World-famous violinist Vasyl Popadyuk came home and has "stuck" in Ukraine. So, you’re far from your wife, three children, and you came here. Concerts are planned here, and suddenly - that's it!
Popadyuk: It happens. One must be prepared for this. Unfortunately, no one was ready for this. It is necessary to adapt somehow, not to panic, and believe that it would end soon. Once it has to be over: both good and bad things.
So you stayed at home?
I could not stay at home because I had to take care of my mother and brother — I force them to stay at home.
You are famous all over the planet, but first of all, you are a man of two countries: Ukraine and Canada.
How does Canada treat its citizens - those who are forced to stay abroad?
I am proud of Canada because Canada really cares about its citizens. The Canadian Embassy helps, even provides financial assistance to those people who were forced to stay outside the country. They tried to evacuate me from here, but for some reason, I was afraid because these were two planes, and I had to sit in Frankfurt for 5 hours. But Canada has very strict quarantine.
Does the subway continue to work in Canada?
No. And now it is not allowed to have more than two people in a passenger car. You can’t walk in the parks, and the fine is really huge. When you arrive in Canada from somewhere, you must indicate the address of your self-isolation for the next two weeks. If I go home, then none of my relatives has the right to leave the house for two weeks too. If you are caught, then a fine of up to a million dollars and three years in prison.
But the planes do fly, while in Ukraine they are not available anymore.
I do not support such harsh sanctions - this is an exaggeration. And I don’t know why and who needs it. But this is my opinion, I might be mistaken. Now it’s very difficult to convince someone at the time of panic. People in Canada have always sneezed into the bend of their arms. This rule is taught from kindergarten times.
The artist earns only at the moment when he enters the stage.
Our profession is much influenced, because we are the first to leave and the last to come. Everything should stabilize before we can give concerts again.
You gave a concert on Skype in Ukraine. What is happening to Canadian and American artists now?
They have online concerts, and even they put me on that list.
Do you get something for it?
Yes. They give $ 1800 per group.
Today, our market stores are full. But what's the situation in Canada?
For two months, Canada has been suffering from a shortage of toilet paper.
I don’t know.
You are a god among the Ukrainian diaspora of Canada. But everything started here, in Ukraine, right?
No, I'm not a god.
Your mom is an outstanding choreographer. And your father played all the music to the film "Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors." Ingenious musician.
Yes, he was. But not me.
Did your parents make you play violin in your childhood?
No. I started making music at the age of four; I had private piano lessons. And at the age of six, I said that I wanted to play the violin.
Was your way of playing suggested by your teachers?
Teachers cannot suggest this; this should come from your nature.
So, when you went abroad for the first time, you were with your father?
My first trip abroad was when I was 10 years old. I went to Bratislava. And now my last concert was in Bratislava. Now Bratislava seemed to me a very Soviet city.
And when did you get to a capitalist country with your father?
When I was in the army, together with Tunisia Song and Dance Ensemble. The administration dressed us in jeans and T-shirts, and we supposedly flew away to some festival. We were not allowed to say that we are military. In fact, we were Arafat’s human shield, he joined us in Budapest. Then we were relocated to the ship "Red October." Soviet and American ships then patrolled the Mediterranean Sea. The Americans watched our concert on their ship.
What was your cover name in the army?
Sickly. I was just a child when I was called up. I entered the conservatory and then a law was issued, according to which first-year students could be called-up. And I was enlisted.
What about your deployments?
Afghanistan, Chornobyl, Tunisia. Wherever something happened, we were the first to come there. After Chornobyl has exploded, we were immediately sent there, we did not even have respirators. We lived there for two weeks, on damp land, lived in tents. I was a little sick then, but then everyone drank a lot. When I was in Germany, one Ukrainian family forcibly placed me in a hospital to do all the tests. And German doctors said that I am completely healthy.
When you and your father came to Canada, you were constantly being watched.
Yes, they were afraid that we could stay. My dad and I lived in different apartments, we were not allowed to live in the same hotel room.
Why were they so afraid? You did not give a reason for that.
This was not only about us, but it was also about everyone. The 40-year-old chapel of the bandura players was not allowed to go abroad, because the previous chapel, which arrived after the war, stayed in the country. They are now in Detroit. Therefore, a new chapel was not allowed. And we went to the Olympic Games in Calgary: me, my dad, Anatoly Solovyanenko, Maria Stefyuk.
Did someone stay then?
What was the attitude of your family towards the Soviet Union?
In Kolomyia, there is Vasyl Popadyuk’s street. He is the first Soviet national artist, who was not a communist. He always spoke only Ukrainian, because he did not know another languages.
How much time do you play the violin per day?
Sometimes it takes me three hours, five hours, and sometimes I don’t play it at all.
And how many instruments do you play?
Nearly 15. 35 alcoholics from all over the Union have gathered. Nobody could handle us.
You were accompanying Gorbachev, right?
There was a ridiculous case when Pushkin University in Madrid was opened. Raisa Gorbacheva came to this event, Ion Druta, a Moldavian writer, was there too. Nazarov decided to stage Moldavian-Hutsul music. They played for about half an hour, after which Raisa Gorbacheva said: “Guys, can you play something Moldavian? And then something Russian, please.” And then the "Time" TV program showed how we sang "Katyusha" together with her.
For which of the presidents did you play?
King Hussein in Jordan. We were his guests for two weeks. He studied in the UK, his wife was from the UK, very fond of classical music. Princess Sofia, Spain, Juan Carlos. We traveled with Gorbachev and without him.
Before the great success came, there was a moment when you had to stay in Canada.
I fell in love with Canada right away when I was there with my dad. I believe Canada is Ukraine with complete rehab. When I was already invited separately to play a concert, I simply did not come back. I have got a contract - I was a pianist in the National Ballet. It was my funniest job in Canada. I pretended to understand everything in English. About five pianists worked there, and they played the same thing for forty years. And I just improvising.
Many Ukrainians who went there became artists only for the diaspora. But you have worked with serious Canadian producers, managers.
This is because our artists sing, and they have no other chance. And I do not have a language barrier - this is instrumental music. Ukrainians are closer to you when Canadians recognize you. I have a neighbor in Ottawa - the daughter of Senator Yuzek. All of Canada lives by his law. According to this law, all Canadians are equal, but each diaspora should develop its schools, churches, banks. And there were not enough 8 votes to accept Ukrainian as the state language. Ukrainians have been living in Canada for 125 years, and Canada is only 150. Ukrainians built this state.
What does Canada have, which Ukraine lacks?
For me, it was always strange, why Ukrainians coming to Canada immediately change their minds. Maybe, it is about the milieu. They pay taxes because it’s normal.
What would you wish for our country?
I would like to wish not to panic. Now we need to consolidate, forget about all sorts of different things that were before that. We need to be together, help each other, and we will survive it. And sit at home.