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Episode 49- The Role of Artists During War with Ukranian Violinist Kostia Lukyniuk

Creative Strings Podcasts
Creative Strings Podcast: Exploring Intersections Between Creativity, Music Education, String Playing, DIY Music Business, And Culture

On Today’s Episode…

Join us with Guest speaker Kostia Lukyniuk as he tells us about his current experiences as a Ukrainian violinist who recently returned to his home country after studying in the US.

22-yr old Ukrainian violinist Kostia just graduated from the prestigious Eastern School of Music this past December.  Last month, he auditioned for graduate school at the Frost School of Music in Miami. 

Just a few days ago he was in Kyiv.

Today he is in his family home in Western Ukraine, trying to make sense of his role as a man of legal age required to stay.

As an active gigging violinist who has gained an international following for his energetic pop videos as well as his fine classical playing, he has this message:

“I’m choosing to spread this message and uplift everybody’s spirits. Because I’m not good with a rifle, but I can play the violin”

Listen to our interview, recorded just yesterday on March 3rd, to hear more about his experiences and perspective as a young man trying to make sense of his role during uncertain times in his country.

Our discussion includes...

  • How Kostia ended up back in his home country right shortly before conflict broke out
  • The things Kostia’s seen and experienced in Ukraine since coming home
  • His perspective on his role in the current situation as a Ukrainian violinist with an international following.

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Chris: Hello, and welcome to the creative strings podcast. I’m Christian Howes violinist educator, and music business entrepreneur. I hope these interviews will inspire you to be creative in your life, in your art, in your business in every way.

So without further ado, let’s get to it.

In this special edition of the creative strings podcast, you’ll hear from young Ukrainian violinist Kostia Lukyniuk 22 years old, and he is sharing his perspective on the events unfolding in Ukraine. It’s March 3rd.

Kostia: (speaking Ukrainian). Hey, Chris you hear me well.

Chris: Yes. Awesome. Awesome. So Kostia are you safe right now?

Kostia: Yes, now I actually am. I just recently, yesterday, I made it back to my hometown which is one of the most Western regions in Ukraine. It’s our region is bordering with Romania, so I am definitely safer.

Chris: Okay. And what is it like there on, on the ground for you, for your family?

What has been happening for the last couple of days? Cause I know you were in Kyiv and what do you want people to know?

Kostia: Yeah, so yeah, I just made it back from Kyiv where I was there at the start of it and just until a couple of days ago and. I saw a lot of, a lot of different action and I heard it and I just wanted everybody to know that this is like real war stuff going on in our streets.

Like I was walking around you know, pretty much the 20-minute walk from my apartment, my former apartment that I had in Kyiv, I saw like melted down tanks, you know, and like Russian military machinery and stuff like that. And obviously everywhere, everywhere you go, like every single, maybe like quarter mile, there are checkpoints with military personnel, you know, and tanks and stuff like that.

Everybody checking your passport, you know, making sure you’re not. Some sort of a part of some sort of like diversion group center with weapons, because I’ve seen those. You know, I’ve seen our you know, the people at the checkpoint detain a diversion group, you know, find a bunch of weaponry in there, you know, and just I seen those people, you know, getting detained and like standing on their knees, you know, facing the wall, you know, facing repercussions.

We know we can hear automatic rounds, you know, going off, you know, like active warfare sounds. And for me, I mean, I pretty much. Safe in there for the most part, but you know, you never know what’s going to happen, you know, and especially now, since the Russian army is running out of rockets, they’re like starting to hit like a lot of important targets, you know, and they don’t care about like civilian deaths or anything like that.

And yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s horrible what’s going on? You know, the civilian deaths last time I saw it was over 2000. People who are civilians who died and just in these, in this week, you know, and we’ve had less military loss, you know, than that. Although they have had a lot of military personnel and machinery loss, you know, they were not expecting this, you know because.

Our people, we have everything to fight for, you know, it’s our land and we’re we feel very like we’re very patriotic nation. So there’s a lot of people who want to defend it.

Chris: And do you mind if I ask, how old are you?

Kostia: I’m 22.

