A SERIES of charity concerts were held across north Essex to mark the two-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The ‘words and music festivals’ – which included Kyiv classic accordion and spoken poetry – also honoured the death of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny who died earlier this month.

The first free festival took place on Thursday, February 22, at the Electric Palace Theatre in Harwich, with the first act being Igor Saenko, one part of the ‘Kyiv Classic Accordion Duo’.

Another festival took place on Saturday, February 24, at St Michael's Church in Manningtree. 

Harwich and Manningtree Standard: Powerful - Igor Saenko Powerful - Igor Saenko (Image: Len - Church warden)

This was followed by British poet and literary critic Joe Winter reading the five-part poem Singing in Mariupol.

Harwich and Manningtree Standard: Poet - Joe WinterPoet - Joe Winter (Image: Len - Church warden)

Speaking at the opening of the Thursday night concert, organiser Tony Elliston said: “We in Harwich with our Ukraine support project, UK Aid, and TEECH, have been supporting Ukraine for the past two years, by taking aid to Ukraine.

“The aim of this concert is to raise money for the fuel, to help us get there.”

Yulia Haylett, a Harwich resident of several years and one of the charity’s trustees, explained that as well as marking the anniversary of the war, she wanted to pay tribute to Alexie Navalny.

Yulia in her speech said: “I don’t expect the Ukrainian community to mourn the opposition leader, but this is also very personal to me.”

Harwich and Manningtree Standard: Speaker- Yulia Haylett Speaker- Yulia Haylett (Image: Newsquest)

Yulia revealed she had met Alexei several times, working with him and his team in the past, and that though he was “not perfect” he corrected mistakes.

Yulia added: “Alexei was undoubtedly fighting for free and prosperous Ukraine, but he was fighting for free and prosperous Russia, fighting against one of the worst regimes in the world and he lost his life in this fight.”

Over £1000 was raised in the concerts in Harwich and Brantham - being about £1400 when including gift-aid donations.

To find out more about the aid provided by the Harwich Ukraine Support Project click here.