Violinist Anastasia Poludenna: “Until we undergo treatment, we are allergic to Russian culture”

Anastasia Poludenna is a violinist, graduate student of the Department of Theory and History of Culture of the National Music Academy of Ukraine. In addition, Nastya is my classmate. In the first days of the war, we, like everyone else, exchanged the most common question in the chat “how are you?”. Then Nastya wrote about her plans to join the ranks of Kyiv’s territorial defense and invited me to her cozy telegram channel “for their own”, in which she periodically answers all her friends to the only question that worries everyone – “how are you?”. Eventually, as Russian troops left the outskirts of Kyiv, there was an opportunity to communicate by voice. It was an almost two-hour warm conversation that we are sharing with you today.

I would like to start by telling you about yourself by February 24. What did you do, who were you?

Who I was… I was anyone, so to speak. Of course, I am a professional musician. I have dedicated almost my entire life to academic music as a performer. I am a violinist, who graduated with a bachelor’s and master’s degree from the National Music Academy of Ukraine. I entered the postgraduate course at the Department of Theory and History of Culture, because I was interested in scientific activities and culturological, not musicological aspects of research in the environment in which I was all my conscious life (from 6 years). My parents are musicians, my brother is a musician; that is, I didn’t have much choice about the way of life. But then the road branched out a bit, and life became richer and more varied than the life of an orchestral, solo or chamber musician.

“I didn’t have a question about what to do if the war started. I have always had a position that must conform to my own ideals.

In addition, I am currently a literary editor. There is already a book under my editorship — this is a novel by Kyrylo Thaler “Kyivan”, which I am proud of and love. There is also the literary magazine “Underhound”, which I work on as head of the visual department, layout designer and editor. I am also engaged in literary activities, writing poetry and prose.

When another phase of the war, which had been going on for 8 years, began, I was getting a new specialty — digital 2D-artist — I was already finishing the course, I had an unfinished diploma. I am sure that when there are a few more opportunities, I will, of course, finish it and will develop in this direction as well.

Of course, there was sport in my life, or more precisely, wrestling. Periods, because I always had to hold a violin in my hands, finish, enter and so on, so I did not develop in sports too quickly. I didn’t perform as often as I would have liked, I was a bit hampered by injuries, so it’s still quite amateurish. But at least some physical training is very helpful now.

Anastasia Poludenna / Facebook

After February 24. What is left, what is missing, and what is added?

Almost everything went. Of course, all my f*cking rich inner world remained with me, but not such a good factor as missile strikes and the entry of muscovite troops into the territory of our beautiful country was added. So I realized that I needed to get my hands on my feet and do something where I am now. Honestly, I have been thinking for a long time about becoming a reservist of territorial defense as a kind of demo version of the army, before February 24. But I was terribly frightened by the folders in which I had to collect documents, pass commissions and deal with other bureaucracy. It scared the hell out of me, my knees shook, and I gathered my courage to do it, but I put it off because I had my business, work, and something else. And I worked, by the way, for the last three months as a costume designer in a wonderful team, which has now partially moved and resumed work.

Before it all started, I talked to my author Kyrylo. He told me a few hours before the invasion: “Listen to the last interview of our President. If the president of one country addresses the citizens of another, then there will be a war. He says Russian Vanya did not attack and thought “.

But Russian Vanyas did not hear, because they were already sitting at the borders.

Yes, they were sitting near the borders, and it was already in vain. Kyrylo said that there would be a war, I replied that we would work. As it will be — so it will be. Now Kyrylo works in information warfare, he makes very cool high-quality news reports from reliable sources.

Joining the ranks of territorial defense

… So you were ready for it to be that day?

Let’s just say I didn’t think it would be that day. I went to bed quietly. I had a plan to do makeup for two photo shoots.

And I wake up at nine in the morning, not from the explosions, I read the news, I understand that the war began, and I think: “F*ck, the photo shoot is cancelled. Well, screw it”. Then during the day, I summed up all my commitments and results. Then I talked to my boyfriend, decided what to do. The next day we went to the military registration and enlistment office. I did not have the question “what to do if the war started”. I have always had a position that must conform to my own ideals. It comes to mind not quite correct-narrative phrase “responsible for the speech”. If you internally consider yourself a citizen with an active position, you should do what this active civil position tells you to do.

