April 24, 2022
I am grateful to my parents for their perseverance—more specifically, for their desire to teach me to play the piano. They were very consistent with that. At the age of six I had to go to music school five times a week. I admire kids who could tolerate something like that, at least I couldn’t. When elementary school was added, I explained to my mom and dad that both would be too much for me. That was the end of music school for now.
But my parents did not give up, after a year they found a private music teacher. I only had to see her on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which wasn’t bad. She believed in me and my talent, although, frankly, I was not a diligent student.
Sasha’s old school has a big hole in the middle
As a kid, I found music boring and the pieces I had to play dumb. Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Schubert – they left me feeling cold. My teacher Bella Abramovna was kind, but I said goodbye to her after a few years. However, my mother did not give up. The search for the perfect piano teacher continued until I came across Boris Yuryevich. He was completely different from any teacher I had the privilege of knowing before him. He seemed relaxed and laughed a lot, and what especially impressed me during the first lesson: he could play anything on the piano – even without the notes. I mean everything!
I was 13 and fell in love with the Beatles and Stones, and my grandfather gave me three Beatles records for my birthday. I listened to them again and again and dreamed that I could play some of them on the piano, but neither the Kharkiv music schools, nor Bella Abramovna could offer me this. But Boris Yuryevich – horn-rimmed glasses, a mustache, a smile – was known for writing notes to his own students. Then we learned how to do that, too. For this I was willing to drive to Saltivka, although that would mean a 40-minute drive with changes. But it was worth it!
Saltivka is a residential district in the north-east of Kharkiv, where about a third of the city’s population lives. It looked just like Oleksiyivka, where my parents and I lived – a turnkey apartment complex built in the seventies, nine to sixteen floors, and plenty of green space in between. I used to walk to Boris Yuryevich from the Stolzka metro station. When I had the time, I would go to the library nearby, there was a section with used books where I always found great old things.
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When I was 15, I had a girlfriend who lived two blocks away. I would go to her sometimes after music lessons. She had a shocking blue record, the record with a blue cover, we locked ourselves in her room, turned on the record, turned up the volume and made it. I guess her parents weren’t cheerful, maybe they didn’t like it.
Andriy and Sascha, who have been my best friends for the past two school years, also come from Saltivka. They both went to the same school they thought was unpleasant, and in 1990 they moved to ours.
For the past two months, I have seen daily photos of Saltivka, which has been under constant fire since the first day of the war. Sasha, who has lived in New York for many years, recently sent me a picture of his school – with a big gap in the middle. There was a Kyiv photographer I follow on Instagram last week who claims that this residential area has become a smaller version of Mariupol within Kharkiv.
Another old friend who lives there and has converted his own basement into a shelter for several families from the neighborhood wrote me a message today on WhatsApp when I asked how the situation was near the Stolzka metro station: “Actually there is hardly any north of Saltivka anymore.”
Read more parts of the diary here: