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“Music is our strength” say talented musical family

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By Natalya Krasnenkova

A friend sent me a video of five violinist girls playing on the streets of Killarney - the girls were Ukrainian, there was no doubt about that.

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Sofia Yershova. Photo: Alex Homenko

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First, they played the well-known melody of the Ukrainian composer Myroslav Skoryk, and secondly, they were dressed in blue and yellow concert dresses - the colours of the Ukrainian flag. Their quintet sounded very well-played and professional, the music performed by the little violinists was mesmerising. I watched this video over and over again. Who are these mysterious girls? So, I started looking for them.

Through Facebook, I found their mother, Olena Yershova. The girls turned out to be sisters: Ksenia (17), Yevlalia (15), Olena (13), Natalka (10), and Sofiyka (6).

We invited the Yershov family to perform in Killarney on the Independence Day of Ukraine on August 24. The girls graced the concert at the ANAM Cultural Centre, where they performed the national anthem of Ukraine, and many classical, folk and modern pieces by Ukrainian composers. All the locals were especially moved by the national anthem of Ireland which the little musicians performed at the end of event. The parts for all instruments were written by the eldest daughter, Ksenia, and their mom and the girls rehearsed the entire programme for the concert in literally two weeks.

"In Ireland, we are carried as if on wings"

The Yershovy sisters, together with their mother Olena and father Maxim, moved to Ireland in March of this year. It was here that their little brother Yaroslav was born three months ago. Now there are six children in the family. Five of them play music: violin, viola, and cello.

The Yershovy family lived in Sevastopol, a city on the shores of the Black Sea in southern Ukraine. Maxim's father was a military naval officer. He was once the best foreign student at the Royal Naval Academy in Britain. Olena's mother used to play music herself, so she encouraged her daughter to play instruments from an early age. Girls learned to play the violin before they could speak. It seemed that they were born already with tools in their hands. Although in reality, behind all achievements there was work, mother's support and good teachers who developed the children's talents.

In 2014, everything changed. Russia annexed Crimea (the southern peninsula) of Ukraine and the family of a military officer were in danger. The Yershovys urgently left their home in Sevastopol and came to Odessa, another sea city that belongs to Ukraine. Their life had to start over, but the first thing their mother found was a music school for her daughters. The future housing had to meet only one critera - it had to be close to the music school.

There the girls had up to five music lessons a week. Daniel Hope, a famous British violinist of Irish, German and Jewish origin, visited the Odessa school more than once. He played with the Yershovy sisters and gave them masterclasses.

However, this year the family had to leave their home again. Olena was already expecting her sixth child at that time. Fate, and the father's friends, decided where the little one would be born. They helped send the large Yershovy family to Ireland and surrounded them with care and support. Olena recalls that they had very few things when they arrived in Ireland but people immediately joined in helping. Friends of the family even created a joint chat where they discussed all the current tasks and possible solutions.

The family currently lives in a quiet house near Listowel with a small garden and a greenhouse, surrounded by a forest - all that Olena dreamed of.

"I have the feeling that someone is carrying me here as if in their arms. In Ireland I constantly feel support from different people. Miracles often happen here, as soon as I think about something, the necessary things appear as if by themselves," Olena tells me.

Violins cannot exist without violins

Arriving in Ireland, the Yershova sisters had no instruments and sheet music, and could not continue playing. And music for them is life. Once the sisters went for a walk, and when they returned, there were two violins lying in the yard. Someone found out that the sisters were musicians and brought instruments. Then the rumour about the little musicians spread and people started bringing violins, violas and even a cello for the youngest Sofia. It was a real miracle, now the house of the Yershovy is filled with music and the coziness and feeling of home reigned there again.

One day, Ksenia, the eldest daughter, was sent a gift. Opening the package, she saw a viola there and it was just the one that was needed! In the package was a touching note from the relatives of the musician, Miriam Owens, who died of cancer six months ago. Relatives decided to present the instrument to a viola player from Ukraine. The instrument from Miriam Owens lives on.

Concert costumes in the colours of the Ukrainian and Irish flags, in which I saw in the video, their mother ordered in an online store. Now the quintet also have great dresses. The Yershovy sisters are being invited to perform at various festivals. Little by little, the girls have become stars. They gladly respond to all invitations, continue rehearsals and classes. And soon they will all also attend classes at the Cork School of Music. They are ready to walk this path in order to improve their skills. Also, for professional lessons, violinists collect funds which also helps in the purchase of new instruments and weekly trips. See Facebook: alenushka12345, the page of Olena's mother, if you would like to help.

The mother of this family, Olena, is an extremely bright, optimistic woman, she smiles all the time. I think that she is the fire of the family, from which the girls' talent unfolds. My last question takes her back to that day when the girls were playing in the streets of Killarney.

"Why did you decide to play a concert on the street that day?" I ask Olena.

"First, we wanted to celebrate the birth of our son, and secondly, we donated all the money we collected that day to the purchase of tactical headphones for the Ukrainian military," she said.

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30 years of Innisfallen Island MassThe annual special concelebrated Mass on Innisfallen Island takes place next week.

Next Friday (June 21), members of the public are invited to attend the Mass taking place at 6.30pm. Now in its 30th year, the Mass was originally an idea by […]

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Next Friday (June 21), members of the public are invited to attend the Mass taking place at 6.30pm.

Now in its 30th year, the Mass was originally an idea by Geoffrey O’Donoghue who sadly died four years after it began.

“There was an Augustinian Monastery on Innisfallen Island and the people, including priests and monks and they say Brian Boro, went out there to study. The lake, Lough Lein is called ‘The Lake of Learning’,” said his wife Mary who carries on the tradition in his memory.

“My husband Geoffrey was a descendent of the O’Donoghues and he wanted to have Mass on the island. The O’Donoghues built Ross Castle and owned the lands and the lake surrounding it which was later donated by John McShane to the people of Killarney. He [Geoffrey] asked one of the friars and one day he got a call from the OPW that there would be a plaque unveiled to John McShane and they asked if the Mass could coincide with it. It was attended by Sr Pauline, John McShane’s daughter.”

She added that all the public are welcome to attend. Boats, which will have a nominal fee to cover their costs, will be carrying passengers out from 4pm onwards.

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Photo of “hidden gem” wins Camera Club’s latest competition

A photograph of one of Killarney’s hidden beauty spots was deemed the winner of Killarney Camera Club’s most recent competition. Th standard was high throughout all categories but in the […]

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A photograph of one of Killarney’s hidden beauty spots was deemed the winner of Killarney Camera Club’s most recent competition.

Th standard was high throughout all categories but in the Novice category, Iryna Halaieva’s photograph of O’Sullivan’s Cascade was deemed the winner.

“A waterfall is my favourite waterbody and long exposure is my favourite photographic technique,” she said. “I do my best to have as many waterfalls as possible in my photo collection. I heard a lot about O’Sullivan’s Cascade and wanted to visit that hidden gem of Kerry. So, shortly before our club competition I went with a friend to Tomies Wood to photograph it. It was a dream come true for me.”

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