We went to the military registration and enlistment office. My boyfriend was taken to the unit where our acquaintances and his colleagues were. I was not taken there. First, there were no seats, he had reserved a seat earlier. Secondly, it is a separate mortar battery, so it was necessary to have some experience there. I did not have such experience then. That day we were evacuating my 90-year-old grandmother from Obolon. It was difficult to find a car. Then we walked 20-30 kilometers a day.

Officially, I joined the Territorial Defense, which was later equated with the Armed Forces on March 4. It took ten days, because we went to another military registration and enlistment office. A unit had been formed there. Then this unit was dragged, they couldn’t give us weapons, or legalize them. Then there were other stories that I can tell after the war…

Did it take a lot of effort to get you?

Maybe people looked at my face and realized that it was better not to argue with me (laughs). Maybe I was just lucky that at the stage of admission to the ranks of the Armed Forces did not throw something like “you’re a girl”. I know that many girls were turned away when registering. Many guys were also turned away. With the help of a crowbar and some mother, I managed to jump into the last car. It all ended with us simply coming to the checkpoint, negotiating with the local command and joining the 206th Territorial Defense Battalion. Although I do not live in Podil, I have no acquaintances there, but it happened.

Anastasia Poludenna / Facebook

Taking into account your musical activity, how exotic is your profession among the fighters of the territorial defense of your battalion?

People, of course, are shocked when they learn about my experience in professional music. But this is more because I have a fairly young age and extensive professional experience.

We have creative people in the platoon. There is a call sign “Artist” — he is an actor, starred in commercials, TV series and, it seems, played in the theater, too. There is a professional dancer. There is a call sign “Circus”, who worked for many years as an aerial gymnast in the circus, a professional athlete and trampoline, they recently opened their hall. There are one devops with fifteen years of experience. He looks like an inconspicuous guy, but in fact his head… he can do just about anything. He is our branch commander.

“In order to be treated as an equal, you must not only use soft skills but also work harder and better, to be at least one of the first to be considered equal”

Of course, there are people of simple working professions. There are even people in big business who join the ranks of territorial defense. Unfortunately, this is a tragic story. This man is no longer with us, he died in my arms from an accidental wreck. Above the place where we were located, our air defense shot down “Tochka-U”, the wreckage hit us. He died seven minutes later from internal bleeding: the fragment went very badly into his abdomen. We worked well (I am now a tactical medic), but, unfortunately, there was nothing we could do. He was an ATO-fighter paratrooper who did not have time to join his troops because he was taking his family out, so he ended up in territorial defense. Very cool person. But it happens, such a war.

And this is a pretty quiet point…

While the troops were stationed near Kyiv, we usually had flights, mortars, and artillery shelling. But it’s not “zero”, we were on the front line. Such a bad death. This happens, unfortunately.

Gender issues in the army

Let’s talk about gender issues. Do you feel its presence after some experience there?

There are some nuances. First, a lot depends on how you behave in the team. For example, I am the only girl in our platoon. My character traits and behavioral achievements in civilian life allow me to be “bro” in most cases. At first, the boys are ashamed of something, trying to protect me excessively. A very delicate point that should be communicated to people as fully as possible that your siblings have no sex, and you should not pay attention to sex when performing tasks, because it can jeopardize the task and the life and health of all team members. As long as you play a knight and rush to defend a “girl” when she really doesn’t need protection, you leave the position, do something stupid, get shot, spend resources to evacuate you as a wounded, medics involved… In short, situations are very different. And the enemy has no sex (you don’t have to feel sorry for the enemy because it’s a girl/woman), and your friend standing next to you doesn’t have sex either.

As for everyday moments, there are usually people who start saying, “I don’t understand why you’re here at all, you have to be a delicate flower, cook children and give birth to borscht“. In this case, you open your mouth and say “I’ll hear it again — you’ll get a butt in your teeth”, because screwed up. In order to be treated as an equal, you must not only use soft skills, but also to work harder and better, to be at least one of the first to be considered equal. This is our objective reality. We must try to change it, including by our example, by our life choices, but we must still take this into account, “make an amendment”, as in sniper shooting.

