundreds of miles away from the war zones. A five hour drive away from Kyiv, which still is hundreds of miles away from the war zones.
— Janine Gezang