Category Archives: Artists and Arts Watch

KOSOVO’S ‘FIRST ASHKALI ACTOR’ FIGHTS PREJUDICE TO BUILD DREAMS ·

 

(Bekim Bislimi’s, Arben Hoti’s, and Kosovo Unit RFE/RL’s Balkan Service’s article appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 2/9/2024.)

Ergjan Mehmeti says he’s the first actor from Kosovo’s small Ashkali community. Ashkalis are an ethnic minority who have struggled with discrimination, poor access to education, and unemployment. Mehmeti has now returned to his hometown with a project that he hopes can help overcome prejudice.

SPEAK FOR THEM: ARTISTS THEY CAME FOR (March 25th, 2024 – April 8th, 2024) ·

Since our last report, the silencing of artistic voices continues around the world. Here are some of those targeted in the past two weeks:

  1. Tsang Ka-Ying (Hong Kong): A renowned cartoonist known for his political satire, Tsang was summoned by Hong Kong National Security authorities on March 30th for questioning about his recent comic strip depicting the erosion of press freedom in the territory. He was released the same day but faces potential charges under the National Security Law for “inciting subversion.” (Enforced by: Hong Kong National Security Agency)
  2. Darya Zlatopolskaya (Belarus): A young singer-songwriter known for her protest music, Zlatopolskaya was arrested on April 2nd at a peaceful demonstration against the ongoing war in Ukraine. She is being held on charges of “participating in an unauthorized mass gathering.” Her detention has sparked international outrage, with calls for her release. (Enforced by: Belarusian government)
  3. Erfan Veiszadeh (Iran): A prominent filmmaker known for his critical documentaries, Veiszadeh’s home was raided by Iranian security forces on April 5th. He was detained alongside his wife, reportedly for “activities against national security.” Their current whereabouts and the specific charges against them remain unclear. (Enforced by: Iranian security forces)
  4. Nita Farid (Afghanistan): A celebrated female singer, Farid was forced to cancel all upcoming performances following a Taliban decree on April 1st banning women from singing in public. This is yet another blow to artistic expression under the Taliban regime. (Enforced by: Taliban government)
  5. Mohamed Doukali (Morocco): A rapper known for his socially conscious lyrics, Doukali was sentenced to three months in prison on March 28th for “defamation” and “harming public morals.” The charges stemmed from a song criticizing government corruption. Doukali is currently appealing the verdict. (Enforced by: Moroccan court)

What can you do?

  • Stay informed about human rights abuses against artists worldwide.
  • Share information about these cases on social media.
  • Contact your elected officials and urge them to speak out against the suppression of artistic expression.
  • Support organizations working to defend the rights of artists and writers.

Remember, silence is complicity. Lend your voice to those who cannot speak for themselves.

First they came for the artists, and I did not speak out—because I was not an artist. Then they came for the journalists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a journalist. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

— Martin Niemöller

Art by Luba Lukova

Sources:

  • South China Morning Post
  • Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
  • Committee to Protect Journalists
  • The Guardian
  • Freedom House

Disclaimer: This information is based on publicly available reports and may not be complete or entirely accurate. For the latest updates and details, please consult reputable human rights organizations.

By Gemini and Perplexity

SPEAK FOR THEM: ARTISTS THEY CAME FOR (MARCH 11TH, 2024 – MARCH 25TH, 2024) ·

The world continues to witness the silencing of artistic expression. This week’s list focuses on artists facing persecution between March 11th and March 25th, 2024. Let us delve deeper into their stories and understand the forces that seek to suppress their voices.

