Musician wants ‘Our Place in Time’ to be a global tribute song for Ukraine



Back in February, Mike Wolf watched in horror as videos of bombs raining down in Ukraine flooded his television screen. Wolf sat in front of his piano to channel his emotions and, within minutes, his hands were creating a song.

“I was watching my hands compose it. I wasn’t doing the work. It was like my hands had a life of their own. My brain wasn’t in it, but my heart sure was,” Wolf, 76, told The Washington Post. Though the business owner and composer had no personal connection to the war raging nearly 5,000 miles from his home in Wisconsin, he decided he had to do something — anything — to support Ukraine.

The result was “Our Place in Time,” a ballad in which hope, joy, grief and anguish collide, he said.

“It’s all of these emotions that everyone in the world can relate to,” Wolf said. “We’ve heard about conflict and division for so long, and I just thought, ‘what’s happening in Ukraine is so treacherous that if we forget, shame on the world.’ This is my attempt at making sure that doesn’t happen.”

Now, Wolf said, his plan is to enlist artists from across the globe to sing “Our Place in Time” in unison. A chance online encounter led him to his first partners, who were far from both Wisconsin and Ukraine.

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Rafael Rico, a songwriter and music producer in Caracas, Venezuela, has yet to meet Wolf in person. But he was so moved by Wolf’s vision for his song that he set out to find the right singer to launch the global project.

“I knew we needed to get someone with the right type of voice for it — something angelic and with these sort of Disney music vibes,” Rico said.

That led him to contact Mariana Thielen, a Venezuelan radio anchor who began singing when she “was in diapers,” and has gained a social media following for her Disney song covers. Thielen, 23, said her response was an immediate and resounding “yes.”

“Music has this universality to it that everyone understands,” Thielen said. “Even if you don’t speak the language or don’t know music theory, you can still relate to what you’re hearing. That’s why it’s so powerful and that’s why I knew I really wanted to sing this song.”

For Thielen, seeing millions of Ukrainians forced to flee hit close to home — and singing a song that asks “Where are all our people now? Where did they go?” felt personal. Though Venezuela isn’t caught in a war, the South American country is facing one of the largest immigration crises in the world. According to United Nations figures, many of the world’s refugees are from Ukraine and Venezuela — with displaced people from each nation surpassing 7 million.

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The chance to sing Wolf’s tribute to Ukraine also felt like a way “to highlight all the talent that exists in Venezuela,” she said.

Rico and Thielen spent about five months recording a track and video for “Our Place in Time,” sending updates to Wolf, who was supervising from afar. The video was shot in the Teatro Nacional in Caracas, a 117-year-old landmark theater, and was released on YouTube last month.

Scenes from the Teatro Nacional’s gilded rotunda are juxtaposed with imagery from Ukraine. An orchestra plays inside the dimly lit theater, where Thielen performs in a flowing red dress.

In one scene, Thielen raises her arms, resembling the angel atop Kyiv’s Independence Monument. It’s a moment that, in a way, symbolizes the relationship between Venezuela and Ukraine, Rico said.

“Back in 2014 both our countries were fighting for democracy,” he said, recalling the videos of Ukrainians showing solidarity for Venezuela at the time. Now, he said, they can show their solidarity for Ukraine.

With the English version of the song already released, Wolf, the composer, said he has enlisted people from Australia, Mexico and Japan to sing their own renditions. A woman also sent him a Ukrainian edition, which he hopes will inspire those defending their nation, he said.

“I want people to hear it at least one time,” he said. “And I hope that Ukraine is ingrained in their hearts and minds after listening to this song.”

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