Chris: 22, right. And I know that you recently graduated from Eastman conservatory.

Kostia: Yeah.

Chris: I was just wondering. And, you know, please forgive me if it’s, if it’s you don’t have to answer anything, but I was just wondering, because you know, I’ve heard that all Ukrainian men between the age of, I don’t know, 18 and 60 or something are, are supposed to stay in Ukraine. So what, what are, what do you feel like you’re expected to do or, or, or have they made it clear?

Like, I mean, not just for a violinist or a musician, but what, what is you know, what is the role for, for all the men? What is the expectation for, for men like you, who are, who are, and I know, and I understand that you, you willingly went to Ukraine, you were in the United States and you, you went there.

So Yeah. Do you want to speak to that or not?

Kostia: Yeah. So my situation is kind of like this. It’s not like I wanted per se to go back, you know, even though I do miss my country, I had no choice because since I graduated Eastman my student visa, So, and I stayed in the U S until the very last day that I could, which was, you know, given they gave me like 60 days after my last days of school, which was December 12th.

So from December, on February 12th, I made it back to Ukraine, you know, on February 24th, everything started, you know, and I wasn’t even, you know, I was really looking forward to having my own place. You know, I rented a place in Kao and I was really looking forward to just like settling down a little bit.

You know, I’m getting to know the city and making some connections there. But I wasn’t even in there for not much, you know, because I was traveling around, you know, setting up different concerts and that’s what I was excited to do. And I had multiple different locations and fill out concerts in Philharmonic halls set up.

But, you know, unfortunately everything kind of fell off, you know, and right now it’s true that, you know, all of the men 18 to 60, we can’t leave. And I don’t know what the expectation for us is, you know, especially for people who are, have no combat training obviously, and see like me, you know, and I know that right now, you know, I’m doing everything I can, you know, I’m trying to uplift their spirit through music, you know, and I’m also trying to share important information about my country through music, you know me and my brother, we recorded a video and it kind of, you know, for me, it kind of blew up on Facebook, you know? And so and what I did was I included a link with all of the different charities and petitions to sign and stuff like that.

So it got like 4,000 shares and you’re on everybody who shares it, shares that link, you know, and I’m asking to support our country and the army, you know, and everything. I think I have that platform. I’ve also been kind of bombarded with different people from the news, you know, local Rochester news and Florida news, who wants to talk to me about this situation?

And I am so grateful that I’m given and I’m grateful to you that I’m given this opportunity to share. This about my country, you know, that is just being, being destroyed right now. You know, and for me, I am not really a soldier, even though when I was younger, you know, I was fascinated the military stuff and stuff like that, but I’m not really a soldier.

And I know that I have a different role, you know, I have this platform that was given to me and I, I’m still very young, you know, sort of continue grow my platform, you know, and continue playing all over the world, you know? And then people say, you know, where are you from? Where did you learn how to play this?

You know what I’m saying? I’m from Ukraine, you know, and I’m letting everybody know that, you know, this is, this is where I’m from and I’m proud to be cranium and share my culture. And I think that’s my role rather than, you know, trying to take an, a gun right now and get killed. And I think a lot of people, you know, and especially a lot of.

Right now have their own roles, you know, and I think if all of the men were just leave everything that they worked for and they leave their jobs and go fight the country would just collapse because we have like men working everywhere, you know, may have men politicians, you know drivers, bus drivers, train drivers.

I just took a train. You know, if that driver, you know, went in and got killed, you know, I wouldn’t be able to take a train, you know? So it’s like all of these things there, everybody has a role, you know, and, and you know, I, I I want to speak on that because, you know Throughout all of these messages of support.

Sometimes I’m getting, you know, messages like, oh, why do you have your violin in your hands? You should put it down, you know, pick up a rifle and go fight. You know? And that is just kind of hurtful to me because, you know, there’s plenty of men who just choose not to fight and they have nothing else better to do.

You know, on me, I’m choosing to sort of use everything that I have, you know, to spread this message and, and uplift everybody’s spirits, you know, not kind of in any selfish way or anything like that, but kind of working for the greater good, like however I can, you know, because I’m not good with a rifle, but I’m, you know, I can play the violin.