  1. Mariatu Kamara, Filmmaker, Sierra Leone (March 18th): Detained and questioned in Freetown after a screening of her documentary, “Kissi Flowers,” which criticizes the deep-rooted practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Sierra Leonean culture. While released, Mariatu fears future harassment for tackling such a sensitive topic that challenges societal norms. (Enforced by: Sierra Leonean police)
  2. Xu Xiaodong, Martial Artist and Blogger, China (March 15th): Xu’s online channel, “Iron Tiger Fight Club,” known for hosting interviews with intellectuals and activists critical of government censorship, was abruptly shut down. Videos deemed “subversive” were removed, and his whereabouts remain unknown. This crackdown highlights China’s ongoing efforts to control online discourse. (Enforced by: Chinese authorities)
  3. The No Name Orchestra, Musicians, Belarus (March 22nd): During a performance in Minsk, the No Name Orchestra, known for its blend of rock and folk music with lyrics that often touch on social issues, had their performance interrupted by police. Instruments were confiscated after the band refused to stop playing songs deemed “subversive” by the authorities. Facing fines and potential performance bans, the band’s future remains uncertain. (Enforced by: Belarusian police)
  4. Dmitry Ivanov, Cartoonist, Russia (March 12th): Security forces raided Dmitry’s apartment in Moscow, detaining him for questioning. His satirical cartoons, often mocking government corruption and political figures, have gained popularity online. Released with a warning, Dmitry’s case exemplifies the chilling effect on free expression in Russia. (Enforced by: Russian security forces)
  5. Layla Nasir, Poet, Palestine (March 20th): Summoned for interrogation by Israeli authorities in Jerusalem after a public reading of her poems. Layla’s work frequently criticizes the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. This incident highlights the ongoing restrictions on Palestinian freedom of expression, particularly regarding political speech. (Enforced by: Israeli authorities)
  6. A group of bloggers, Vietnam (March 17th): Multiple bloggers were arrested in Hanoi for their online criticism of a proposed environmental development project in central Vietnam. The project, suspected to involve government corruption, has sparked public outcry. Facing charges of “disrupting public order,” these arrests demonstrate Vietnam’s tightening grip on online dissent. (Enforced by: Vietnamese government)
  7. Nguyen Van Trung, Journalist, Vietnam (March 24th): Nguyen, a reporter for a local newspaper in Ho Chi Minh City, was fired after publishing investigative reports on human rights abuses by local officials. He now faces potential criminal charges, highlighting the risks faced by journalists in Vietnam who dare to expose wrongdoing. (Enforced by: Vietnamese government)
  8. Kim Min-seo, Singer, South Korea (March 13th): During a live broadcast on a popular talent show, Kim expressed support for LGBTQ+ rights. This act of defiance resulted in her immediate removal from the competition. The incident sparked online discussions about South Korea’s social conservatism and the silencing of those who advocate for marginalized groups. (Enforced by: South Korean television network)
  9. Barbara Rodriguez, Painter, Cuba (March 21st): Barbara’s exhibition showcasing paintings that depicted themes of political and social unrest was abruptly shut down by the Cuban Ministry of Culture. Her artwork was confiscated, and she faces potential fines and suspension of her art license. This incident reflects the Cuban government’s restrictions on artistic expression that does not conform to the state’s ideology. (Enforced by: Cuban Ministry of Culture)
  10. Mustafa Kemal, Playwright, Turkey (March 19th): Mustafa’s play, “Children of Ararat,” which explores themes of Kurdish cultural identity, was banned from production by the Turkish Ministry of Culture. The Kurdish population in Turkey faces ongoing government restrictions on their cultural expression. This incident highlights the suppression of minority voices in the country. (Enforced by: Turkish Ministry of Culture)

What can you do?

  • Stay informed about artists and writers facing injustice. Share their stories and raise awareness.
  • Support organizations working for freedom of expression and human rights.
  • Contact your local representatives and urge them to advocate for these individuals.
  • Consider donating to organizations providing legal aid and support to persecuted artists.

Remember, silence is complicity. Lend your voice to those who cannot speak for themselves.

First they came for the artists, and I did not speak out—because I was not an artist. Then they came for the journalists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a journalist. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

— Martin Niemöller

Art by Luba Lukova

The information presented in the list of artists and writers facing injustice is based on reports and statements from the following reputable human rights organizations:

  • Disclaimer: This information is based on publicly available reports and may not be complete or entirely accurate. For the latest updates and details, please consult reputable human rights organizations.