Sometimes I can objectively perform a physical task, I understand that my training allows me to perform this task more effectively than a guy who does not have such physical training. Then I just bring it to the command. Although sometimes it is difficult to convey.

War and blog

During the escalation of the war on February 24, you write a lot about the war in such a “blog for their own”. As far as I understand, you have had a blog before, but now it has come to life with military stories. Why do you keep blogging and writing about the war? Why is this important to you?

First, it is important to my few subscribers. Friends say that I work for them soothingly, they call me Arestovych’s competitor. Most of the people around me have either left or are slowly volunteering, i.e. they remain civilians. They have a lot of fears, tensions. I understand them, because I would have felt much worse morally if I had not been at least a little closer to active events. I understand how unbearable it can be somewhere in an evacuation or abroad. I would not stand. I joined the army for purely selfish reasons, so that I would feel good and to understand that my work is used as best I can. But I understand that not everyone can choose this option. Not everyone has the appropriate mental qualities. This is normal, because not everyone should be in the military. This should be a certain percentage of society, motivated and, preferably, educated. And the rest of society, in my opinion, is even more important. Without the support of civilian volunteers, the Armed Forces would be much less successful, and without the people, the whole army would simply lose its meaning. It would be useless and meaningless.

I run this channel for people who read me, read these insiders, because I really like insider info. They understand what is happening, perhaps they are destroying a certain flair of idealization of the Armed Forces, people in uniform. Readers understand that people in the pixel are the same as before, just get into new circumstances, work like this now. I keep in touch with my subscribers, I have my own info field there, wonderful tube discussions in the comments with wishes of a cruel death to the Muscovites and all that. I like it, this atmosphere is calming down.

Another reason is to find some time and reflect, to record events for myself and how they are reflected in my consciousness, in my own perception of myself and the surrounding reality. I know that many events are erased from my memory, so I try to capture them. This blog was originally called in Russian, then in Ukrainian “paper for painting the keyboard”. I led him to somehow preserve my identity. Then I reread and think “f*ck myself, how smart I was” or “f*ck myself, and it was with me”.

Among these posts, I recorded quite unpopular moments. You, unlike Arestovych , who is soothing, have very emotional posts about, for example, armor the defense of the western regions, instead of “zeros”, or a letter denying the logic of sending criminals to the forefront, which is often called for by social media commentators, because they are unmotivated people who will only interfere. It is noticeable that your optics “inside” is completely different from the optics “outside”. Do you notice this change in optics while inside events?

I’m not just a person after all. I am still a scientist, accustomed to looking at events from different points of view, to using dialectical methods — this is the thing we love so much in our research, lectures, seminars. This is still my worldview, formed over so many years of academic education, self-education in this area. Therefore, I always try to shift the optics, look inside, outside, from other points of view, analyze the information that comes to me, analyze my own and global infofield and use scientific methods of cognition in everyday life. This is firmware embedded in my brain, I think, as in yours or in the brains of all our colleagues who are really passionate about it and want to develop science.

/ Thank you. I was brought a cup of tea /

That’s why I constantly shift the optics, I try to do it as much as possible.

/ They brought me tea and told me to come there soon, and let’s go play the guitar. I will, of course, go but first I’ll talk to you /

The main point of my blog is maximum honesty. In general, war is very much about honesty, so I am even more comfortable in war than in ordinary peaceful life, because all human qualities, motives, actions become purer and contrasting. I like it, if you can say so about the terrible events with a lot of victims, cruelty, annoying horrible incidents. But I have been trying to incorporate these principles of honesty into my blog for four or five years, first and foremost with myself without smoothing corners and unhealthy tolerance. If you are looking for a hashtag #нашла_конса_на_камень, I think you will find a lot of interesting things from different points of view and insiders. Yes, there are unpopular harsh things, this is life. Who doesn’t like that — I don’t keep it on a blog or in my own life, no way.

Do you have time to follow what is happening outside?