And, and also I have this platform that I have, you know, with some connections, you know, outside, you know, I just have. An article written by this amazing writer in Rochester for Democrat and Chronicle. And they actually included this very, very important bit of history that I’m telling everybody and not many reporters actually reported.

He was the only one who included it. And it was a, it was a part about the Budapest memorandum it’s documents that Ukraine signed in 1994 with the Russia UK and the US. And at that, at that time in 1994 and 1991 is when we gained our independence in 1994. We had the third largest amount of nuclear power in the world, out of all the countries, we were a third largest.

And so, we signed this document with UK and Russia that we would give up our nuclear weapons and all of our nuclear arsenal. And now we’re dealing with this problem that everybody knew that Russia is aggressive and the, you know, and kind of, you know, off their rocket. So they just wanna conquer land, you know, because they’ve done this for a long time, you know, they took a part of Moldova and I think in the early 2000s, they also took a part of Georgia an independent country in 2008.

So it’s, you know, it’s an aggressive country and and, you know, I feel the trend since 2014, you know, for us, it’s, it’s been a reality since 2014, since I was a little kid, you know, a teenager we’ve had war, you know, on my dad has been to the war zone in the east, multiple times has been bringing, you know, like shells and stuff like that as souvenirs, you know, and telling us like, you know, cause he’s, he’s a priest.

My dad is a priest. So he works as a military sort of. And yeah, so it’s, it’s just unfair that it happened to my country and I’m grateful that I have this voice and I think that’s their role of any musician, you know, in a time of crisis is, you know, to sort of amplify the message, you know, and Maybe sort of share all of these perspectives, you know, that other people might not have heard about, you know, because we have our own audiences to be gathered somehow, you know?

And so and it’s great for me, you know, because, you know, since people know me and my music a little bit in different parts of the world, they’re reaching out and supporting my country. And so for me, yeah. Unfortunately I know that I would not, you know, take up a rifle and would not go and you know, fight off Russians, you know, because it would be a very, very high chance for me to just get killed off right away, because I have no training.

And you know, I admit to that even cleaned it rifle. But but I can, you know, play the violin and do this and talk, you know, and I, I have something that I’ve been working on my whole life, you know, learning another language, which is like the most used international language. And, you know, perfecting my violin skills and, you know, making some connections.

And I’m just so grateful that I’m able to use that, to let the world see what’s going on and done and how to just get rid of it. Because, you know, it’s a very scary situation. As I said, you know, this, this, this country and their leader, they’re very, very aggressive. You know, they’ve been taking parts of different countries for.

For quite some time now. And they feel just invincible doing this.

Chris: It strikes me that, you know, you worked very hard to, to develop your audience or relationship with an audience. You worked very hard to come to America and study at the Eastman conservatory music graduate. I mean, It doesn’t feel like something that was just given to you because you’ve talked about how your platform was given to you.

And I just, I find myself yeah, inspired by what you’re saying. And, you know, I saw some of the videos that you’ve been putting up and I want to make sure we, we let people know so that they can go here and see the videos that you’ve made with your brother and some of the others, because what strikes me is that Seeing you play the violin and hearing you talk and seeing you wearing, you know, the Ukrainian all puts a very human face on, on your culture and your country that otherwise people wouldn’t know, they would just hear a word Ukraine, you know, and, but, but to hear you play Ukrainian folk songs and to watch you and to see you.

I think it’s a way to, to tell a story in a deeper way. And, and maybe the, as they say, the, the battle of hearts and minds is a big part of it. So is there a striking me here? And you talk about that. About your role as a musician and, and how you have been able to develop relationships with people around the world and get a global perspective because you have traveled, you have learned other languages.

That’s a lot of work. You put into all that at just the age of 22 and where can people find these videos? I just want them to be able to hear it. How can they follow you on social, on Facebook and Instagram? What do they do.

Kostia: You guys can follow me. You just need to know my name. K O S T I A, Kostia and violin.

So you just type in Kostia violin and in Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, I’m trying to put out videos. I’m going to try to put out more videos now, since I’m in a safer place. I have I have some, some plans, you know, it’s, it’s not really possible right now to make massive events since and mass events in general.

Since everybody is on edge, but we’re going to try, because my, since my region here is so close to Europe and it’s like the smallest region and we really don’t have much infrastructure. So we haven’t been bombed at all. We are like one of the very few regions of Ukraine that haven’t been bombed at all.

And so a lot of people are fleeing here. So we have a lot, a lot of refugees from Kyiv and from all other Eastern part. And we have a lot of problems that comes with it, you know and that’s children and he does most of it. You know, it’s families who are fleeing. And so we have a lot of little children who are growing up in the stress, you know, and right now I’m trying to set up some small private sort of performances for the kids to sort of a.

Just, you know, get their mind off of all of this, you know, because kids are growing up here, you know, the ages of three, four, knowing what rocket means, you know, and what, you know, shooting means, you know, and stuff like that. And I it just breaks my heart, seeing kids, you know, go through that, you know, because it’s, it’s a new generation.

They’ve already been going through two years of like lockdowns and you know, all of that stuff, you know, so for me I, I just want to do something that I can, you know, and, and, and say, you know, anybody else could probably go out and guard something or help move something from one place to another.

But to do this intricate thing, like play music, you know, I kind of touch people’s hearts. That’s what we’ve been trained to doing on. I think I should use it right now. We have other things, you know, that I’m trying to do right now, because I have this connection to Rochester where I’ve made a lot of, a lot of really great friends, you know, and they’re all, they all know me and they all know that I’m Ukrainian and everybody’s reaching out to me, you know, and they’re trying to set up some, you know, fundraising concerts.

And, you know, to help me, but, you know, I don’t really need help right now. There is some, so I contacted some local politicians today and we were trying to figure out like local local issues that need help. You know, right now we have 29 pregnant women who were fleeing from a you know, like a pregnancy clinic, you know, there were about to like give birth, but it got hit.

So we got hit with a bomb in Kyiv so they’re fleeing. They, they they’ve made here all the way. You know, it’s, it’s a, it’s a long, long road, but they made it here and some of them already gave birth and some of them are like about to be due. So it’s like a lot of the things. You know, a lot of people are giving money to the army and that’s awesome.

You know, people shouldn’t be doing that, but I’m trying to find these like local problems that I can inject the support right away. Maybe not even money, like go and buy supplies or whatever they need. So I’m trying to set up this. This connection between Rochester and me from where people are, you know, they can, you know, create these massive events or something like that.

And they can, can raise funds and I’m trying to figure out the best way to spend them right here.

Chris: So people reach out to Kostia on I just want to make sure everybody’s got it. K O S T I A, KOSTIA and KOSTIA violin. That’s that’s his handle. Find them on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook. We’re going to have audio as well as video of this out there, coaches.

So that’s why I’m, I’m just spelling it. K O S T I A Kostia violin. That’s his handle. Yeah, that’s that, that’s a brilliant idea. It strikes me that you’re, you’re trying to, you know, provide some some refuge, I guess, for, for the children and for, and just something to make people feel human really, during this, what’s gotta be an alienating, fearful experience for so many.

And that to me goes back to what you were saying about what is the role of a, of a musician and it’s to, to, to remind people that we’re human, I think, especially in an environment. Wor which I’ve never been in. And I don’t, I don’t understand, but I can only imagine. And I just want to say I’m really proud to know you and really you know, so impressed with what you’re doing, you know and I want to support you in it and, and just, you know, I believe that the world wants to support you crane.

And I’d like to believe that the world will step up. To support you Ukraine. So yeah. Thank you for what you’re doing, you know, for, for your people in Ukraine and for your local community and for spreading the word. If I could make an, you can just shut me down if you want custody yet, but if I can make her, cause we talk about this stuff all the time, I’ve known you for a long time, but, but if I could make a recommendation, it would be.

Play more of those folk songs, man, because the one I saw the folk song, you play with your brother and the video, it was so inspiring. And I feel like if you made like more and more of those folk songs and you put those videos out, I think like you’ll inspire so many people. So that’s just for whatever it’s worth.