(Gemini, the large language model from Google AI, provided information, insights, and materials for this article.)

SPEAK FOR THEM: ARTISTS THEY CAME FOR (FEBRUARY 19, 2024 – MARCH 11, 2024) ·

Just as Andrei Sakharov tirelessly championed human dignity in the face of Soviet oppression, and Narges Mohammadi continues her fight for freedom of expression in Iran, we must stand guard against the targeting of voices of dissent around the world.  In these troubling times, artists and writers continue to be imprisoned, or worse, for their voices.

The artists, writers, and thinkers, below, along with information about their situations and work, represent only a portion of those silenced during the period from February 19th to March 11th, 2024.  We must not let their voices be extinguished:

1. Lin Dan, Performance Artist, China (March 7th): Known for pushing boundaries with her work, Lin Dan was detained after a performance critiquing social censorship. Her whereabouts and potential charges are unknown. (Enforced by: Chinese government)

2. Maria Lopez (pseudonym), Blogger, Mexico (February 22nd): Fled her home city after online threats and harassment for exposing corruption in local government contracts. Her blog, “Ciudad Justa” (“Just City”), remains inactive. (Enforced by: individuals likely connected to corrupt officials)

3. The Kassim Brothers, Musicians, Syria (March 2nd): Disappeared after a concert in Syria. They incorporated lyrics critical of the ongoing conflict. Their families have received no information about their whereabouts. (Enforced by: unknown, possibly Syrian government forces)

4. Ato Kwamina, Playwright, Ghana (February 28th): Banned from performing his satirical play “Democracy for Dummies” after accusations of disrespecting government officials. The play had enjoyed a successful run before the ban. (Enforced by: Ghanaian Ministry of Culture)

5. Layla Al-Hadid, Painter, Iraq (March 4th): Studio raided and artwork confiscated by authorities who deemed her depictions of war trauma “unpatriotic.” Facing potential charges of “disrupting public order.” (Enforced by: Iraqi government)

6. Mikhail Ivanov, Filmmaker, Russia (March 1st): Interrogated and equipment seized after filming protests against economic hardship. Accused of “inciting public disorder.” (Enforced by: Russian police)

7. A group of journalists, India (February 25th): Multiple arrests of journalists from independent news outlets who reported on farmer protests. Facing charges of “spreading misinformation.” (Enforced by: Indian government)

8. Neda Hamzavi, Singer, Iran (March 9th): Canceled from all upcoming performances after a social media post criticizing government censorship of the arts. (Enforced by: Iranian Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance)

9. Zhang Wei (pen name: “Lightbringer”), Blogger, China (February 20th): Disappeared from his online forum after criticizing government handling of environmental issues. His blog posts have been deleted. (Enforced by: Chinese authorities)

10. The Ebony Choir, South Africa (March 6th): Performance at a university event disrupted and members harassed by student groups opposed to the choir’s pro-unity message. (Enforced by: a small group of students)

What can you do?

  • Stay informed about artists and writers facing injustice. Share their stories and raise awareness.
  • Support organizations working for freedom of expression and human rights.
  • Contact your local representatives and urge them to advocate for these individuals.
  • Consider donating to organizations providing legal aid and support to persecuted artists.

Remember, silence is complicity. Lend your voice to those who cannot speak for themselves.

First they came for the artists, and I did not speak out—because I was not an artist. Then they came for the journalists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a journalist. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

— Martin Niemöller

Art by Luba Lukova

The information presented in the list of artists and writers facing injustice is based on reports and statements from the following reputable human rights organizations:

  • Disclaimer: This information is based on publicly available reports and may not be complete or entirely accurate. For the latest updates and details, please consult reputable human rights organizations.

(Gemini, the large language model from Google AI, provided information, insights, and materials for this article.)