It depends. Now, for example, we are a little calm, we all know that the troops have moved away from Kyiv. Specifically, we have a little more time (I’m not talking about the military working in the hottest spots, because I haven’t been there, I don’t know) to think, prepare and train for what will happen next. The war will be long, it seems, everyone already understands. It will not end happily and quickly. So I manage to keep an eye on what’s going on around me, but I try to limit the absorption of information, even when I have the opportunity. I will better study the materials on military affairs, tactics, weapons handling, of course, my specialization now — tactical medicine. As I like to say, tactical medicine is not ordinary medicine. An ordinary doctor can prescribe medicine, and a tactical doctor can prescribe a slap. And not only the enemy, of course, but also our own, if necessary for therapeutic purposes.

Do you follow the cultural front?

Yes, because I have a lot of friends, and colleagues on social networks, which I follow, of course.

War and culture

Do you think it is important and whether it is time to raise any issues on the cultural front? For example, about the canceling of Russian culture, about making music together with Russian artists?

My opinion has always been the same, it remains the same now. Culture is always on time. Absolutely always. Yes, of course, those who fight badly do not think about culture. But since our Armed Forces are currently fighting like gods, everything else matters. Because our war is hybrid, it is on all fronts, including cultural and informational, this front is now close in importance to the physical, because we are fighting for the mind, for the heads of the world.

I am closer to a more moderate position on this issue. I do not believe that Russian culture should be forgotten or erased from world culture, because world culture is a whole organism, despite all wars and geopolitical divisions. We are now in a hot phase of the historical process. We all make history. Sometimes it covers a wonderful feeling that the threads of history converge in your hands, as well as in the hands, hearts, souls of everyone around you. But to completely erase Russian culture from the world will not work, and it makes no sense, it will still remain.

Now they do not offer to delete it directly, but offer to put it on pause, because even with the ancient Russian culture there are imperial narratives, Russia itself uses culture for its own propaganda purposes…

This is the position closest to me, because it is very strange: with one hand to give a snout, and with the other to take some candy from a person. Because this candy is likely to be poisonous. Now Russian culture is a poison for Ukrainians that eats away at our entire body. We can say that until we undergo treatment, we are allergic to Russian culture. This does not mean that if a person is allergic to tangerines, it is necessary to destroy all tangerines. But eating them until you cure this allergy, or eating poisonous tangerines, as is happening now, is a bad idea. I believe that now any collaboration with Russian performers or performances of works by Russian composers, even dissidents, even those who have suffered from any of the imperial Russian regimes (there were a lot of them!) — this idea is not very good during a full-scale Russian-Ukrainian war. It’s like performing Wagner at a Jewish cultural center during the active phase of the Holocaust.

I understand that Russian culture is close to many people, because there have been many centuries of interpenetration and planting. Unfortunately, many Ukrainians already have the Stockholm Syndrome of Russian culture. But now it is not the time to perform Russian music or collaborate with Russian performers or composers.

I don’t know the violin repertoire in detail, I’m a little better at orchestral, but how much of the Russian music was in your training to play the violin? And is it really fast enough to find an alternative to this music?

The violin repertoire used in academic studies is quite limited. There is a problem with this in peacetime, because you want to develop in many ways, and teachers impose a certain set of musical repertoire on you. Among the major repertoire works, Tchaikovsky’s concerto is one of the five major concertos, two of Shostakovich’s violin concertos, two of Prokofiev’s violin concertos, a number of small forms, and a rich Russian chamber repertoire.

I was a person who finished my master’s degree with Shostakovich’s Second Concerto. I had to perform it with an orchestra, but, unfortunately, it didn’t work out. I am a person who loves Shostakovich’s music with all my heart. And, of course, it hurts me subjectively that Shostakovich now also has to go to quarantine, despite everything that happened to him during his life, despite all the repressions against him. Because his work in one way or another nourishes the Russian narrative.

Could this really free up a niche or shift the focus to what we don’t know yet, to discovering something new?

The repertoire sometimes includes things that have been there purely historically. They are not so brilliant, but it so happens, that everyone plays them and they fill the niche of something similar in quality, but more interesting and less popular. But there are times when something is not included in the repertoire, not because someone is deliberately silenced or someone has created a world rebellion and deliberately pushed it to the far top shelf, but simply because these works are either secondary or of dubious quality. And when the process of getting works or figures from this shelf and a certain imposition of these figures begins only because they are, for example, Ukrainians, it lowers the general level of the industry and music, creating the impression of a certain provinciality. I do not underestimate the contribution of Ukrainian composers to world culture, but we must understand that on the wave of patriotism, admiration for one’s own nation (this is absolutely healthy nationalism, which I support, especially in wartime) begins to shift when something is called genius that it is Ukrainian, but in fact, it is not objective. It seems to me that this is detrimental to the perception of our culture in the world, because if they think it’s cool, we will usually applaud them because they are bad, they have a war, and then we will still consider them a little “unfinished” because they do not understand what is good and what is bad.