I think you’re in the right direction, man.

Kostia: Thank you. Thank you. We’ll definitely be doing more of that. Definitely.

Chris: What else do you want people to know? Right.

Kostia: I want you guys to know that you should focus on whatever, you know, you do best and try to perfect it and try to spend all your time to perfect it.

So then, then you don’t regret that you didn’t spend that time and didn’t spend it right. And I love something that you said, Chris. It, it has changed my life after I, I heard you say this phrase it was about seven people with what you do. And it’s so simple. And now for me, it just seems like, you know, second nature, but, you know, I didn’t know really about it.

And so I’m, I think in, in any situation, you know, there’s always great situations in the world, but there’s always adversity, you know, anywhere in the world, you know, obviously you guys might not feel it there, but you know, there’s, there’s always been more, you know, there’s unfortunately, Doesn’t stop anywhere in the world, even for one day.

Unfortunately that’s just the world that we live in. And I think, I think, you know, I think people should just, you know, come together. Use their talents to to create better things and not, you know, not follow hurtful, all the evil sins, you know, like greed and and you know, self selfishness and stuff like that, you know, because that’s where it all comes from.

You know, now somebody wants to take my land, you know, and it probably came from him wanting to take somebody. Apple, you know, so I, I just wanna, you know, give out like, and sort of like a general message that, you know, I hope everybody is sort of amplifying what’s good in them. And trying to shut down everything that’s sort of like evil and trying to corrupt them.

Chris: I think that’s a beautiful message. And I think it’s amazing. At this moment, you’re able to tap into that message. That’s incredibly inspiring to me. You’re an inspiration to me. I want you to know you’re in my thoughts and my prayers, all your family. And. All of your, all the people in your country. Thank you for what you’re doing, man.

I hope that you get a lot of sleep in the midst of all this, because if you can’t get rest, you’re not going to be able to, you know, I just want you to try to get as much rest as you can. And please reach out to me. Let me know if I can help with anything.

Kostia: Chris. Thank you so much. You’ve been an inspiration for me for a long, long time.

You’ve changed my life and I really, really appreciate this conversation right now. And I hope everybody who’s hearing it is. You know, we’ll take on something for themselves. And if you can please find ways to support our country right now in in this crisis, if you can find ways to support our army there, a lot of different, you know, official charities and whatever.

And. Or you can reach out to me if you want to help my local people right here in this town, which a lot of with refugees. So I appreciate you guys appreciate Chris for letting me speak and we’ll keep in touch.

Chris: Okay. And everybody don’t forget. Just go follow Kostia violin. All of his handles YouTube, Instagram.

All right. Be well, brother.

Kostia: Thank you.

Chris: Thanks for listening today to the creative strings podcast, by all means, reach out to Kostia at his handle Kostia_Violin on the main social media pages. look at our show notes at creativestrings.org or christianhowes.com or on anchor. And you can find the links to that Kostia mentioned below as well.  

I do want to thank our sponsors, electric violin, shop electric violin, shop.com for all things, electric strings and. Yamaha supports creative string players who want to thank our sponsors for supporting this. I want to thank you for listening and wishing you peace wherever you are.

About Our Guest...

Kostia  Lukyniuk is a December 2021 graduate of Eastman School of Music, winner of multiple international competitions and prestigious awards – is a multi-genre violinist, recording artist, and a leader of several successful bands in America. He performs a wide variety of music around the world, always engaging the audience by playing from his heart and soul.

​Kostia breathes new life into a centuries-old instrument, giving it his own unique sound which resonates with people of all ages. In every performance he gives it his all, bringing passion, joy, and energy that doesn’t leave anyone unaffected.

He is also a citizen of Ukraine and is currently living through the events there.  He asks that people visit: https://quip.com/SxBaALA94uQf/Ukraine-at-War

He can also be found on Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, and at Kostiaviolin.com

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Christian Howes presents the Creative Strings Podcast:
Exploring intersections between creativity, music education, string playing, DIY music business, and culture.

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