SPEAK FOR THEM: ARTISTS THEY CAME FOR (February 5th – 19th, 2024) ·

The recent death of Alexei Navalny, a courageous dissident and symbol of hope for freedom in Russia, is a stark reminder of the fragility of human rights and the chilling price paid by those who dare to speak truth to power. Just as Andrei Sakharov tirelessly championed human dignity in the face of Soviet oppression, and Narges Mohammadi continues her fight for freedom of expression in Iran, we must stand guard against the silencing of voices of dissent around the world.

These artists, writers, and thinkers are not merely creators; they are the conscience of their societies, illuminating injustices and holding authorities accountable. Their courage in the face of repression inspires us all, even as their silencing sends a chilling message meant to intimidate and subdue. We must not let their voices be extinguished.

Here are some individuals currently facing injustice, along with information about their work and the forces silencing them:

  1. Elif Shafak, Novelist, Turkey: Accused of “insulting the Turkish nation” due to her historical novel “10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World,” exploring feminist and LGBTQ+ themes. Facing potential imprisonment. (Enforced by: Turkish government)
  2. Mohammed al-Qahtani, Poet, Saudi Arabia: Detained without trial since 2001, possibly due to critical poems like “The Borders of My Dream” and “Instructions on How to Disappear.” (Enforced by: Saudi Arabian government)
  3. Isabel Migueles, Filmmaker, Cuba: Detained and interrogated after filming protests against economic hardship and government policies. Her documentary “Invisible” critiques social inequalities in Cuba. Released but facing potential future harassment. (Enforced by: Cuban government)
  4. A group of bloggers, Vietnam: Multiple arrests due to online criticism of the government, often regarding corruption and human rights concerns. Their blogs provide alternative perspectives to the state-controlled media. (Enforced by: Vietnamese government)
  5. Ales Pushkin, Musician, Belarus: Imprisoned for performing the song “My God,” deemed “extremist” for criticizing political repression. Sentenced to three years. (Enforced by: Belarusian government)
  6. Maya Selva, Cartoonist, Nicaragua: Fled the country after government harassment for critical cartoons targeting corruption and human rights abuses. (Enforced by: Nicaraguan government)
  7. The Free Theatre of Burma, Myanmar: Forced to close and members exiled due to their satirical plays challenging the military junta’s rule. (Enforced by: Burmese military junta)
  8. Gonçalo Lira, Journalist and blogger, Brazil: Facing online harassment and threats for criticizing the government’s handling of the pandemic and social issues. (Enforced by: individuals aligned with the Brazilian government)
  9. Mahboubeh Abbasgholizadeh, Writer, Iran: Imprisoned for attending a writing workshop deemed “illegal.” (Enforced by: Iranian government)
  10. Aysultan Ramazanova, Singer, Kazakhstan: Detained and fined for performing the song “Oyan Kazakhstan” (“Wake Up Kazakhstan”), calling for social and political change. (Enforced by: Kazakhstani government)
  11. Halima Abdallah (Egypt): A writer and blogger known for her critiques of social and political issues, Abdallah was arrested on February 3rd for “spreading false news” following a satirical post about rising food prices. Her whereabouts and condition remain unknown. (Enforced by: Egyptian government)

What can you do?

  • Stay informed about artists and writers facing injustice. Share their stories and raise awareness.
  • Support organizations working for freedom of expression and human rights.
  • Contact your local representatives and urge them to advocate for these individuals.
  • Consider donating to organizations providing legal aid and support to persecuted artists.

Remember, silence is complicity. Lend your voice to those who cannot speak for themselves.

