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Democracy

Young girl singing 'Let It Go' in a Kyiv bomb shelter becomes a powerful anti-war symbol

Young girl singing 'Let It Go' in a Kyiv bomb shelter becomes a powerful anti-war symbol

Amelia wowed the people in her Kyiv bomb shelter with her singing. Now her voice is ringing around the world.

In the second week of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the world watches the coverage of it with horror. We see scenes of bombed-out buildings, streets filled with rubble and debris, and desperate Ukrainians attempting to flee the violence. The beautiful capital city of Kyiv has, so far, remained under Ukrainian control but is being shelled by Russian forces and battles are being waged in the streets.

Some families have fled the city while others have holed up in shelters and bunkers, trying to stay safe. It's a hard reality to imagine, as two weeks ago Ukrainians were just going along, living their lives in the bustling, artsy metropolis, going out to dinner, enjoying walks in the park, meeting up for playdates. Now the very concept of "living life" has been turned upside-down. Now it's literally about survival.

But even in a shelter in a war zone, beauty persists. One of the most miraculous things about human beings is that we create and express ourselves through art, even in the most tragic of circumstances. The arts have a way of rushing our humanity to the forefront, reminding us that we are made not just to exist, but to live full, rich lives.

And when that reminder comes from a child, it's even more potent, which is why a video of a young girl singing in a crowded shelter in Kyiv is being shared widely.


In a video that appears to have been taken by Marta Smekhova, a little girl named Amelia stands smiling in the middle of a room full of people before opening her mouth to sing. As soon as people hear her voice, they fall silent—even a baby who was fussing just seconds before.

According to the Facebook translation of her post shared on March 3, Smekhova had been painting with a boy and a girl in the bomb shelter "to somehow decorate this not so happy place," and the girl was "so friendly, so talkative." The girl, named Amelia, told Smekhova that besides drawing, she loved to sing. Then she whispered that her dream was to sing on a big stage in front of an audience.

"So what's the matter?" Smekhova asked her. "Do you see how many people are here? That's what you sing for!"

Amelia told her it was loud and she wouldn't be heard, but Smekhova convinced her to try. So she did.

From the first word out of her mouth, the people in the shelter stopped to listen. "Everyone put their business aside to listen to a song by this girl who was just beaming light…even men couldn't hold back the tears," she wrote. "Amelia, your singing left no one indifferent."

Indeed, Amelia's sweet, clear voice ringing out touches something inside all of us. In that place and under those circumstances, especially, watching a darling little girl with two missing teeth singing her heart out is heart-rending. It's a powerful reminder of what's at stake in this war—and in any war.

The video has been shared far and wide on social media, including by Idina Menzel, the actress and singer who played Elsa in "Frozen" and sang the iconic theme song.

"We see you," she wrote in her Twitter share of the video. "We really, really see you."

Not that we needed yet another reminder, but Amelia's bomb shelter performance illustrates the real costs of war—the innocent dreams of children, the opportunity to hone their gifts and talents to shine their unique light on the world, the potential wrapped up in every person whose lives get cut short by the guns and the bombs and the insatiable hunger for power.

And it reminds us, yet again, that that cost is far too high.

This story first appeared on the author's Medium and is reprinted here with permission.

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