What could be the way out of this situation?

Develop your own narratives, your own music, your own composers. But to choose those works that deserve attention, to improve your professional level, to be able to adequately analyze what we have good and what we can improve. It is an attempt to objectively treat oneself, one’s culture, and one’s musical material. The development of one’s professionalism can promote both recognition and respect for Ukrainian artists in the world. We have to make quality in a peaceful life, but during the war, it seems a thousand times more important to make quality.

“I am happy to tears that I was lucky to live in such a historic time of hope, faith, love. The amount of love that was on the streets of Kyiv in the first days of the war is unbelievable. Not everyone is lucky enough to feel this

Many good colleagues went to Europe. It’s great that because of such tragic circumstances, they have the opportunity to show our level to the world and gain some respect. Any event is an opportunity. And war is also an opportunity, despite all the tragic components. But if the people who represent Ukraine abroad, who make a cultural product, do not pay attention to quality, do on their knees to hype for views, likes and all that, they must understand that this excitement will soon go beyond this wave of hype around Ukraine we have to do as much as possible in a professional sense. To do quality, to do cool things, to look for cool works, to pay attention to the good things we have and not to slip into the hack that will last a month or two, and then the world will return to its shirt, which is closer to the body. This process is already underway. This is normal. These are the laws of psychology, both mass and individual.

I will ask about our Alma Mater. Rename. Should we change its naming?

I think so. I have always been cursed that the Kyiv Conservatory, and then the Academy of Some Devil, is named after a Russian composer. He can be cool and do a lot for the world cultural heritage, but (damn), what, we do not have our own?! For example, outstanding professors who worked here and deserve to be named after the Academy of Music. This can be discussed by teachers, students, the Ministry of Culture and find an option that suits everyone, and rename.

What do you plan to do first after the victory?

I don’t know what I will be… I don’t know where I will be both morally and physically. What kind of person will I be after the victory, because war changes us all. Unfortunately, we cannot predict, even within our own minds, what it will be like. These can be any option. I will hug my loved ones, friends and everyone around who will not mind, of course, because the culture of consent must be used in any situation. I don’t know what I will be like, what we will all be like, who we will unfortunately lose, because there will be losses, they are constant, what we will gain, what Ukraine will become after this war. I believe that it will be much better than before this war.

It reminds me of working with a good psychotherapist when there is a technique for dealing with an injury. When you have, for example, a child’s trauma, you return to this situation with your thoughts and you, as an adult, protect yourself as a child. You play this script in your own way. The injury is treated in this way. It seems to me that we have a chance to heal this political trauma that has been inflicted on our nation throughout the historical process. We have a chance to become a healthy unharmed nation, despite all the efforts of all the assholes who tried to destroy us. I am glad to tears that I am lucky to live in such a historical time of hope, faith and love. The amount of love that was on the streets of Kyiv in the first days of the war is unbelievable. Not everyone is lucky enough to feel this.

We live right here and now, we were born Ukrainians, we realized ourselves Ukrainians and we now have the opportunity to do it — it’s fantastic. We have to be as efficient as possible to be the patron in the tape provided by the machine gunner’s assistant in a famous Ukrainian song.

Now the whole course of Ukrainian literature is mentioned and we realize how lucky we are to have a light at the end of the tunnel. Not even light, but a supernova explosion. And then the artists saw only darkness, understood that they would not live to see anything, but continued to do what they did, died for it, were tortured, laid down their lives to become for us this step to what is happening now. We all stand on the shoulders of the giants of the past. We are now standing on their shoulders and seeing this dawn.


Header photo and other photos: libkos

Read also:

• A Survivor from Bucha: story of violinist

• 30 during 30. The most significant classical music works written during Ukrainian Independence

Statement from the musicological community of Ukraine

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