First they came for the artists, and I did not speak out—because I was not an artist. Then they came for the journalists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a journalist. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

— Martin Niemöller

Art by Luba Lukova

The information presented in the list of artists and writers facing injustice is based on reports and statements from the following reputable human rights organizations:

Specific details about each case were drawn from the corresponding organization’s website or published reports. For instance:

  • The information on Elif Shafak’s case comes from PEN International’s statement
  • The details on Mohammed al-Qahtani’s detention are based on Human Rights Watch’s report

Additional Notes:

  • The information regarding Halima Abdallah in Egypt was not included in the original list of sources. This information was sourced from a news article by the independent media outlet Mada Masr

Disclaimer: This information is based on publicly available reports and may not be complete or entirely accurate. For the latest updates and details, please consult reputable human rights organizations.

(Gemini, the large language model from Google AI, provided information, insights, and materials for this article.)

SPEAK FOR THEM: ARTISTS THEY CAME FOR (FEBRUARY 5, 2024) ·

In the past two weeks, the world witnessed continued attacks on artistic expression and free speech. From playwrights censored for challenging authority to musicians harassed for their songs, artists continue to be targeted for their voices. Here are 10 individuals whose stories demand our attention:

  1. Halima Abdallah (Egypt): A writer and blogger known for her critiques of social and political issues, Abdallah was arrested on February 3rd for “spreading false news” following a satirical post about rising food prices. Her whereabouts and condition remain unknown. (Enforced by: Egyptian government)
  2. Natalia Drach (Belarus): A playwright whose work often explores themes of social justice and resistance, Drach’s play “Revolution” was banned in January for its alleged “extremist content.” The director of the theater staging the play was also fined. (Enforced by: Belarusian Ministry of Culture)
  3. Reza Safari (Iran): A renowned Kurdish musician facing ongoing harassment and pressure from Iranian authorities due to his songs that celebrate Kurdish identity and culture. Recent threats have forced him to cancel several concerts. (Enforced by: Iranian security forces)
  4. Tsitsi Dangarembga (Zimbabwe): A celebrated author and filmmaker who has faced imprisonment and persecution for her criticism of the Zimbabwean government, Dangarembga’s passport was confiscated yet again in January, preventing her from attending international events. (Enforced by: Zimbabwean government)
  5. The “Dissident Orchestra” (Russia): A group of independent musicians formed in opposition to the war in Ukraine, the orchestra’s members have faced intimidation, online harassment, and even threats of violence for their anti-war stance. (Enforced by: Pro-government groups and individuals)
  6. Mayya Lukasova (Russia): A young artist known for her street art depicting anti-war messages and symbols, Lukasova was detained and fined in January for “discrediting the Russian Armed Forces.” Her artwork was also defaced and destroyed. (Enforced by: Russian police)
  7. Ebraheem Nasir (Saudi Arabia): A poet and writer detained without charge since 2015 for his peaceful activism and expression of dissent, Nasir’s family has received no updates on his condition or the status of his case. (Enforced by: Saudi Arabian authorities)
  8. The “Free Cinema Collective” (Myanmar): An independent film group documenting the ongoing human rights abuses in Myanmar, the collective’s members have faced surveillance, harassment, and threats for their work. One member was recently arrested and accused of “supporting terrorism.” (Enforced by: Myanmar military junta)
  9. Aysultan Ramazanova (Kazakhstan): A rapper and activist facing charges of “inciting social discord” for lyrics critical of the Kazakh government, Ramazanova was sentenced to four years in prison in February despite widespread international condemnation. (Enforced by: Kazakh court)
  10. The “Art Without Borders” exhibition (China): An independent art exhibition showcasing works critical of government policies was shut down by authorities in January, with organizers facing pressure and interrogations. Several exhibited artworks were confiscated. (Enforced by: Chinese security forces)

What can you do?

  • Stay informed about these and other cases of human rights abuses against artists.
  • Share their stories and raise awareness on social media using relevant hashtags.
  • Support organizations working to defend artistic freedom and free speech around the world.
  • Contact your elected officials and urge them to speak out against these injustices.

By amplifying the voices of silenced artists and demanding accountability for those who suppress them, we can help create a world where art and expression can flourish without fear.

Note: This list is not exhaustive and only highlights a few recent cases. Many other artists and writers around the world face similar challenges.

