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At one border crossing into Poland, those fleeing Ukraine are met with music


* More than 3 million people have fled Ukraine since Russia invaded. For the crowds that have streamed across the border at one Polish border crossing, they leave behind the air raid sirens and the sounds of war and are welcomed by this.



That's musician Davide Martello playing his baby grand piano at the Medyka border crossing, the busiest one between Ukraine and Poland. Martello is from Germany.

DAVIDE MARTELLO: I just came here in, like, 15 hours. I drove 15 hours. It's definitely better than staying at home in front of the TV and watching the news, you know?

SHAPIRO: So instead of watching the news, Martello headed towards it. He put his cat in the car.

MARTELLO: He's cool with everything, anyone, and he loves people.

SHAPIRO: He hitched up his piano and towed it those 15 hours. Then he parked it on the dirt at the sprawling aid station that has sprung up at Medyka, which is where Martello was when we reached him.

MARTELLO: I'm at my piano right now. I want to play something. What about "Imagine"?


SUMMERS: During the past few weeks, Martello has watched the aid station at Medyka grow.

MARTELLO: People are coming in. They need, like, food. They need clothes. Like, see all the clothes here?

SUMMERS: Behind him are piles of donated clothing and firewood. Volunteers pass out tea, food and toiletries. And Martello provides the music.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Singing) Maybe I've been here before. I've seen this room, and I've walked this floor. I used to live alone before I knew ya.

SHAPIRO: After crossing, people come to him with requests, like this duet sung by a woman bundled up in the cold. The notes drift through the air along with campfire smoke, adding what he hopes is a bit of warmth to people's welcome.

MARTELLO: They ask me, like, songs in Ukrainian, and I try to to play that. I'm trying to learn the songs, like, right away.

SHAPIRO: Martello says one of the most moving experiences of his life came recently when an elderly woman held a blanket over his head, protecting him from the snow.

MARTELLO: Like, I was playing yesterday, and she was singing with me, next to me and with the blanket on me, like - and it was snowing. That was a moment. That was, like, a crazy moment.


MARTELLO: Thank you.

SUMMERS: Martello says he's just not sure yet when he'll pack up and head home.

MARTELLO: If I would go back to Germany, I would be - man, what I'm doing here? People still need some positivity and some art, some music, you know? I mean, I wish there would be more musicians here, but I guess I'm the only one.

SUMMERS: And with that, Martello had to go.

MARTELLO: OK. So it was nice seeing you and talking to you, but I'm going to play some more.

SHAPIRO: People had gathered around the piano.

MARTELLO: Yeah, people are already - already waiting.

SHAPIRO: And Martello played.

(SOUNDBITE OF PIANO MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Amy Isackson