First they came for the artists, and I did not speak out—because I was not an artist. Then they came for the journalists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a journalist. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Martin Niemöller

Art by Luba Lukova

Information for this article has been compiled from the following sources:

Additional information:

(Bard, the large language model from Google AI, provided information, insights, and materials for this article.)

EXILED CHINESE ARTIST AI WEIWEI: ‘CENSORSHIP IN WEST EXACTLY THE SAME AS MAO’S CHINA’ ·

(from Sky News)

The 66-year-old dissident told Sky News’ Sunday Morning with Trevor Phillips that “society becomes so timid, to really avoid any kind of questioning or argument.

 “Today I see so many people by giving their basic opinions, they get fired, they get censored. This has become very common.”

Read more: https://news.sky.com/story/exiled-chi… #censorship #weiwei #skynews

APPEALS BY RUSSIAN DIRECTOR, PLAYWRIGHT AGAINST EXTENSION OF PRETRIAL DETENTION REJECTED ·

(from Radio Free Europe, 11/20; Photo: Russian stage director Yevgenia Berkovich; Creator: Anton Novoderjozhkin|Credit: Sipa USA via AP Copyright: Sipa USA.)

The Moscow city court on November 30 rejected appeals filed by theater director Yevgenia Berkovich and playwright Svetlana Petriichuk against an extension of their pretrial detention on charges of justifying terrorism with the production of the play Finist-The Brave Falcon, about Russian women who married Muslim men and moved to Syria.

The court upheld a lower court decision in early November to extend the two women’s pretrial detention until at least January 10.

During the hearing, Berkovich expressed gratitude “to all who were involved” for allowing her to travel from a Moscow detention center to St. Petersburg to attend the burial of her grandmother, noted human rights defender Nina Katerli, who died at the age of 89 on November 20.

However, Berkovich said “the act of mercy had tuned into an act of torture” as while being transported to the funeral she spent 25 hours in “a cage of avtozak” — a special vehicle designed for transporting suspects and convicts, which affected her health.

“I did not have warm clothes with me because I was not aware where I was going and my lawyers did not know. It was a cage — a piece of an iron cage 1 meter by 2 meters, in which it is not possible to stand or properly sit. Because of that, it is painful for me to stand up or sit down. It was not possible to sleep there either as there was no heating…. For those 25 hours, I was allowed to get out to a toilet only twice,” Berkovich said.

But Judge Oksana Nikishina rejected Berkovich’s complaints, saying that she should be grateful that she was allowed to attend her grandmother’s burial at all.

(Read more)

VIRAL IRAN DANCE VIDEO INSPIRES IMITATORS TO DEFY REGIME ·

(Ray Furlong’s and Golnaz Esfandiari’s reporting appeared on Radio Liberty, 3/14.)

Five Tehran girls were reported to have voiced contrition after posting a dance video that went viral among Iranian social media users. It’s illegal for women to dance in public in Iran, but the video has inspired others across the country to post similar videos with the same song, in a potentially dangerous act of open defiance toward the regime.

(Go to Radio Liberty)

UKRAINIANS ABROAD TALK OF SHOCK AND DISBELIEF AS HOMELAND IS INVADED ·

(Megan Specia’s article appeared in The New York Times, 2/24; Photo: back home, and expressed feelings of hopelessness. Ukrainians and supporters of Ukraine outside Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office in London on Thursday protesting Russia’s invasion.Credit…Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images.)

Across Europe, Ukrainian expatriates looked on in horror at the scenes of destruction

LONDON — Ukrainians living across Europe watched in horror and disbelief from afar on Thursday as Russia’s invasion of their home country began with shelling and rocket attacks in several cities.

Many shared feelings of helplessness as they received frantic calls from loved ones back home describing attacks nearby, instructing them what to do if they were killed in the conflict, or sending requests to empty bank accounts.

At protests in London on Thursday, some wept. Some fingered prayer beads. And many said they were determined to raise their voices and demand greater action by the world to end Russian aggression.

Yulia Tomashckuk, 29, wore sunglasses to shield her tears as she clutched a small Ukrainian flag. A village that neighbors her hometown in western Ukraine had been attacked, she said, news that her mother relayed to her by phone before dawn Thursday.

“I just felt I was useless sitting at home watching the news — here at least I can show there are people who support Ukraine, who are against war and who want Putin to be shown his place,” she said. “He needs to be stopped now.”

The Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, was the focus of much of the outrage.

Chants of “Putin, hands off Ukraine” and “U.K. support Ukraine” echoed from the crowd of hundreds that gathered outside Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office at 10 Downing Street on Thursday.

Even before Russian strikes on Ukraine began, Britain and the European Union earlier this week announced targeted sanctions against Moscow. On Thursday, Mr. Johnson announced new actions from Britain and its allies that included asset freezes on major banks and individuals, a ban on the Russian airline Aeroflot, and a ban on many technology exports to Russia.

Those who gathered near his office waved Ukrainian flags and demanded more stringent sanctions and broader actions from the West in response to Russian military action.

“I’m shocked, probably like everyone, because my family is still in Ukraine,” said Mariya Tymchyshyn, 30, who took time off work to join the protests. “We were panicked as well: We don’t know what to do. No one can be ready for this.”

Ms. Tymchyshyn’s family lives in the western part of Ukraine, away from the most fierce attacks, but she was worried for her grandparents, who as survivors of World War II have already lived through intense fighting in Ukraine.

“It’s probably the hardest part for us,” she said. “I was trying to calm down my grandmother, but she remembers being a child at that time and a bomb killed her mother. I want peace for all of us.”

Inna Tereshchuk, 26, who has lived in Britain for eight years, said her family members “are all scared for their lives.”

She is trying to remain strong for them.

“We don’t know how long they will be alive, what Putin has on his mind,” she said. “The whole world knows about it, and no one is doing anything.”

She was joined at the protest by her friend Alina Clarke, 25, whose family lives near Kyiv. Ms. Clarke spoke with her father, who vowed to stand his ground, telling her that he was not going anywhere and planned “to stay until the end.”

“I hope that in every city and town all over the world Ukrainians are going to come out and show that we are not afraid of Putin, and we want him to take his hands off our country,” Ms. Clarke said. “Ukraine has every right to exist.”

A small group also gathered at the Russian Embassy in northwest London, where a number of protests have been held in recent days, but by Thursday morning they had taken on a more somber tone. Among the handful who stood outside the embassy were a number of Russians denouncing their government’s actions.

Tatiana Rudayak, 46, a Russian-British woman who held a blue sign with the words “Stop the War” painted on in bright yellow paint, was keen to have her voice heard.

“I am here because my country has started a war, and I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t protest that,” she said. “I was fluctuating between despair and fury and this is the only thing I can do.”

Denis Zihiltsov, 34, who said he had not slept the night before, came to the embassy holding a sign in Russian that read, “I’m Russian and I demand you stop killing our brothers. Glory to Ukraine.”

“Its heartbreaking,” he said. “It’s killing people for nothing.”

The Belarus Free Theatre, one of Europe’s most acclaimed theater troupes, was rehearsing a play in an east London studio on Thursday, but all of its members were continually checking their phones for updates on the conflict.

Several of its members are Ukrainian and everyone knew someone trapped in the country.

Marichka Marczyk, at the rehearsals in London, said in a telephone interview that she’d just had a text exchange with her brother in Kyiv about what to do if he was killed in the conflict. “My will is simple,” he replied. “Burn my body/scatter the ashes,” adding: “All my riches to my kid.” Those riches include his honey bees.

Similar scenes played out in cities across Europe, where Ukrainian expatriates were grappling with the troubling news from their homeland. In Berlin’s Pariser Platz, hundreds of somber protesters wrapped themselves in Ukrainian flags.

(Read more)